Delhi is the most polluted Indian city and also took the top spot globally. According to Swiss group IQAir, Delhi’s air quality stood at 430. The ban on firecrackers was violated in several areas of Delhi as people celebrated Diwali on Sunday. A thick layer of smog engulfed the national capital after people burst crackers on Diwali night, leading to heavy pollution all across the city, which is already battling with its deteriorating air quality. Vivek Chattopadhyaya, Principal Programme Manager, Air Pollution Control Cell, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), called for stringent control measures to be enforced throughout the city to combat the problem. As per IQAir, Kolkata city is the second Indian city in the world’s most polluted list and took the fourth spot with AQI at 196. The third most polluted Indian city is Mumbai which ranked at number 9 in the world’s most polluted list with an AQI of 156. The Bombay HC had permitted the busting of firecrackers only for three hours between 8 pm and 10 pm.
As Dubai prepares to host COP28, climate activists say their voices are not being heard; instead the lobbying of fossil fuel interests is why climate talks have yet to produce an agreement to phase out coal, oil and natural gas, which scientists have repeatedly said must happen to stave off the worst impacts of Climate Change. “We cannot trust these politicians and we cannot trust the processes of the COPs because the fossil fuel industries are tightening their grip around their processes and dictating their outcomes,” climate activist Greta Thunberg said last month in London. Alden Meyer, an analyst for the European think-tank E3G, says the large number of attendees connected to fossil fuels show that these industries see the summits as “either a threat or maybe an opportunity or both for their business”. Meyer and climate negotiations historian Joanna Depledge, of the University of Cambridge in England, say the fossil fuel interests have huge influence over the event and the influence begins ahead of the talks.
The world’s first climate “Loss and Damage” fund is set to be launched during the United Nations COP28 climate summit to be held from November 30 to December 12, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. “The Commissioner is ready to announce substantial financial contribution by the EU and its member states to the Loss & Damage Fund at COP28 in the context of an ambitious outcome,” the European Commission and the UAE’s incoming president for COP28 said in a joint statement, referring to EU Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra. The EU did not specify the size of its planned contribution. The 27-nation bloc also plans to commit funding at the summit to help countries meet a pledge to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030, the statement said. Finance is one of the biggest issues at the annual climate talks. The EU move could help grease the wheels for other deals at COP28.
Forests are essential to tackling both the climate and biodiversity crises. They offer food, shelter and shade to humans and countless other species, they clean our air and water, and they pull climate-warming carbon out of the atmosphere. As the climate crisis intensifies, that ability has made them controversial: How much can we rely on trees to get us out of this mess? According to a new study published in the journal Nature, restoring global forests where they occur naturally could potentially capture an additional 226 gigatons of planet-warming carbon, equivalent to about a third of the amount that humans have released since the beginning of the Industrial Era. Thomas Crowther, the study’s senior author and a professor of ecology at ETH Zurich, a university in Switzerland, said, “If we continue emitting carbon, as we’ve done to date, then droughts and fires and other extreme events will continue to threaten the scale of the global forest system, further limiting its potential to contribute.” His study in 2019 had helped to spur the Trillion Trees movement.
Australia and the tiny island nation of Tuvalu have signed a treaty in which Australia will provide security assistance to it in case of major natural disasters, health pandemics and security threats. Under the Falepili agreement, as the treaty is known, Canberra will provide a special pathway for 280 of Tuvalu’s citizens a year to come to Australia. Under the visa, they will have permission to study, work or live in Australia. A NASA study, in August, found that much of Tuvalu’s land along with pieces of the Pacific nation’s critical infrastructure will be below the average high tide by 2050 if Climate Change proceeds as expected. “This is a groundbreaking agreement,” said Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. “The Australia-Tuvalu Falepili Union will be regarded as a significant day in which Australia acknowledged that we are part of the Pacific family.” Tuvalu Prime Minister Natano described it as a “giant leap forward” in regional stability and sustainability.
Saleemul Huq, who brought to global attention the need to adapt to climate change impacts and to pay for the loss and damage people suffered, died in Dhaka on the night of 28 October. He was 71; he left behind his wife, a son and a daughter. For three decades, Huq was arguably the foremost champion of the poorest countries in UN climate negotiations. This was based on his extensive research among climate-impacted communities in many developing countries. During his long stint at the International Institute for Environment and Development, a London-based think tank, beginning in 2001 Huq pioneered the concept of community-based adaptation (CBA). This concept focused on how communities are in the best position to decide how to adapt to Climate Change impacts, and how it is the duty of experts, financing agencies and governments to follow the lead given by the communities experiencing the impacts on the ground. He set up the climate change research group in IIED and was associated with it until his death.
Would it help cities to have a chief heat officer? From the experience of Sierra Leone, in West Africa, it seems so. The capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown, got its first such officer two years ago. The 18th most climate-vulnerable country in the world, according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, has seen many challenges. In 2017, a devastating landslide and floods killed more than 1,00 and affected more than 6,000 people which led to the setting up of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and the National Disaster Management Agency. Subsequently, Freetown appointed Eugenia Kargbo as the city’s chief heat officer Kargbo, the first person in Africa to hold the position, is responsible for making Freetown a liveable and greener city, and helping its residents cope with rising heat. Her appointment is part of a wider plan to “Transform Freetown”. Kargbo is one of seven female heat officers appointed worldwide to help cities adapt to extreme heat by introducing measures ranging from installing cool pavements and roofs to planting trees.
Waste heat from over 5,000 underground parking lots in Berlin could meet the demand of 14,660 average German households while helping improve groundwater quality and biodiversity, scientists found. Cities typically deal with rising populations by increasing the height and depth of buildings, which leads to a steady growth in the number of underground car parks, Maximilian Noethen, geoscientist from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and colleagues write in a new paper. Waste heat from car engines warms up these underground lots, so they are typically several degrees warmer than the surrounding subsurface, making them a heat source for ambient subsurface and groundwater. Cars parked in underground parking lots throw off so much heat that it warms up groundwater beneath them. This wasted energy could be enough to supply over 14,600 households with heat in Berlin alone, they report in the journal Science of the Total Environment. Integrating heat pumps into existing ventilation systems might be a way to utilise this waste heat energy from underground parking lot air, they say.
The air quality in Delhi dropped to severe levels for the first time this season on November 2, forcing the government to shut primary schools for two days. It is expected to deteriorate further in the next two weeks, scientists say. The concentration of PM2.5 – fine particulate matter that can clog lungs and cause a host of diseases – exceeded the safe limit of 60 micrograms per cubic metre by a seven to eight times in several parts of the city and its suburbs, according to government data. Delhi’s environment minister has called an emergency meeting to review the situation. The capital is one of the world’s most polluted cities. As part of the third phase of its Graded Response Action Plan to combat effects of increased pollution, a central pollution control panel ordered an immediate ban on non-essential construction work in the city.
Research conducted in Delhi and Chennai found that inhaling air with high amounts of PM2.5 particles led to high blood sugar levels and increased Type 2 diabetes incidence. When inhaled, the particles which are 30 times thinner than a strand of hair, enter the bloodstream and cause several respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. The study is the first to focus on the link between exposure to ambient PM2.5 and Type 2 diabetes in India, one of the worst countries in the world for air pollution. The Lancet study found India’s diabetes prevalence to be higher than previous estimations. “This study is an eye-opener because now we have found a new cause for diabetes that is pollution,” said Dr V Mohan, chairman of the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation and one of the authors. Another study on the same cohort in Delhi, found average annual exposure to PM2.5 in Delhi (92μg/m3) led to increase in blood pressure levels and higher likelihood of developing hypertension.
The Conference of Parties or COP28, to be held in the United Arab Emirates from Nov 30 to Dec 12, will mark the conclusion of the first Global Stocktake, a comprehensive assessment of the progress made in achieving the goals of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement. China is looking forward to seeing the parties involved reach a solid decision on the global climate adaptation goal, deliver funding arrangements for loss and damage, and proactively respond to the appeals of developing countries for support in funding, technology and capacity building. Effective measures should be rolled out at COP28 to assess the gap in developed nations’ implementation of the Paris treaty and whether they had taken the lead in cutting carbon emissions and fulfilled their obligations to support developing countries through financing, technology and capacity building, said Xia Yingxian, an official from China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment. Wealthy nations should roll out concrete actions to honour their commitment to provide $100 billion a year for climate action in developing countries, he said.
Not all urban areas are created equal, and this can have a big impact on a person’s health. Air quality, heat, and food are some of the ways your environment can influence health. Often, it is the poorest areas of a city that have the most negative impact. And with the world’s urban population set to double roughly by 2050, working out how to detect and address these inequalities is becoming more critical than ever. In an interview to WIRED, Tolullah Oni, clinical director of research at the University of Cambridge and an urban epidemiologist, shares what influences our mental and physical health. “It’s what people eat, what they breathe, how they move. The built environment, of which transport infrastructure is part… It’s also access to green space, which influences mental health and physical health in terms of space needed to be physically active, but it’s also infrastructure that reduces exposure to extreme heat,” she says. “So my job is using advocacy and participatory approaches to unearth a demand for improvement—for example for clean air or walkable streets.”
Even one disaster can wipe out a small nation’s financial reserves. That’s what happened in the small Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu, which in 2020 suffered a cyclone that caused $600 million in damage, some 60 percent of its GDP. And as temperatures and sea levels rise in the coming decades, those kinds of losses are expected to keep rising too. Bob Berwyn Reid of The Allegheny Front talks to public radio’s environmental news magazine, Living on Earth, about the challenges the UN is facing while following on the loss and damage commitments made last year. “There are some serious rifts between developed countries and developing countries as to where the Loss and Damage Fund should be hosted. They’re running out of time with COP28 coming up,” he says. “On the one side, you have a huge bloc of countries, known as the G77, which is 135 countries. A lot of those countries don’t necessarily trust the World Bank… they would rather see the Loss and Damage Fund as an independent instrument.”
Extreme weather events for the second straight year in the olive-producing region have nearly halved global harvests, driving up olive oil prices. Benchmark retail prices rose to a record high of $9,000 per tonne in October, showed data from the US department of agriculture. Several Mediterranean countries suffered dry weather and droughts, further skimping olive oil supplies. Climate Change’s influence on olive trees underscores the growing challenges global warming presents in food production. Many consumers may have to now seek alternative sources that provide similar health benefits. “It is likely that olive oil prices will soon reach or exceed $10,000 per tonne on the world market,” Oil World, a top industry forecaster, said in an update on October 20. In a May forecast, global price-setter Spain, the source of half the world’s olive oil supply, said production is expected to fall nearly 48 percent from the previous year. A severe summer and wildfires in the world’s biggest producer had decimated much of its crop.
More than half of the hotspot countries facing a severe threat are in sub-Saharan Africa, found a report by the Institute for Economics and Peace. Titled Ecological Threat Report 2023, the report looked at global ecological threats and identified the countries and sub-national areas most vulnerable to conflict, civil unrest and displacement as a result of environmental degradation and climate-related events. The report covered 221 countries and independent territories, which were divided into 3,594 sub-national areas, accounting for 99.99 percent of the world’s population. Of these countries and territories, 66 face at least one severe ecological threat. The number of countries suffering from severe ecological threats and low societal resilience has risen by three to 30 in the last year. Ecological threats are also considerably higher in sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 30 hotspot countries, 19 are in sub-Saharan Africa. Another new country to join the hotspots is Myanmar. The report focuses on four categories of threat: Food insecurity, natural disasters, demographic pressure and water risk.
Earlier this month, a flash flood in Sikkim killed at least 34 people, swept away bridges and roads, and damaged the state’s largest hydropower project, the 1.2 GW Teesta-III. Images released by the Indian Space Research Organisation confirmed that it was triggered by a combination of glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) and excess rainfall. A 2023 report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development found that glaciers in the Indian Himalayas disappeared 65 percent faster from 2011 to 2020 than in the previous decade. “Climate change and human activity are exacerbating glacier loss. Without human interference, glaciers would stabilise at slightly higher elevations and eventually stop losing mass. However, human-caused Climate Change is preventing glaciers from reaching a new equilibrium anytime soon,” says Dr Iqbal Khan, an independent researcher, who has been studying glaciers in the Himalayan region for over a decade.
With bedbugs infesting public transport and other spots in Paris and London, the scare is real. Over the last two decades, there’s been a “global resurgence” in bedbugs, according to a recent scientific review, following lows in the mid-20th century, “The resurgence has been widespread, affecting virtually every sector of society”. More people live in cities now and bedbugs love densely packed warm bodies; the higher international travel gives bedbugs an opportunity to spread too. But the boom time for bedbugs, according to the review, is because they have evolved resistance to many pesticides, including pyrethroids, which is still one of the most commonly used insecticides, which have been our main line of defence. “Insecticides, especially the use of pyrethroids, are useless,” said Chow-Yang Lee, a professor of urban entomology at the University of California Riverside and a co-author of the recent review.
In his first major address since taking office on June 2, World Bank president Ajay Banga laid out ambitious plans to widen the development lender’s mission to include Climate Change and other global crises such as pandemics and food security. He said the process would yield $157 billion in new lending capacity over a decade and the World Bank would explore loan maturities of 35-40 years for social and human capital investments. “We’re investigating if we can reduce interest rates to incentivise exiting from coal as part of energy transitions,” Banga told the plenary session of World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual meetings in Morocco. The lender also is looking for other ways to increase concessional finance for energy transitions for countries that use both its main lending arm for middle-income countries and its fund for low-income countries, Banga added. His remarks came a day after the World Bank’s governing body approved a new vision statement: “To create a world free of poverty – on a liveable planet.”
According to online resource Nomad List, Bansko in Bulgaria is the world’s “most-consistently growing remote work hub” of the last five years. Since 2018, it has grown by 231 percent, more than Warsaw, Madrid and tech media darling Tallinn. This is surprising because surveys suggest digital nomads generally favour coastal cities (Lisbon, Barcelona), islands and beach destinations (Madeira, the Canaries, Bali). So, why are people heading for a small inland mountain resort in Bulgaria? Bansko is home to more than 300 remote workers in any month, with the population surging during ski season. As the nomad population grows, the ecosystem is expanding. There are now nine coworking spaces here, operated by four companies. Becky Bottjer, who runs the coworking space Altspace, points to “digital nomad families” moving to Bansko. “I think that’s going to be the next big thing, especially with the cost of living going up in places like the UK and the US,” she said.
“September 2023 was the fourth month in a row of record-warm global temperatures,” said Sarah Kapnick, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) chief scientist, in a statement. September’s air and ocean temperatures shattered global records, with NOAA and NASA each confirming early data that indicated it was a highly unusual month. “Not only was it the warmest September on record, it was far and away the most atypically warm month of any in NOAA’s 174 years of climate record-keeping. To put it another way, September 2023 was warmer than the average July from 2001-2010.” Record-warm temperatures during September covered 20 percent of the world’s surface – the largest area since 1951; less than one percent of the world’s surface had a record-cold September. When the year began, the organisation had projected that 2023 would likely be a top-10 warmest year, but not at the top of the list. However, with El Niño developing in the tropical Pacific, record ocean warmth worldwide, and extremely high land surface temperatures, that has rapidly changed.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), which operates trains across five counties in the San Francisco Bay Area, launched a public awareness campaign called “Not One More Girl” in 2021 to address gender-based violence on its trains. In the second phase of the campaign, BART is offering wallet-size cards that riders can use to signal for help or that they are available to help someone else. “For us in the Bay Area, incidents of violence and gender-based violence are incredibly disheartening,” said Anyka Howard, CEO of the Betti Ono Foundation, which worked with BART to develop the campaign, “We want to keep us safe, we want to keep us alive.” A 2022 report from the National Criminal Justice Association states that transit crime can threaten the post-pandemic recovery of urban economies across the US. “There are fewer crimes being reported than in 2019, but the crime rate is up because there are so few passengers,” the report said. “If more people return to public transit as they go back to offices and shops, trains can feel safer.”
Climate researcher Gianluca Grimalda narrates why he cannot obey his company’s orders to immediately return from Papua New Guinea. “At the time of writing, I am waiting to embark on the cargo ship on the first leg of my low-carbon journey to Europe. When I arrive in Europe in about 45 days, I will be jobless. If, on my way, I manage to persuade people that our planet is seriously endangered and that radical, extraordinary action is needed, losing my job will have been a price worth paying. Many people have asked why it is so important for me to travel as low-carbon as possible. Aviation is the biggest contributor to Climate Change of all forms of transport. A trip by plane from Papua New Guinea to Germany produces, in 32 hours, 5.3 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. Slow travel produces approximately 12 times less (420kg). Wasting 4.9 tonnes of CO2 – about how much the average person in the world emits in one year – to expedite my return to Europe is not morally acceptable to me.”
Dr Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan’s profound contribution to India’s food security have left an indelible mark on the nation, earning him the well-deserved title of the “Father of the Green Revolution”. His passing away on September 28, 2023, marked the end of an era in Indian agriculture. When India was reeling under poverty and food shortage in the 1960s and 1970s, Dr Swaminathan pioneered the Green Revolution in India with high-yielding crop varieties, particularly for rice and wheat. His research went beyond crop varieties and into the realm of sustainable agriculture for long-term food security. His voice was strongly in favour of environmentally-friendly farming methods as the globe struggled with the problems of sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation as he emphasised on the necessity of balancing and boosting agricultural productivity and protecting the environment for future generations.
After strong storms led to flash flooding in New York City on September 29, a state of emergency was declared. “I am declaring a state of emergency across New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley due to the extreme rainfall we’re seeing throughout the region,” Governor Kathy Hochul said on X, formerly Twitter. New York City had nearly 14 inches of rain, making it the wettest September since 1882, according to National Weather Service data. Flooding caused major disruptions to the city’s subway system and the Metro North commuter rail service. In Mamaroneck, a Westchester County suburb north of the city, emergency officials used inflatable rafts to rescue people trapped in buildings by floods, Reuters reported. More than 2.5 inches of rain was reported in one hour in Brooklyn Navy Yard. In a virtual briefing, New York’s chief climate officer Rohit Aggarwala said that the city’s sewage system was only designed to handle 1.75 inches an hour.
As London’s population surged and its fortunes grew, its white population decreased and the city became overall more diverse. At the same time, the affordability crisis pushed its Black residents away from the core of the city, leading to missed opportunities for them and for the city that is so culturally and economically reliant on them. Living outside London can offer a better standard of living but at the cost of communities that have defined the city over the last century. “London has become successful because it has a reputation of being diverse,” said Phil Hubbard, professor of urban studies at King’s College London. “If you haven’t got an affordable city, you do away with that diversity.” From Paris to New York, lower-income, immigrant residents often end up in lower-quality homes on the outskirts. But, for decades, London stood out for having low-cost social housing in the city’s core that gave households greater stability, says Adam Almeida, who has researched such dynamics and now works for CommonWealth.
Brazil’s searing temperatures between 107 and 111 degrees F made the country one of the hottest places in the world, according to the weather organisation MetSul Meteorologia. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Brazil is 112.6 degrees F, set during the late spring of 2020. As odd as it may seem for winter in South America’s largest nation to feel like summer in the Middle East, the blistering conditions are no surprise: Scientists have long warned that Climate Change is making heat waves worse, and the ongoing El Niño is only amplifying it. In July, the Earth was as hot as it has been in 1,20,000 years. The hot, dry conditions, spurred by El Niño’s warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean, have sparked wildfires and are threatening the livelihoods of farmers in a country that produces more coffee and soybeans than any other. The heat, coupled with a lack of rain, has disrupted the start of Brazil’s soy-planting season, and could keep coffee trees from fruiting. Java prices have surged globally as a result.
Bolivia has experienced some of the most extreme temperatures in August and September, which are usually temperate months. Climate Change is affecting glaciers in the Bolivian Andes that provide fresh water to the surrounding wetlands, springs and dams, with residents of El Alto, perched above La Paz, now only able to access water at certain times of the day. Some once-fertile areas across western Bolivia have been reduced to dust. Many of those living in El Alto, a city of around one million people, come from farming communities raising livestock and planting vegetables to survive. Authorities remain confident that water reserves will last until December when the rainy season usually arrives, though hundreds of thousands of families and vast swathes of crop and cattle farmland has already been impacted. Scientists warn the situation could become critical with the El Nino weather pattern set to arrive in December.
The residents of Detroit, the most populous city in the US state of Michigan, are battling persistent flooding and mold issues. Climate change is making it worse. A 2021 study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that more than half of almost 4,000 Detroit homes surveyed had experienced recurrent flooding between 2012 and 2020. Among the houses, 84 percent that had flooded were found to have mold in the basement. An additional 55.4 percent of homes that had not flooded during those years still had moldy basements — underscoring the fact that more frequent, climate-induced rainfall can pose problems even for homes that haven’t flooded, because with more rain comes more moisture. Other research conducted after extreme weather events, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005, has shown high mold levels indoors can lead to or exacerbate a host of health problems, including asthma, respiratory infections, bronchitis, allergies, and even neurological damage. This is particularly concerning in Detroit, which has some of the highest asthma rates in the country.
The Bangladesh strain of the Nipah virus currently circulating in Kerala has a high case fatality rate compared to the Malaysia strain. The strain of the virus that caused the outbreak in 2018 was related to the Bangladesh strain but was significantly different from it and is to be classified as a different cluster, said Kerala’s former health secretary Rajeev Sadanandan. “The virus has been circulating locally since then in the fruit bat population and could have mutated from 2018 due to climatic stress”. A study had previously confirmed that heat had made the dengue virus more infectious in Kerala, he said. “But, we will know for sure once the sequencing is completed by the National Institute of Virology in Pune.” Another question to be looked at is whether Climate Change caused a change in the hormone pattern of the fruit bat which led to a change in seasonality of the infection which used to be from December to June, the expert added.
Many urban farms are springing up like mushrooms in Paris and other French cities. Advocates for this brand of localised food production say it can cut resource consumption and carbon emissions, green urban spaces under threat of extreme heat, bolster social links in neighbourhoods and improve food security and climate resilience. As Climate Change sharpens the competition for space and resources, there’s an increasingly compelling case to be made for agriculture based in and around cities. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 79 percent of all food produced worldwide is consumed in urban areas and getting it to the table exacts a costly climate toll. A 2022 study found that food miles, or the distance from farm to plate, account for a fifth of all food-related emissions. “We need to use more food production sites that are closer to where people live,” says Elisa Appolloni, an urban agriculture expert at the University of Bologna in Italy. Around 3,000 hectares of farming land in Greater Paris will be developed by 2030.
Ahead of UN meetings this week, thousands gathered in the streets of midtown Manhattan to demand that US President Joe Biden and other world leaders stop new oil and gas drilling. The Biden administration has shepherded through the country’s most ambitious climate law and is working to transition the country to wind, solar and other renewable energy. But it has also continued to approve permits for new oil and gas drilling. While the protesters suggested their support for Biden in 2024 would depend on more aggressive climate action, none of the Republican candidates running to replace him plan to cut the country’s emissions and several want to encourage more drilling. Climate protests have been simultaneously taking place in Germany, England, Senegal, South Korea, India and elsewhere. Activists are especially angry that this year’s UN climate negotiations are set to take place in the United Arab Emirates, a leading oil-producing state, and will be overseen by Sultan al-Jaber, head of the Emirati state-owned oil giant, ADNOC.
The devastating floods in Libya that began on September 11 have claimed thousands of lives, many more are missing. Climate Change combined with the effects of Libya’s six-year civil war and subsequent crisis of governance exacerbated the disaster, according to this piece in Nature. “It’s the curse of war and weather,” says Mark Zeitoun, director-general of the research centre the Geneva Water Hub. Flooding specialists say the rainfall was unusually severe, and Climate Change probably intensified it by supercharging Storm Daniel, a low-pressure weather system that formed over the Mediterranean Sea early September. More frequent and severe extreme weather events are among the expected and observed consequences of Climate Change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Sixth Assessment Report states that there is high confidence that “the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events have increased since the 1950s over most land areas… human-caused Climate Change is likely the main driver”. Another possible factor is changes in jet streams – high-altitude air currents that strongly affect weather patterns.
A huge urban development project was announced in Saudi Arabia in 2021 to build a city in a straight line rather than a typical round urban sprawl. Named “The Line”, the 110-mile-long city will stretch from the Red City to the city of Tabuk. Its estimated 9 million inhabitants would be entirely car-less, and instead be tied together by a high-speed rail system that could travel from one end of The Line to the other in just 20 minutes. The Complexity Science Hub, a research organisation in Vienna, Austria, published a paper in the journal NPJ Urban Sustainability detailing why “The Line” could be a nightmare for commuters. If the city’s main train line malfunctions for any reason, it could effectively cut off residents from millions – an idea that’s unthinkable in today’s cities. “If its 9 million inhabitants are homogeneously distributed in the city, each [kilometre] will have roughly 53,000 people. If we randomly pick two people from the city, they will be, on average, 57 km [35 miles] apart,” the paper reads.
The centre of the city of Mannheim, Germany, which is referred to as the Quadratestadt (or Quadrate in English), does not have street names. The streets are organised as a grid that is rotated slightly clockwise from the cardinal directions, and addresses are assigned according to the building’s location in one of the blocks within the grid. This unconventional address system is linked to the city’s history. When Elector Friedrich IV of the Palatinate founded a fortress at this location in 1606, he organised the streets into a grid system, which was a novel step in urban planning at the time. Initially, the streets were given names just like in other German cities. In 1684, the city switched over to an earlier version of its block numbering system. People initially resisted this system but grew accustomed to it. Eventually, the block numbering system was updated as the city expanded beyond the original fortress walls. The current version of the address system, where each block is identified by a letter and number, was implemented in 1811.
India’s underground water supplies could shrink between 2041 and 2080 at three times the present rate, new estimates suggest. The country already pumps up more underground water than any other country, largely to irrigate staple crops like wheat, rice and maize, but hotter temperatures are drying out fields and leaving less moisture to soak into the soil to replenish the aquifers below. The researchers first looked at the relationship between groundwater levels, climate and crop water stress in India between 2004 and 2013. They then estimated how groundwater use might respond to three major effects of global warming: Greater evaporation, increased rainfall during summer monsoons, and decreased rain in winter. They found that the additional summer rain could help refill aquifers, though not by enough to offset increased evaporation from warmer temperatures and increased irrigation needs during the drier winters. “When the temperature is warming, this recharge is decreasing in monsoon season,” said Nishan Bhattarai, assistant professor of geography and environmental sustainability at the University of Oklahoma, who led the research.
Global heating is exacerbating the danger of high-altitude mountaineering in the Himalayan mountain range as avalanches are increasing, experts warn. According to a recent analysis, at least 564 people lost their lives to avalanches while climbing peaks above 4,500 metres (14,770 feet) in the Himalayas over the past five decades. With the stark changes in the monsoon patterns, and cyclones forming more frequently and with greater intensity in the fast-warming Indian Ocean, the once predictable climbing season is being disrupted more often. Heavy snowfall is one of the main causes of avalanches. Avalanche risk is also exacerbated by warming temperatures. According to a 2018 study that used tree rings as a proxy, in the absence of long-term observations, to reconstruct the snow avalanche history in the Indian Himalayas, warmer temperatures in winter and early spring have led to an increase in avalanche frequency. The Himalayan range is warming twice as fast than the global average and experts suggest that temperature-driven snowpack instability, leading to an increase in avalanche activity, can be expected to continue.
Individuals and families in places across the United States once considered safe from natural catastrophes could lose crucial insurance protections. Even as natural disaster exposure expands or intensifies as global temperatures rise, major insurers say they will cut out damage caused by hurricanes, wind and hail from policies underwriting property along coastlines and in wildfire country. This was found in a voluntary survey conducted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, a group of state officials who regulate rates and policy forms. At least five large US property insurers — including Allstate, American Family, Nationwide, Erie Insurance Group and Berkshire Hathaway — have told regulators that extreme weather patterns caused by Climate Change have led them to stop writing coverages in some regions, exclude protections from various weather events and raise monthly premiums and deductibles. US insurers have disbursed $295.8 billion in natural disaster claims over the past three years, according to international risk management firm Aon. The catastrophes, insurance industry insiders said, show just how quickly claims costs are escalating in the face of Climate Change.
The 2022 floods in Pakistan destroyed several crop cycles well into 2023, compounding farmers’ debts to predatory lenders, and dispossessing many of their land. By some estimates, more than three million Pakistanis are trapped in debt bondage. Shehryar Fazli, author and senior policy advisor, Asia Pacific region, Open Society Foundations, writes about the vulnerable farming communities who face a resurgence of indentured servitude and other forms of modern slavery. Based on court case filings, local activists and rights organisations say that the 2022 floods have pushed many more people into bonded labour – despite national and provincial laws against the practice. This summer’s monsoons, during which over 100 people died in weather-related incidents, will only compound the crisis. Powerful landlords even detain their indebted farmers in private prisons until they repay through unpaid labour, only occasionally resulting in police action. Urban migration offers an escape to some. Last year’s floods prompted many Thari migrants to move to Pakistan’s megacity, Karachi.
San Francisco’s Union Square neighbourhood – once bustling with shoppers, diners, and tourists – has suffered from declining footfalls and shuttered storefronts. Stores in the area now sport papered-over windows and “Retail for Lease” signs, according to Google Street View. San Francisco’s recovery from Covid pandemic has been strained. The downturn of the city’s Union Square is a microcosm of that struggle. “A growing number of retailers and businesses are leaving the area due to the unsafe conditions for customers, retailers and employees, coupled with the fact that these significant issues are preventing an economic recovery of the area,” a Westfield mall spokesperson told KGO-TV. According to US Census estimates, many residents have left the city: San Francisco County’s population declined by more than 60,000 people from 2020 to 2022. San Francisco’s downtown has also experienced a rise in its unhoused population. There has been a drop in travellers since the pandemic. As San Francisco’s downtown area has emptied over the last three years, property crimes and retail thefts have risen.
Following the massive earthquake that struck northeastern Japan in 2011, Tokyo redoubled its efforts to fire-proof such neighbourhoods by offering subsidies and tax breaks to clear old structures and replace them with new disaster-resilient ones. The plan also includes clearing buildings to widen roads to act as firebreaks and provide access to emergency responders. Government experts see a 70 percent chance of a magnitude-7 earthquake occurring right underneath the capital within the next three decades, which could cost 95 trillion yen ($656 billion) in economic damages, according to estimates. The 1923 disaster led to the amendment of Japan’s Urban Building Law, which included the nation’s first seismic standards for structures. Since then, building codes have been improved in response to subsequent earthquakes, as researchers and policymakers incorporated new technologies and engineering methods to make ever more resilient buildings. Today, Japan boasts some of the most stringent building regulations in the world. There’s also financial support for schools, social welfare facilities, hospitals and other structures to make them more quake-resilient.
Paved roads and parking lots take up about 30 percent of urban areas in the United States. Parking lots alone cover more than 5 percent of developed land in the lower 48 states, according to the US Geological Survey. Extreme heat and flooding are particularly acute in low-income communities of colour, which typically have less green space than wealthy, white neighbourhoods, a legacy of redlining practices. Replacing asphalt with greenery has benefits beyond lowering temperatures and reducing flood risk. It is also associated with lower stress levels, a reduction in noise, fewer traffic-related injuries and even restoration of local biodiversity. It can also improve air quality because asphalt releases hazardous air pollutants into communities, especially in extreme heat and direct sunlight. In Phoenix, Arizona, where asphalt can get so hot during heat waves it can give third-degree burns, officials are painting surfaces with reflective grey paint. Nashville, which experienced deadly floods back in 2010, has transformed alleyways into blooming bee-filled rain gardens.
The landlocked metropolis that is India’s capital New Delhi once boasted of more than 1,000 water bodies, but rapid urbanisation has created a city more frequently associated with polluted air and deadly roads. The loss of freshwater ponds and lakes has left Delhi with a water deficit of 300 million gallons a day — almost a quarter of what the city needs and enough to fill more than 450 Olympic-size swimming pools. But the task to bring back those lakes isn’t a simple one. It has taken five years for the project to get off the ground because of budgetary constraints, the pandemic and bureaucracy. So far, fewer than 50 lakes have been restored. “Some of them are in pretty bad health and will need investment,” said Madhu Verma, chief economist at WRI India, which helps governments and businesses find economically and environmentally sound solutions. However, investors and planners still need to be educated about the benefits and cost effectiveness of such infrastructure, she said.
Goa’s capital Panaji scored only a two-star rating for its climate performance in a report prepared by the Climate Centre for Cities and ICLEI South Asia. The report, meant for the National Institute of Urban Affairs, found that Panaji has the highest per capita energy use, per capita electricity consumption, and per capita emission of greenhouse gases among the 15 cities surveyed. But Panaji initiated data analysis and established committees to find solutions for Climate Change risks. “A climate action plan for Panaji is essential because of the coastal location and abundant mangroves on the backwaters entering the Querem creek, St Inez creek, Mandovi river and Zuari river, which are paying the price of Climate Change,” said the report. “Preserving and restoring these vital ecosystems are important. Implementing sustainable tourism practices, promoting renewable energy sources, and adopting climate-resilient agricultural techniques are the necessary steps.” Transport is the highest energy-consuming sector in Panaji, accounting for 64.8 percent of the carbon fuel. The sector is also the top emitter of greenhouse gases – 38 percent.
Climate Change and disaster risks will be included in the proposed Tamil Nadu Regional and Urban Planning and Development Act, of 2023. The proposed Act, considering the future trajectory, will focus on new areas such as economic growth, Climate Change, and disaster risks, official sources said. The major thrust in the Act is regional plans, which were provided in the previous Act but never implemented. Regional plans help deliver environmental, economic and social outcomes that are driven by the needs of communities and their environment. According to the draft, the proposals of regional plans will have to be translated into actions and investments of multiple sectoral agencies. A regional plan implementation cell is being mooted either within the regional planning authority or the directorate of town and country planning. The proposed new Act also suggests a UK model where a ‘guidance note’ is introduced from time to time.
In a landmark ruling, a US court has ruled that “young people have a fundamental right to a climate system that is safe and stable for their lives,” said Julia Olson, chief legal counsel and executive director of Our Children’s Trust. The non-profit law firm represented the youth in the first-of-its-kind trial. The case centred on a part of Montana’s Constitution that guarantees the state’s residents — current and future — “the right to a clean and healthful environment”. The 16 plaintiffs — ages 5 to 22 — argued that Montana was violating that constitutional requirement by aggressively pursuing fossil fuel development without considering the future impact. State laws updated this year by the Republican-majority legislature prevented Montana agencies from considering climate impact when permitting energy projects like coal and natural gas. The ruling is a paradigm shift in climate litigation, a fast-growing field of law, Olson said, that will “have a ripple effect across the world”. Montana has said it will appeal the ruling to the state’s Supreme Court.
When researchers in Norway asked participants what made them angry, they found most people mentioned human actions such as causing the climate crisis or failing to stop it. A study, which asked 2,000 Norwegian adults how they felt about the climate crisis, found the link to activism was seven times stronger for anger than it was for hope. On average, people reported having fairly mild feelings about the planet heating. “The problem isn’t that people feel too scared about Climate Change,” said Thea Gregersen, a climate psychologist at the Norwegian Research Centre and lead author of the study. “The problem, in Norway at least, seems to be that they’re not scared enough.” The researchers in Norway, a rich oil-exporting country, found that for every two steps a person took along the anger scale, they moved one step along the activism scale. Climate scientists have raised fears that a glut of doom-laden headlines and negative rhetoric – some of it based on incorrect claims – will push people into despair and stop them from acting.
There are growing concerns that collective efforts in adaptation do not contribute sufficiently towards risk reduction, and that, in many cases, they may heighten the risk of maladaptation, opines a guest post in Carbon Brief. A new study published in Nature Climate Change developed an assessment framework to evaluate the success, or otherwise, of adaptation responses. While the aim of adaptation is to reduce climate risk, this is hard to measure, especially when risks are constantly changing – and often escalating and unfamiliar. The 2022 report on impact and adaptation from Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) challenges the dichotomy of risk management actions being either positive (“adaptive”) or negative (“maladaptive”). It suggests instead that adaptation should be considered as part of a “continuum”. The framework adopts the IPCC’s recommended continuum, with adaptation and maladaptation at each end. The six criteria – split into two categories – affect whether an adaptation response has a high risk of leading to maladaptation.
The Hawaiian crow or ‘alalā were once abundant, but by the late 1990s their population had dropped so low that they were facing extinction. Since 2003, all the world’s remaining ‘alalā have been confined to aviaries. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “many factors” contributed to the ‘alalā’s decline, including habitat destruction, invasive species, and the effects of agriculture. Owing to these developments, Hawaii’s native fauna in general is in crisis; the state has earned an unfortunate title as “the extinction capital of the world.” Of the nearly 150 bird species that used to be found in Hawaii, two-thirds are gone. Last week, as the death toll from the fires in West Maui continued to mount; it became clear that the same “factors” that have decimated Hawaii’s wildlife also contributed to the deadliness of the blazes. Also contributing to the devastation was Climate Change. Since the 1950s, average temperatures in Hawaii have risen by about two degrees, and there has been a shar p uptick in warming in just the past decade.
A study, published in Management Science, is the first to anchor climate science within “real world” financial indicators. It suggests that 59 nations will experience a drop in sovereign credit rating in the next decade without emissions reduction. Sovereign ratings assess the creditworthiness of countries and are a key gauge for investors. Covering more than US $66 trillion in sovereign debt, the ratings – and agencies behind them – act as gatekeepers to global capital. The researchers say the current mix of green finance indicators such as Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) ratings and unregulated corporate disclosures are detached from the science but they do not have to be. “The ESG ratings market is expected to top a billion dollars this year, yet it desperately lacks climate science underpinnings,” said Matthew Agarwala, a co-author from Cambridge’s Bennett Institute for Public Policy. “As Climate Change batters national economies, debts will become harder and more expensive to service. Markets need credible, digestible information on how Climate Change translates into material risk.”
Many neighbourhoods in America, including most that are home to people of colour, are not designed for today’s climate. In fact, past decisions have made neighbourhoods hotter nation-wide, more prone to flooding and less healthy – and Climate Change is making it worse. A bipartisan coalition of mayors from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, New Orleans and Columbia, S.C., signed up with the Smart Surfaces Coalition and partners like the National League of Cities and the American Public Health Association to think differently – to imagine how they can cool their neighbourhoods by 5 degrees or more, using “smart surfaces”. Cities can cool and reduce flooding by adopting reflective, porous and green surfaces, along with trees and solar photovoltaic panels on roofs and parking lots. This integrated approach can cut flooding and make neighbourhoods greener, healthier and more shaded, restoring the outdoors for people to play, walk and socialise more. The Smart Surfaces Coalition has already worked with Baltimore to quantify and start implementing surfaces to cool the city.
A startup, led by co-founders Ryan Johnson and Jeff Berens and fuelled by US $47 million in venture capital, aims to demonstrate that car-free living is both greener and better – even in an Arizona summer. Following years of delays, the first residents in Culdesac Tempe, the Arizona suburb, started moving in this spring. As work continues on the $200 million Tempe complex, which will take years to finish, Johnson and Berens are planning to build more like it in other cities across the US, creating a branded empire of car-free housing. The house-flipping startup that uses consumer surveys and market data to identify neighbourhoods on the upswing, Opendoor buys houses by the thousands, fixes them up and, if all goes well, sells them for a profit — a practice known as iBuying. While at Opendoor, Johnson noticed that walkability was a highly desired trait, and one where supply did not match demand. Residents also get a basket of transportation perks, including a free monthly pass with unlimited rides on the light rail and bus systems in greater Phoenix.
Torrential rains brought by the aftermath of Typhoon Doksuri have battered northern China since late July, displacing more than a million people and killing at least 30 people on the outskirts of Beijing and the surrounding Hebei province. More than 18,000 people have been evacuated from Shulan, according to state-run news agency Xinhua. Further north in the neighbouring province of Heilongjiang, rivers that irrigate its fertile farmlands overflowed, submerging rice fields, destroying vegetable greenhouses and damaging factories, state media reported. Across the province, 25 rivers have exceeded warning levels and threatened to burst their banks, according to Heilongjiang authorities. On August 6, China’s Ministry of Water Resources raised the emergency response for flooding to Level 3 for two provinces – the third most urgent in a four-tier emergency response system. In Harbin, the provincial capital of Heilongjiang, more than 162,000 people were evacuated, while over 90,000 hectares of crops were damaged by floodwater, reported People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party. China experienced its worst heat wave and drought in decades in 2022.
Even if attribution studies do not exist, we can still show links between Climate Change and extreme weather, writes María Mónica Monsalve. Last year, a group of scientists published a paper in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction exploring how citizens and leaders explained weather disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean, and if they related them to Climate Change. They found five narratives, including one in which citizens believe that Climate Change is a “condition that distracts authorities and people from other immediate daily challenges such as violence, crime, unemployment, food insecurity, and lack of infrastructure”. Journalists should take advantage of this uncertainty to explain that, even if scientists do not have an answer to this particular event, they have found clues on how Climate Change has altered certain phenomena. In Hurricane Iota’s case, a journalist can explain that Climate Change has increased the intensity of hurricanes in general, and that it has also slowed them down — they spend more time in the ocean, gaining strength, and they stall more when they are about to hit the coast.
A new review draws together evidence on the vulnerability of Antarctic systems, highlighting recent extremes such as record low sea ice levels, the collapse of ice shelves, and surface temperatures up to 38.5 degrees Celsius above average over East Antarctica in 2022 – the world’s largest-ever recorded heatwave. Records for Antarctic Sea ice, which varies every year between a February minimum and a September maximum, “have been tumbling in recent years”, said tstudy co-author Dr Caroline Holmes, polar climate scientist at the British Antarctic Survey. Antarctic land ice – which contributes to sea level rise when it melts – has also declined since the 1990s, according to a co-author. Between 1992 and 2020, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have contributed a 2.1cm rise to the global mean sea level. The rate of ice sheet loss from Antarctica “matches the IPCC worst case” for predicted ice loss under high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios.
The long-term assessments of the cryosphere of the Hindu Kush Himalaya by scientists have culminated in a report titled Water, ice, society and ecosystems in the Hindu Kush Himalaya or the HI-WISE report. It aims to inform the people of the Hindu Kush Himalaya, decision makers, practitioners and the global community on the rapidly changing cryosphere in the region and its impacts on water, biodiversity, and societies. “As scientists, what worries us the most is the scale at which the glaciers are melting in the Himalayas,” said Jakob F. Steiner, a fellow at the Himalayan University Consortium. The researchers believe that cryosphere changes coupled with erratic rainfall patterns observed in the region is a double whammy for the societies, as is evident from the recent floods and landslides in Himachal Pradesh.
The underprivileged sections of New Delhi will soon get filtered drinking water. The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) will implement a project to install 500 Reverse Osmosis (RO) plants of 30,000 litre capacity each in areas that do not have adequate pipe water. The filtered water will also be supplied free through water ATM machines to residents of these areas, provided they have RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) cards. “The tubewells will supply raw groundwater to RO installations, which will be then purified. After passing through RO and microfilters, the water will undergo high-pressure pumping. The rate for purified water will be Rs 1.60 per 20 litres (or 8 paise per litre), but jhuggi-jhopdi cluster residents will receive this water for free,” an official said. A person with an RFID card can avail 20 litres in a day for free, beyond that they will be charged at a rate of 8 paise per litre, the official said.
Residents and tourists have fled wildfires in two more favourite Greek destinations, Corfu and Evia. As a fire in Rhodes continued to burn in the island’s southeast, airlines ferried some travellers away from the island’s airport. Efforts to douse the blazes came amid a blistering heat wave that stoked tinder-dry conditions across Greece and much of southern Europe, which is recording some of the hottest temperatures of the year, representing a serious threat especially to older people and outdoor workers. In Greece, temperatures reached 45 Celsius on July 23 and hovered at 44 Celsius in the south the next day. The combination of high temperatures and parched conditions made the firefighting response more challenging, a Greek government spokesperson said. He said Greece had had more than 50 new fires per day for 12 days in a row, or more than 600 in total. “We are fighting a war, focused on the wildfires — we will rebuild what is lost,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Parliament.
The Dutch capital, Amsterdam recently voted to restrict jumbo cruise ships from docking in the city and aimed to close its central cruise-ship terminal, according to a municipality spokesperson. This will cut back on the inflow of tourists and reduce pollution. The timeline and details of implementation will be decided after consultations with various stakeholders. Amsterdam has one of the largest cruise ports in Europe, hosting hundreds of mega ships and about 7,00,000 cruise passengers each year. “The polluting cruise is not in line with Amsterdam’s sustainable ambitions,” said Ilana Rooderkerk, the local leader of the socially progressive D66 party, which introduced the motion. “Cruise ships in the city centre also do not fit in with the task of combating mass tourism.” The country has other cruise terminals in Rotterdam and IJmuiden. The decision comes amid a wider crackdown on the tourist influx and sense of disruption they bring to Amsterdam, a city famed for its red-light district and coffee shops that sell marijuana.
Whenever you see a cyclist riding on the sidewalk rather than the street, it’s a policy failure, writes Abigail Weinberg. Even though cyclists are allowed on most roadways in Colorado, United States, not all streets are designed in a way that makes cyclists feel safe. Cyclists do not ride on sidewalks because they enjoy encroaching on pedestrians’ space; they do it because they have no other options. Until speeds are lowered, traffic is calmer, and protected bike lanes installed on most city streets, riders should not be punished for travelling in a way that they decide is safe. “There is a minority of motorists who just think that cyclists should never be on the road,” said Andrew Phillips, a Colorado attorney with TheCyclist-Lawyer.com. In places where it’s legal to ride on the sidewalk, cyclists are entitled to use the crosswalk, as long as they yield to pedestrians and don’t dart out at an unsafe speed. If a cyclist dismounts, he or she is considered a pedestrian and may use the sidewalk and crosswalk.
The Observer opines that the climate crisis should not be used as a political football, and the case for cutting carbon emissions has never been more blindingly obvious in this summer of freak heat waves around the globe. In Arizona, United States, hospitals are treating patients suffering severe burns from contact with baking pavements; forest fires are ravaging Greece; and Antarctic sea ice levels have fallen to record lows for July. We are terrifyingly close to the tipping point of which scientists have so long warned, and the frustration is that we know well what to do about it. There is no alternative to transitioning as fast as humanly possible from fossil fuels to renewables, gas central heating to heat pumps and solar panels, and petrol or diesel cars to electric ones. The climate emergency cries out for a non-partisan approach, with political parties pulling together in the national interest; instead, green policy risks are being weaponised for political gain.
The term “new normal” gets bandied about a lot, writes Alejandro De La Garza. It’s meant, of course, to provoke alarm – to point out we are not experiencing freak aberrations but the entirely predictable long-term effects of pumping huge quantities of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. But the phrase also has the connotation that now, at least, is “normal,” as if we have been riding an elevator of global temperature rise and just arrived at the top floor. “It sure is hot up here at the new normal,” we say, “good thing it won’t get any worse.” Unfortunately, though, it will. The changes we are experiencing are only accelerating. Each new season is a baseline from which things will get weirder still. There will be yet more heat domes, hurricanes, and flooding, coming at a faster clip. In less than ten years, tropical dengue-carrying mosquitoes could be breeding in London and New York. The next decade might bring the first ice-free summer in the Arctic. By 2050, the world could be dealing with 1.2 billion climate refugees fleeing for their lives.
Rain and cloud bursts battered the northern states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Amid the growing death toll, rescue and evacuation efforts gained pace, especially in Himachal Pradesh, the worst-hit state. Around 25,000 people stranded in Kullu district, including 3,000 in Kasol district, were evacuated safely. However, rescuing nearly 300 people from near Chandratal lake, located at an altitude of 14,100 feet in Lahaul and Spiti district, faced various challenges because of bad weather. Teams were working in sub-zero temperature and in 3-4 feet of snow to repair the road leading to Chandratal. Landslides triggered by heavy rain disrupted traffic on major highways in Uttarakhand, prompting warnings for residents not to venture out of their homes unless necessary. Rescue crews raced to evacuate survivors as the rain overwhelmed hundreds of villages in Dehradun and Haridwar districts. The Ganga was flowing close to the danger mark in both Haridwar and Rishikesh. Over 250 roads remained blocked across Uttarakhand, including Gangotri and Yamunotri highways.
The draft Green Credit Programme Implementation Rules, released on June 27 by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, propose awarding individuals and other entities with credits for undertaking eight “environmental interventions”. These credits can then be “made available for trading on a domestic market platform,” says the draft of the programme. Unlike a carbon market – which prices a standard unit of per tonne carbon emitted – the Green Credit Programme (GCP) doesn’t yet have a standard unit of measurement for the benefits accrued across various activities, which range from tree plantations to sustainable infrastructure. It is envisioned to function as a separate market mechanism but may overlap with the carbon market if the “green credit” also results in the reduction of carbon emissions, notes the draft. It does not specify what will happen if credits are found to be fraudulent. The draft programme comes at a time when India is hosting the G20 Presidency and will have to walk the talk on its international climate commitments, which include achieving net-zero emissions by 2070.
The global average temperature on July 6 touched 17.23 degrees Celsius. It broke the 17.01 degrees Celsius record set on Monday, surpassed just a day later when the average temperature reached 17.18 degrees Celsius. The temperatures are being driven by human-induced climate change and the naturally-occurring weather pattern known as El Niño, scientists say. “Climate scientists aren’t surprised about the global daily temperature record being broken, but we are very concerned,” Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at Imperial College London, said adding, “It should be a wake-up call for anyone who thinks the world needs more oil and gas.” The last time the record was broken was in August 2016. Experts warn that many societies have not yet adapted to more extreme heat and the impacts it has on people and the environment. A study by the UK Met Office concluded that Climate Change made the June heat more than twice as likely.
Public health experts found that 61,672 people died of heat-related causes in Europe between May 30 and September 4, 2022. The mortality rate was highest in Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal. In every week of summer 2022, the study found, average temperatures in Europe “uninterruptedly” exceeded the baseline values of the previous three decades. The most intense heat hit from July 18 to 24 when it killed 11,637 people. Scientists suggested the death toll in 2022 was particularly high because the temperature anomalies were greatest in southern Europe, which is hotter than northern Europe, during the peak of summer. “We had both factors contributing to the mortality,” said Joan Ballester, an associate research professor in climate and health at Barcelona Institute for Global Health and lead author of the study. “In the end it’s the absolute temperature that kills.” Both the Swiss and Europe-wide studies found that women, and particularly older women, died at higher rates than men.
There was hardly any building culture in Belgium until well into the 1980s. In a much-quoted article from 1968, the Belgian urban planner Renaat Braem, full of anger and clearly referring to an obvious lack of urban planning, called his homeland the “ugliest country in the world”. One could argue that the new dawn of Flemish architecture also was the work of one woman: Wivina Demeester. On Demeester’s decisive initiative, the government created the position of “Vlaams Bouwmeester” (Flemish Government Architect), who is, as a politically independent consultant with a small team and budget, responsible for supervising and improving the quality of all public architecture. As first “Bouwmeester,” Belgian architect and professor Bob Van Reeth was chosen, a very diplomatic, and well-connected figure in the Flemish architecture scene. Of the tools he invented for the task, the “Open Oproep” (Open Call) quickly proved to be the most successful. The “Open Oproep” is a special version of an architecture competition. Any department or municipality with a building project can seek advice from the Team Vlaams Bouwmeester.
Environmentalists say deep-sea mining could cause critical damage to ecosystems that scientists know little about, yet mining companies argue that it is better for the environment than land-based extraction. More than a dozen nations have sponsored small-scale exploration projects, but commercial mining of international waters is not permitted. Governments are racing to obtain a secure supply of critical minerals for low-carbon technologies but have also made major commitments to protect nature, including a historic deal in March to defend marine biodiversity on the high seas. The tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru sparked controversy and concern in mid-2021 when it notified the International Seabed Authority of plans to start deep-sea mining, triggering a two-year deadline for the body to adopt an industry rule book. A recent report published by the non-profit Planet Tracker said deep-sea mining could cause several times more damage to biodiversity than terrestrial mining due to factors such as the large surface area affected compared with digging underground.
More than 1,19,830 people are flood affected in Assam, according to the situation report released by the Assam State Disaster Management on June 21. All districts are affected but the worst-hit include Nalbari, Baksa and Lakhimpur. Heavy rainfall in a short period of time increases the water levels in the Brahmaputra river and its tributaries. However, this is not new in Assam. All rivers in the state are responsible for floods as they receive heavy rainfall in a short period of time, according to an IMD report on 30 years (1989-2018) climate data. Water from the neighbouring Himalayas also reaches Assam quickly. The rivers swell in a very short time and start breaking the banks. Also, a large amount of silt and debris quickly reach the river and increase the water levels. It becomes almost impossible to control the mainstream and due to which the rivers bring water to the surrounding areas. Despite the situation repeating every year, deficiencies in disaster management persist.
Removing water from the ground has led to sea-level rise and caused Earth’s axis to shift by about 2.6 feet between 1993 and 2010, according to a new study. Groundwater removed from sites at the Earth’s mid-latitudes, such as in the United States and India, has an outsized impact on polar drift compared with extraction at the equator or the poles. However, most of the pumping has occurred in these high-impact zones, causing the water removal to have a bigger effect on the axis, says Clark Wilson, co-author of the study and geoscientist at the University of Texas at Austin. Researchers involved in the study estimated that the axis is moving 1.7 inches per year due to groundwater removal. The study calls attention to just how much water humans have pumped, as Manoochehr Shirzaei, a geophysicist at Virginia Tech who did not contribute to the study, tells New Scientist. “The precise number doesn’t matter really,” he says, “What matters is that the volume is so gigantic that it can impact the polar drift of the Earth.”
The El Niño-La Niña cycle brings increased heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and floods to different regions. The planet is being hit with a double whammy of global heating in 2023. On top of the inexorable rise in global temperature caused by greenhouse gas emissions is an emerging El Niño. This sporadic event adds a further spurt of warmth to an already overheating world. The result is supercharged extreme weather, hitting lives and livelihoods. The places closest to the Pacific are most strongly affected. In Peru and Ecuador, El Niño brings heavy rains and flooding. In the Amazon, the weather gets hotter and drier during an El Niño, meaning less growth and greater risk of fires in the forest. Heat and drought also increase in Colombia and Central America. On the other side of the Pacific, Australia can be hit hard by the higher temperatures brought by El Niño. Some scientists said the heating suggested that 2023 could become the hottest on record, although most of El Niño’s heat will appear in 2024.
A new study, published on June 22 in Nature Sustainability, warns that more than a fifth of ecosystems worldwide, including the Amazon rainforest, are at risk of a catastrophic breakdown within a human lifetime. “It could happen very soon,” said Prof Simon Willcock of Rothamsted Research, who co-led the study. “We could realistically be the last generation to see the Amazon.” Compared with the long-established and conclusively proven link between fossil fuels and global heating, the science of tipping points and their interactions is relatively undeveloped. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said in its latest report that there was a chance of a tipping point in the Amazon by the year 2100. However, several prominent Brazil-based scientists, including Carlos Nobre, have warned that this may come much sooner. The new study observes that most studies until now have focused on one driver of destruction, such as Climate Change or deforestation. But when you combine this with other threats, such as water stress, degradation and river pollution from mining, the breakdown comes much quicker.
The villages in al-Ankour, south of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province in western Iraq, are facing severe water crisis. Habbaniyah Lake, once a sprawling body of water spanning 140sq km (55sq miles) with a capacity of 3.3 billion cubic metres (4.2 billion cubic yards), is rapidly shrinking as a devastating water crisis unfolds around it. Nine months ago, due to the declining flow of the Euphrates River from neighbouring Syria, a barrage in Ramadi began redirecting the water away from the lake and towards Fallujah. Those who live around the lake were left with a dangerously reduced supply of water that formerly fed their villages. The crisis in Habbaniyah Lake is just one aspect of the country’s environmental threats. The Ministry of Water Resources has warned that Iraq is facing its worst water shortage in a century with 7 million people experiencing reduced access to the resource. According to the United Nations, 90 per cent of the country’s rivers are polluted and Iraq will meet only 15 per cent of its water demands by 2035.
Texas cities have reached an unprecedented heat index – which combines temperature and humidity. Corpus Christi has hit 125F (51 degrees Celsius), while Rio Grande Village notched 118F (47 degrees Celsius) and Del Rio marked 115F (46 degrees Celsius). States including New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri are also experiencing scorching heat, with the National Weather Service predicting the temperatures to rise further and last into the week of July 4. The heat follows a weekend of destructive storms that left hundreds of thousands of people without power. The heat dome, as it is known, has settled above Mexico and parts of the US south-west and is caused by hot ocean air that has become trapped in the atmosphere. Texas’s power utility urged users to cut back on air conditioning to alleviate the stress on the grid. Heat waves like these “will become more common in the future as we continue to burn coal, oil and natural gas”, said Andrew Pershing, director of climate science at non-profit Climate Central.
Between January and April 2023, extreme weather events claimed 233 human lives, in comparison to 86 during the same period last year, according to the State of India’s Environment In Figures, 2023, released by the Centre for Science and Environment and Down To Earth. “Scary statistics foretell how our natural world is transforming because of Climate Change. In 2023, in the first four months, 70 per cent of the days have already seen extreme weather events,” said Sunita Narain, Editor, DTE and Director General, CSE, in her foreword to the report. While heat waves were the most commonly occurring extreme weather event in the first four months of 2022, hailstorms took over as the dominating extreme weather event in 2023. Of the 84 days with extreme weather events in 2023, hailstorms were reported on 58 days.
The Forum of Environmental Journalists in India (FEJI) has collaborated with Radio Monsoon, a Malayalam online daily weather forecast run by trained local youth, to help communities in 42 villages along the 80-km-long Thiruvananthapuram coastline tackle climate-related risks. It includes media training and technology inputs by veteran journalist, geographer and researcher Max Martin. The online weather service encourages local fisherfolk to fish safer by disseminating sea safety information through social media, loudspeakers, fishers’ informal radio communication and by word of mouth. Radio Monsoon’s daily weather bulletins are based on forecasts from India Meteorological Department and the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, as well as fishers’ local knowledge and value addition by Cochin University of Science and Technology’s Advanced Centre for Atmospheric Radar Research. Radio Monsoon also seeks to improve marine forecasts by gathering and sharing fishers’ feedback.
Cities including Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York had significantly worse air quality last week than cities abroad such as Lahore, Dhaka and Hanoi, as intense wildfires in Canada continue to impact millions. The poor conditions forced event cancellations and grounded flights across the US. Nearly 100 million people experienced very poor air quality in North America. US President Joe Biden described the fires as a “stark reminder of the impacts of Climate Change”. Data from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI) shows that cities in North America had the worst air quality in the world on June 8 morning. The smoke caused the cancellation of school outings and sporting events, and, in the capital, the White House’s planned pride celebrations. In New York, an orange haze blanketed the city’s skyline and shrouded landmarks including the Statue of Liberty. Public health officials cautioned people not to exercise outside and to minimise their exposure to the smoke, as the air posed immediate and long-term health risks.
Apple is all set to launch its augmented reality (AR) headset, the Vision Pro, and it’s time for officials to prepare for the collision of digital and physical spaces. Apple’s insistence that it’s meant to be worn in the world around other people means it’s time for cities to finally sit up and pay attention to the small-m metaverse. Apple is hardly alone. Google, Snap, and others have all recently made strides in fusing the real and virtual worlds. There’s certainly an argument that augmented reality could be a boon for big cities, enriching and attracting foot traffic to iconic locations weakened by remote work. “I think we’ll see a growing digital divide between cities that embrace AR and those that thwart it,” said Jonathan Askin, director of the Brooklyn Law Incubator & Policy Clinic, who has studied the legal issues stemming from AR. “The only real issue for cities,” he adds, “is how to ensure that use of AR applications does not threaten public safety while enhancing the urban living experience.”
The UN-Habitat estimates that 3 billion people, about 40 per cent of the world’s population, will need access to adequate housing by 2030. This translates into 96,000 new, affordable and accessible housing units every day. An estimated 100 million people worldwide are homeless and one in four people live in conditions that harm their health, safety and prosperity. In Africa, housing shortfall stands at about 51 million housing units, the UN agency said. Nga Kor Ming, minister for local government development in Malaysia, said all developers in the country are legally bound to build 30 per cent of their projects as affordable housing. Ezlina Adnan, head of division at PR1MA Corporation in Malaysia, said that they have been tackling the housing challenge by looking at the chain, demand and supply. “From demand, we established a database of people who are eligible for our programmes. Currently, we have 1.5 million people who have registered and there are more than 55,000 homeowners,” Adnan said.
Carbon dioxide levels in the air are now the highest they’ve been in more than four million years because of the burning of oil, coal and gas. The last time the air had similar amounts was during a less hospitable hothouse Earth before human civilisation took root, scientists said. The United States’ National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration announced that the carbon dioxide level measured in May in Hawaii averaged 424 parts per million (ppm) which is three parts per million more than last year’s May average and 51 per cent higher than pre-industrial levels. It is one of the largest annual May-to-May increases in carbon dioxide levels on record, behind only 2016 and 2019, which had jumps of 3.7 and 3.4 parts per million. The cause of global warming is showing no signs of slowing as heat-trapping carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere increased to record highs in its annual Spring peak, jumping at one of the fastest rates on record, officials announced recently. Carbon dioxide levels rise more during El Nino climate cycles because it is hotter and drier in the Tropics.
Road crashes are like an epidemic in India, killing and disabling over 900,000 people every year – more than anywhere in the world – and costing India $156 billion, according to the World Bank. The death of former Tata Sons Chairman Cyrus Mistry from a collision in September 2022 and a separate incident that injured cricketer Rishabh Pant in December further highlighted the scourge of dangerous roads and how little has been done to fix them. “We don’t give value to safety,” said Prerana Arora Singh, chief executive and managing trustee of People’s Trust, Jaipur, a non-profit that advocates for road safety education, training and post-crash care. “We rather give value to reaching our destination as quickly as possible and prioritise high-speed vehicles, like cars, buses, trucks, and ignore the safety of pedestrians and two-wheeler riders.” Safety audits of road designs before starting construction are “grossly overlooked” in India, said S. Velmurugan, chief scientist of traffic engineering and safety at the Delhi-based Central Road Research Institute. Developers rely on software for designing the streets without checking whether they meet the needs of all road users.
New research estimates that New York’s landmass is sinking at an average rate of 1 to 2 millimetres per year, referred to as “subsidence”, under the weight of its skyscrapers, homes, asphalt and humanity itself. More than one million buildings are spread across the city’s five boroughs. The research team calculated that all those structures add up to about 1.7 trillion tonnes of concrete, metal and glass – about the mass of 4,700 Empire State buildings – pressing down on the Earth. The rate of compression varies throughout the city. Midtown Manhattan’s skyscrapers are largely built on rock, which compresses very little, while some parts of Brooklyn, Queens and downtown Manhattan are on looser soil and sinking faster, the study revealed. While the process is slow, lead researcher Tom Parsons of the US Geological Survey said parts of the city will eventually be underwater. “It’s inevitable. The ground is going down, and the water’s coming up. At some point, those two levels will meet,” said Parsons.
Climate Change and development are set to collide in the booming Austin-San Antonio mega-region as housing expands into fire-prone wildlands. Adjacent to Georgetown, it’s the fastest-growing city in the United States according to US Census Bureau data. Once a small farming town, it’s now an Austin suburb of more than 75,000 people with 60 subdivisions under construction. Brush fires frequently swept the dry scrubland, the primary reason being urban sprawl. Williamson County’s population grew 50 per cent in the last decade, part of an explosion of development that’s making the vast Austin-to-San Antonio mega-region more susceptible to wildfire. Texas leaders love to contrast the state with California but, increasingly, both the populous states share a similar set of interrelated concerns – a combustible combination of expansive exurban development and climate-change-fuelled extreme weather. Concerns about runaway blazes are growing, especially in the area around and in between San Antonio and Austin, expected to be home to 6.7 million people by 2030.
In the race to cut fossil fuel use and preserve carbon-rich landscapes, it is essential that governments understand the flows of greenhouse gases that fall within their jurisdictions. Without reliable reporting, it will be impossible to know whether nations are living up to their Paris Agreement commitments, writes Dr Chisa Umemiya, a climate policy senior researcher at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. Many developing countries have limited capacity for reporting emissions, despite efforts to build such capacity over two decades. The treaty, therefore, reaffirms the importance of providing developing countries – particularly smaller and lower-income nations – with the money and technical support they need to accurately report on their emissions. A recent study, published in Climate Policy, explores 133 developing countries’ progress towards providing regular “greenhouse gas inventories” under the UN system between 1997 and 2019. Overall, it found that more than half of the world’s developing nations, including small-island states in the Pacific and the Caribbean and several African countries, are struggling to reliably report their emissions.
Ahead of elections in the European Parliament in June next year, the European Union is racing to finish legislation that includes two landmark nature bills — binding targets for countries to restore damaged natural habitats and a goal to halve chemical pesticide use by 2030. Much EU environment legislation has been passed over the past two years, but the appetite on the part of some lawmakers and member states for more is waning and farming groups say further change must be conditional on more financial support. Brussels proposed the nature measures last June. The opposition has mounted in recent weeks, as EU countries and lawmakers prepare for the final negotiations. The European Parliament’s biggest group, the European People’s Party (EPP), has called for the nature law to be scrapped saying it would hurt farmers. Other EU green proposals have also met resistance. And as the elections approach, unfinished laws are piling up. Their fate would be unclear under a new EU Parliament with a different composition.
Benjamin Schneider writes on gentrification saying it can be a source of profound anxiety or a welcome change, depending on one’s perspective. He opines: “I find ‘displacement’ to be a much more useful term for describing the negative side of gentrification. Nonetheless, I don’t think gentrification has lost its meaning or should be jettisoned from the lexicon, as some urbanists periodically suggest. Rather, I find gentrification to be an incredibly rich concept that conveys how people understand cities and their place in them. Ironically, many of the meanings ascribed to gentrification emerged out of a worldview originated by gentrifiers themselves.” Nowhere is this lens on gentrification better articulated than in Suleiman Osman’s 2011 book The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York, which tells the story of the first-wave gentrifiers who crossed the East River in the 1960s and ’70s, he writes. Osman’s literary sensibility, combined with the historically distant nature of his subject matter, allow for a depth of inquiry seldom seen in other works on gentrification.
Though hot and humid heat waves are not unusual for the India-Bangladesh region, their intensity and frequency will increase by a factor of three, if mean global surface temperatures cross two degrees Celsius, the World Weather Attribution (WWA) said in its latest study. The mean surface temperatures are already 1.2 degrees higher than pre-industrial levels, which have caused intense heat waves over India and Bangladesh this year, and are 26 times more likely to occur, according to the study. The heat waves in India and Bangladesh last month were two degrees Celsius hotter than they would otherwise be due to human-induced Climate Change, with high humidity in such early heat waves playing a devastating role, according to the research. Last year, India experienced an early and unusually long heatwave spell that was made 30 times more likely on account of Climate Change, a similar study by WWA had said. However, what makes the latest findings stand out is the role of humidity in such heat waves, which have different impacts on agriculture and health.
Researchers say there’s a 66 per cent chance we will pass the 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming threshold between now and 2027 as the world is overheating. Since 2020, the World Meteorological Organisation has been giving an estimate of the chances of the world breaking the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold in any one year. Back then, they predicted there was less than a 20 per cent chance of breaking 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next five years. By last year, this had increased to 50 per cent, and now to 66 per cent. Countries had agreed, under the 2015 Paris agreement, to “pursue efforts” to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Exceeding this for a decade or two would see far greater impacts of warming, such as longer heat waves, more intense storms and wildfires. But passing the level in one of the next few years would not mean that the Paris limit has been broken. Scientists say there is still time to restrict global warming by cutting emissions sharply.
Hollowed-out downtowns are a depressing characteristic of American cities right now, whether it’s Market Street in San Francisco or Wall Street in New York. But Chicago, the third-largest city in the US, faces its own challenges that threaten its status as one of the main global financial hubs. Not only has it been struggling with the slow return of workers – the region’s office attendance is about half of pre-pandemic levels, according to security firm Kastle Systems – but the departure of major companies including Citadel and Boeing Co. leaves a tough-to-fill void. The city’s office-vacancy rate reached a record 22.4 per cent in the first quarter. Tech companies, once seen as a bright opportunity for Chicago’s future, are retrenching. “We need to continue to create reasons for people to come downtown,” said Michael Fassnacht, head of World Business Chicago and the city’s chief marketing officer. “I encourage all the corporate leaders to have at least a three-days-in-the-office policy.”
Experts believe that approximately 2,00,000 buildings in Turkey’s largest city would sustain at least moderate damage in the event of a severe earthquake – nearly half of those are considered high-risk. House prices in Istanbul have shot up 138 per cent over the past year amid an ongoing nation-wide cost-of-living crisis. The property market inflation is compounding the difficulty of addressing what critics describe as decades of neglect, when it comes to the city’s disaster readiness. “There is consensus among experts that there will be an earthquake in Istanbul and it will be a strong one, with devastating consequences for the entire region and beyond,” said Fuat Keyman, director of the Istanbul Policy Center at the city’s Sabancı University. An estimated 70 per cent of Istanbul’s building stock was constructed before 2000, when stricter codes were put into place following the 1999 quake in the neighbouring province of Kocaeli, which killed at least 17,000 people. But even after 2000, the new standards have not always been enforced, as was seen to devastating effect three months ago when massive earthquakes killed more than 50,000 people in the country’s southeast.
Forest City, a partially finished new city on the coast of Malaysia’s Johor state, has been touted by Chinese developers as a “green futuristic city”. Environmentalists say the city that sells itself as a planetary saviour is actually a major threat to nature in the Johor Strait, a wildlife-rich strip of sea dividing Malaysia from Singapore. The four artificial islands that will form the development, which aim to house 7,00,000 people by 2035, are part of a wave of land reclamation projects that have seen millions of tonnes of sand being dumped into the strait’s waters in recent years. Local fishermen say the activity has triggered an exodus of fish species and damaged mangrove forests that normally absorb large amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and protect the coastline. On one Forest City island built so far, developers initially planted palms and cactuses. “It looked like an Abu Dhabi golf course. Those plants can’t survive here, because we have rain,” says Serina Rahman, a lecturer in the Southeast Asian studies department at the National University of Singapore.
Urbanists Edward Glaeser and Carlo Ratti in the New York Times propose a new role for cities – the “Playground City” – as work from home is still trending. While they have some useful ideas, says this opinion piece, their analysis ignores economic, structural and equity problems facing cities which the “playground” concept could actually make worse. Glaeser and Ratti say cities should embrace the shift “from vocation to recreation” and make cities more vital and fun to live in, cities should “attract the rich and talented,” reconfiguring neighbourhoods into walkable safe spaces with lots of amenities. The authors look at empty office buildings in New York and other cities, with “occupancy around 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, harming landlords and the local economy.” Glaeser and Ratti have some good ideas for making city neighbourhoods more attractive and policies for conversion of offices into residences. But their neglect of structural economic forces and our fragmented metropolitan political geography makes their “playground” solution inadequate for full economic recovery, or progress on inequality, writes economist and author Richard McGahey.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) released, on April 17, a list of the hottest cities in India. Murshidabad at 43 degrees Celsius and Bankura at 40 degrees Celsius, both in West Bengal topped the list. Delhi, experiencing third consecutive day of heat wave conditions, ranked fifth on the list and shared the same maximum temperature of 40 degrees Celsius with Bankura, Ahmedabad in Gujarat, Rajasthan’s Churu, Chandigarh and Andhra’s Vijayawada. Above-normal temperatures along with heat wave conditions are expected in most parts of India till May 31, threatening to lower crop production. Climate scientist Kieran Hunt said there are two reasons why India is experiencing frequent and severe heat waves. “The Indian government’s definition of a heat wave is fixed, so as background temperatures increase, less and less strong anomalies are required to surpass the heat wave definition threshold. Second, it does appear that the weather patterns – high pressure over north India, leading to dry, sunny, clear conditions with weak wind – associated with these anomalies are also increasing in frequency,” she said.
Residents in Eloor, a suburb in Kochi, Kerala, have periodically protested against the chemical factories which are polluting the once flowing river Periyar. Demonstrations began in 1970, when the village first witnessed thousands of fish dying. Residents say the industries take in large amounts of freshwater from the Periyar and discharge concentrated wastewater with almost no treatment. Chandramohan Kumar, a professor in Chemical Oceanography at Cochin University of Science and Technology, has researched Periyar River pollution. “We have observed pollution from various organic fertilizers, metallic components,” Kumar said. The state Pollution Control Board downplayed the industrial pollution in the Periyar River, blaming it on sewage from homes, commercial institutions and markets upstream. “We have not found any alarming rate of metals in the river water. All the levels are within the limits,” said Baburajan PK, chief environmental engineer of the board. A study by the environmental non-profit group, Thanal, found “hundreds of people living near Kuzhikandam Creek at Eloor were afflicted with diseases such as cancer, congenital birth defects, bronchitis, asthma, allergic dermatitis, nervous disorders and behaviour changes.”
An investigation – the first to connect bovine collagen with tropical forest loss and violence against indigenous peoples – found at least 2,600 square kilometres of deforestation linked to the supply chains of two Brazil-based collagen operations with connections to Darling: Rousselot and the recently acquired Gelnex. It is unclear how much of this deforestation, which was calculated by the Center for Climate Crime Analysis, is linked to Vital Proteins. Experts see the preservation of the Amazon as key to tackling Climate Change. So too is upholding the rights of its indigenous people, who are widely recognised as the best forest guardians. Nearly half of the best-preserved areas of rainforest are within indigenous people’s territories. For Kátia Silene Akrãtikatêjê, the first woman to become a leader of the Gavião people, it’s like living on an island. Her people feel “surrounded, suffocated”. For the Gavião, maintaining the forest where they hunt, fish, farm and collect seeds comes with threats, attempted invasions and arson. In September last year, an entire village was burned down and the fire was no accident, they say.
Three years after Covid struck, big cities are still standing and where people live did not undergo a massive shift. Instead, the pandemic accelerated trends and changes that were already well underway. But the biggest shift of all was one that few predicted: There has been a massive spike in housing prices and rents, a metastasizing problem of housing affordability that is plaguing communities of all shapes and sizes — big cities, small cities, established cities, upcoming cities, suburbs, and rural areas. The urban exodus, such as it was, proved mainly temporary. Many who left came back, and immigrants once again started to flow into large US cities as pandemic-era restrictions waned, with the 20 largest cities seeing the number of immigrants triple from 2021 to 2022. Manhattan gained an estimated 17,500 residents over the last year after significant losses in prior years, according to US Census Bureau estimates. It’s the first time in more than two decades that the borough saw a net gain in domestic migration (albeit by just a few thousand people).
Ithaca, New York, is all set to bring in a climate revolution. The city has one of the most aggressive climate plans in the country, with a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. It’s using a unique public-private partnership to decarbonise its 6,000 buildings in what could be a model for how to electrify cities. The city has already secured a line of funding to help get the programme off the ground and a private programme manager to oversee the electrification scheme. While the Inflation Reduction Act includes $369 billion in climate-related funding, that’s far short of the trillions needed to help Ithaca and thousands of towns like it with big ambitions and small budgets. The city has homed in on decarbonising every building, which cumulatively account for 40 per cent of Ithaca’s overall emissions. Residential units, however, make that goal complicated. Ripping every furnace, gas stove, and water heater out of homes across the city and replacing them with electric appliances, as well as insulating buildings for maximum efficiency, is an expensive process for homeowners.
The Arctic Snow School, in Iqaluktuuttiaq in north Canada, is a joint project between two institutions in the Canadian province of Quebec: Sentinel North at Universite Laval and the Groupe de Recherche Interdisciplinaire sur les Milieux Polaires at the University of Sherbrooke. The goal “is to help train a new generation of scientists capable of solving the complex problems of a changing North”. Changes in this massive territory also have global implications; as Greenpeace explains, “the Arctic helps to regulate the world’s temperature, so as more Arctic ice melts, the warmer our world becomes”. Understanding how the environment is changing, and how quickly, can help craft solutions, experts say. Alexandre Langlois, co-lead of the initiative and a professor at the University of Sherbrooke, said studying Arctic snow can help researchers better assess how Arctic vegetation is changing, what access animals such as lemmings and caribou will have to food and safe habitats, and new challenges faced by Inuit who travel the region to hunt and fish. Langlois said the Arctic is seeing more rain-on-snow events, but the root cause is unclear.
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) released an over-400-page report on India’s environment. This year’s edition highlights the effect of a changing climate on livestock, seasonal variations, and the potential to decarbonise hard-to-abate sectors such as aviation, steel and shipping, among others. “Environment is now mainstream – we are all outraged at how pollution is affecting our health or climate change is devastating our future. But the bad news is that we are not acting (given the) scale of the devastation that we see around us. We need to take more deliberate steps to reverse the damage,” said CSE director Sunita Narain at the launch of the State of India’s Environment 2023 report. India was worst-hit by natural disasters after China, the Philippines, and Ethiopia, the report said, citing data from the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. According to CSE’s own data, India was hit with an extreme weather event nearly every single day from January to October in 2022, resulting in the deaths of 2,900 people.
Heat Action Plans (HAPs) in India have spread to several jurisdictions nation-wide with a healthy mix of different solution types – from infrastructure and nature-based solutions to behavioural adjustments, writes researcher Aditya Valiathan Pillai, but most of them do not account for local context, are underfunded, and poor at identifying and targeting vulnerable groups. Pillai and others analysed India’s HAPs to assess what they cover and what gaps remain. Their findings offer lessons to others developing and refining heat plans in the global south, where the challenges of extreme weather and state capacity are similar. Their analysis covers 37 HAPs at the city (nine), district (13) and state (15) levels across 18 Indian states, and finds that they all carry major gaps that will likely undermine their effectiveness. For example, only two of the 37 plans include vulnerability assessments – maps that make it possible to locate and channel protective resources to those least able to cope. Equally worryingly, only three of 37 plans identified funding for at least some of their measures. This is despite most HAPs recommending expensive changes to infrastructure, city plans and buildings.
The International Court of Justice will prepare an advisory opinion that could be cited in climate court cases. The motion came from Vanuatu, a low-lying Pacific island nation facing peril from rising sea levels. The country emphasised that it is not seeking the court’s opinion to put in place new restrictions but to clarify existing obligations to prevent harm to the environment. The resolution gained support from many countries because it was carefully crafted to avoid blaming the countries like the United States and China that have contributed most to the warming gases that are driving up temperatures. Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau called it “a win for climate justice of epic proportions”. The idea for the legal opinion was originally proposed by law students in Fiji four years ago. It was then taken up by Vanuatu, a country with bitter experience of the impacts of rising temperatures. Earlier this year, the estimated cost in damages was roughly half the country’s annual GDP. The ICJ, based in the Netherlands, will now have two years to consider its view.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined nations like China, India and Brazil in opposing a 2050 zero emissions target and pushing for the target to be to “aim for net zero, preferably by mid-century, and to phase out emissions before the end of the century”. Its representative to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Mohamed Khamis Saeed Al Kaabi opposed setting interim targets for 2030 and 2040. A spokesperson for the UAE’s COP28 presidency said that IMO negotiations were outside their scope but “the COP28 UAE presidency sees a substantial and important role for industries, including shipping, to deliver action to keep 1.5 alive”. The spokesperson added that the COP28 presidency echoes the IPCC scientists’ finding that carbon emissions must fall 43 per cent between 2019 and 2030. The shipping industry is responsible for 3 per cent of global emissions. If it was a nation, it would be the fifth most polluting in the world, ahead of Japan. Like international air travel, international shipping is not mentioned in the Paris Agreement and is not covered by most countries’ climate plans.
After last year’s chaotic lockdown, China’s most cosmopolitan city – Shanghai — is losing foreign talent. China officially ended ‘Covid Zero’ late last year. But for many foreigners, the experience of being confined to their homes, constantly tested and facing food shortages has irrevocably changed their view of living in Shanghai. About 25 per cent of Germans living in the city left after the lockdown, while the number of French and Italian citizens registered with their governments each fell by 20 per cent, according to a report by the Shanghai chapter of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. Shanghai’s economy, like the rest of China’s, is showing tentative signs of improvement. Spending on food and drink is on the rise, and airports are increasingly busy after borders reopened. In-person spending during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday jumped 81.7 per cent in Shanghai from a year earlier. For the first time in about 25 years, China isn’t a top three investment priority for a majority of US firms, according to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China.
The Bosque Metropolitano (Metropolitan Forest), an ambitious plan to encircle the Spanish capital Madrid with 75 kilometres (46.5 miles) of woodland, has hit a hurdle. Besides providing recreational amenities, the project also promises a host of environmental benefits for residents, such as mitigating the urban heat island effect, improving air quality and flood resilience, and absorbing up to 1,70,000 tonnes of carbon when the trees reach maturity within about 12 years. With municipal elections approaching, the forest has emerged as a political flashpoint. Last month, opponents of the governing administration began sharing photos of parched ground and empty tree supports strewn about like trash, saying that the images reflected the true state of the project. People across the city responded with other snapshots of the forest’s dire condition. According to a representative of the Socialist Party, which holds power nationally as part of a governing coalition but is in opposition in Madrid, the city has spent more than €35 million ($37.8 million) so far but only completed planting 0.74 per cent of the future forest’s proposed total area.
Dave Cook, a PhD candidate in Anthropology, University College London, writes that, after studying digital nomadism for eight years, he is not sure that it was a niche phenomenon any more. “I am often asked if it is driving gentrification. Before COVID upended the way we work, I would usually tell journalists that the numbers were too small for a definitive answer. Most digital nomads were travelling and working illegally on tourist visas. It was a niche phenomenon..I am no longer sure,” he writes. The most recent estimates put digital nomads in the US alone at 16.9 million, a staggering increase of 131 per cent from the pre-pandemic year of 2019. This COVID-induced rise in remote working is a global phenomenon, which means figures for digital nomads beyond the US may be similarly high. “In the US, the number of salaried nomads – full-time employees now working fully remotely – is estimated to have gone from 3.2 million in 2019 to 11.1 million in 2022. Last September I gave expert testimony to the UK Treasury on what they called ‘cross-border working’. The phenomenon is reshaping cities,” he comments.
Houses in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, were built in such a way that they responded both to climate and the availability of materials. The architecture of the Valley evolved keeping in the view that it’s a cold region, according to Sameer Hamdani, design director for the Kashmir chapter at Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). In the Valley, summer temperatures shoot up to 35 degrees Celsius, while in winters, which usually last more than five months, the temperature falls nearly 8-9 degrees below zero. So, Kashmiri houses were designed in accordance with the climate. “Vernacular architecture is something which comes through a period of experimentation within a society, from generation to generation,” Hamdani says. According to a study published in the International Journal of Ambient Energy, new buildings (constructed after 2000) are not designed to meet heating requirements. The study found that modern houses in the Valley had “poor insulation levels, contributing to huge heat losses”.
The coastal town of Kochi, Kerala, has been battling toxic fumes from a fire that started on March 2 at Brahmapuram waste management plant. The blaze was contained after 11 days, but the smoke continued. Even on the tenth day after the fire broke out, Kochi’s residents woke up with discomfort – watering eyes, headaches and breathing difficulties. The air quality indices rose to “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy” levels, with PM2 and PM10 values shooting up. In the initial days of the fire, the Air Quality Index soared to above 320 in most places and 400 too in some. Even after the fire died down, the air quality index remained unhealthy, hovering around 170. C Jayakumar, executive director of the environmental activism organisation, Thanal, said that the need for a scientific and decentralised waste management system was recognised at the turn of the century and there were several local initiatives. “But the more urbanised cities and the city corporations in the state found it easier and convenient to go for a centralised waste management system,” he said.
Women and experts from the global south have greater representation in UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports over time, but are still underrepresented compared to their male and global north counterparts. Carbon Brief analysed the authors of all six sets of assessment reports, as well as the most recent five special reports. Since its foundation in 1988, the IPCC has published six sets of “assessment reports”. These documents summarise the latest scientific evidence about human-caused Climate Change. The IPCC’s first assessment report, published in 1990, had around 100 authors. The analysis shows that fewer than 10 per cent of these authors were women and fewer than 20 per cent came from institutions in the global south. The first assessment report did not have a single female contributor to its Working Group I report on climate science. Although the proportion of female and global south authors of IPCC reports has risen over the past three decades, it still lags behind male and globa -north authors, finds the analysis by Carbon Brief.
France’s uncollected trash can be a reliable signpost that a city or country is entering wider social flux. The issue sparking the action is President Emmanuel Macron’s determination to raise the national retirement age from 62 to 64, a plan carried through recently by presidential fiat — bypassing the usual vote in France’s parliament, a legal but highly controversial move. Due to a strike by sanitation workers, sidewalks in Paris are storage depots for uncollected garbage, with the usually imposing Seine quayside turned temporarily into a stench-ridden, rat-teeming alley. Placed against an internationally familiar backdrop of architectural elegance, the piles of trash appear to be signs of a city in escalating breakdown. The strike has the support of Paris’ Mayor Anne Hidalgo, there are nationwide waves of labour actions that have been shutting down substantial parts of France’s infrastructure for some days. For the French, images of a trash-laden Paris are less of a sudden shock than just one more symptom of a long-gestating social and political convulsion.
A new study by Carbon Brief published in Nature Urban Sustainability assesses the most recent adaptation plans of 167 European cities. In these plans, produced between 2005 and 2020, the overall quality has improved. The impacts of Climate Change can be particularly pronounced in cities – many of which are highly vulnerable to heatwaves, flooding, coastal erosion and storms. This potentially puts a huge number of people at risk – around 40 per cent of the population of Europe lives in cities, amounting to approximately 300 million people. The cities of Sofia in Bulgaria and Galway and Dublin in Ireland score highest in the adaptation plan index. Notably, the Irish government requires cities to produce adaptation plans that include certain features – such as an assessment of climate risks to the urban area – and this contributes towards their high scores. Galway’s plan included a detailed risk assessment of how Climate Change threatens critical infrastructure, biodiversity, cultural capital, water resources and community services in the city. It then sets out a comprehensive action plan, which includes timescales and assigns responsibility to specific posts and teams within the municipality.
The global food system emits around one-third of total annual greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste causes approximately half of these emissions, a new study says. Location, socioeconomic differences and other factors play a role in the emission levels of food waste around the world. Developed countries, for example, generally have more advanced and environmentally beneficial technologies – which can result in lower waste management emissions, the study says. Prof Ke Yin, a professor at Nanjing Forestry University in China and one of the corresponding authors on the study, says that the team hopes that their findings will make people aware of the “huge amount” of food waste emissions. One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to halve global food waste and reduce food losses in production and supply by 2030. The new study, published in Nature Food, finds that, in 2017, global food waste resulted in 9.3 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent (GtCO2e) emissions – roughly the same as the total combined emissions of the US and the EU that year.
San Francisco housing scheme has been stalled after Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), not only known for its ties to the tech community but also a financing source for local developers, was shut by regulators. No state is under more pressure to build affordable housing than California, which is losing residents partly because of chronic housing shortages caused by sky-high rents and home prices. More than 1.2 million households lack access to an affordable rental home, according to the California Housing Partnership, and sprawling tent encampments of unsheltered residents are common in major cities. Silicon Valley Bank has invested and loaned more than $2 billion to fund affordable housing projects in the Bay Area between 2002 and 2021, where it says it’s helped build or rehabilitate about 10,000 affordable units. In its 2022 report, the bank outlined a plan to invest more than $1 billion more in residential mortgages in low and moderate-income areas in Massachusetts and California by 2026. Housing, a non-profit that advocates for housing growth in the region, said the sector was heartened by the federal government’s actions over the weekend.
Asian megacities such as Chennai, Kolkata, Yangon, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, and Manila will face significant risk by 2100 if people continue to emit high levels of greenhouse gases, finds a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. It looked at the effects of natural sea level fluctuations on the projected rise due to Climate Change by mapping sea level hotspots around the globe. According to the study, by using both a computer model of global climate and a specialised statistical model, scientists could determine the extent to which these natural fluctuations can amplify or reduce the impact of Climate Change on sea level rise along certain coastlines. The study showed that internal climate variability could increase sea level rise in some locations by 20 per cent to 30 per cent more than what would result from Climate Change alone, exponentially increasing extreme flooding events, it said. In Manila, for example, coastal flooding events are predicted to occur 18 times more often by 2100 than in 2006, based solely on Climate Change, the study said.
According to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO), there is a 93 per cent chance that one of the years until 2026 would be the warmest year ever recorded on account of an impending El Niño. The warmest year was recorded in 2016, also an El Niño year. The WMO also reiterated the United Kingdom’s Met Agency’s prediction that there is a 50 per cent chance that Earth might temporarily reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average in the next few years. This could mean unprecedented heat waves and other climate impacts all around the world. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) in its seasonal prediction has said there will be above normal temperatures in central, eastern, northeastern and some parts of northwestern India during March to May. It has also predicted heat waves during the period in large parts of the country. Experts have already warned about the warm and dry like conditions that prevailed in many regions of India in the fag-end of the winter season to continue into spring and summer season as well.
Experts say memorials dedicated to historic tragedies are essential for healing as a community. In the pandemic’s first year, public and even more intimate gatherings were discouraged by public health officials. That meant funerals and memorial services were pushed back, cancelled or held virtually, and communities had to postpone their communal mourning. “We’re bursting at the seams with grief, and we don’t have a place to put it,” said Paul Farber, director of Monument Lab, an art studio and non-profit that studies the history and impact of monuments. “These sites from artists and community-run spaces actually give us a place to pause, breathe and reflect together — because otherwise you just try to move forward without processing the pain.” Some cities like London and Italy’s Bergamo have commemorated the lives claimed by Covid-19. Many artists and advocates have pitched designs for a Covid memorial, and in the US, some are pushing for a national monument — and a federally recognised holiday.
The fossil fuel industry through airborne particulate matter alone annually kills far more people every year than Covid-19 has in three years, writes Rebecca Solnit. Fossil fuel has real consequences for the Climate Crisis. Recent studies conclude that nearly 9 million people a year die from inhaling these particulates produced by burning fossil fuel. It’s only one of the many ways fossil fuel is deadly, from black lung among coal miners and cancer and respiratory problems among those near refineries to fatalities from climate-driven catastrophes such as wildfire, extreme heat and floods. The way we polluted our water, air and land, allowed manufacturers to introduce dangerous materials – lead, PCBs, PFAs (sometimes called “forever chemicals”), dioxin, high-level radioactive waste, microplastics, pesticides and herbicides – may seem to later generations shocking, stupid and amoral.
The Reconnecting Communities programme — part of President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law — aims to address some of the most egregious mistakes of the 1960s “urban renewal” era, which saw planners route highways into central cities across the US, typically displacing residents in historically Black and low-income neighbourhoods. The programme is directing $185 million in grant funding to 45 projects, redesigning or removing urban highways to create space for housing, parks and more. It’s the first round of a $1 billion investment over five years. As part of the US Department of Transportation’s Reconnecting Communities Pilot Programme, Baltimore will receive $2 million to strategise the redesign or removal of the highway spur. City officials hope the funding will breathe new life into the disinvested neighbourhoods on either side of the trench, once the action plan is developed. “Actions like putting in new connections and tearing down highways that are not functioning as needed and replacing them with boulevards will help reconnect these communities,” said Alex Engel, head of communications at the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
Last year, 2022, was the third consecutive La Niña year, which is highly unusual and has only occurred three times since reliable records began in the 1950s. Outside of the tropical Pacific, the effects of La Niña can be just as marked and just as devastating as those of El Niño, which is likely to return in late 2023. El Niño or La Niña conditions typically last for around nine months, beginning in June, peaking in December, before dissipating by April. For a number of reasons, La Niña is becoming a more noted phenomenon. During La Niña events, global temperatures tend to be colder and this can explain some of the downward bumps on the otherwise inexorable rise of global temperatures. It’s hard to know exactly what Climate Change will mean for El Niños and La Niñas. Computer programs that model the climate suggest the Pacific’s east-west temperature difference will diminish in future, favouring EL Niños which tends to mean more droughts in Australia and other severe weather across the Pacific and beyond.
The analysis by the economic research company Prognos, the Institute for Economic Structures Research and the Institute for Ecological Economic Research says Climate Change could cost Germany up to 900 billion euros ($960bn) in cumulative economic damage by mid-century. The study was released on March 6. Climate Change and extreme weather have already cost Germany at least 145 billion euros ($155bn) from 2000 to 2021, 80 billion euros ($85bn) of which were in the past five years alone, including the 2021 floods in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, the economy ministry said. The costs of expected damage could be reduced completely through climate adaptation measures, such as carbon storing, if climate change was only mild, the study found, adding that about 60 per cent to 80 per cent of the costs could be prevented under such measures depending on how strongly the climate would change. Environmentalists say Germany’s climate policy has taken a back seat as Europe grapples with an energy crisis, driven in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Karnataka’s capital Bengaluru has secured the second position, next only to London, with an increased travel time of nearly 29 minutes and 10 seconds to drive 10 kilometres in the year 2022, according to location technology company Tom Tom which ranks urban congestion worldwide. London has recorded a travel time of 36 minutes and 20 seconds to cover the same distance. Bengaluru tops the chart of India’s most traffic-congested cities, followed by Pune (ranked 6), New Delhi (34) and Mumbai (47). The data also revealed that in 2022, out of the total 260 hours of travel time spent on an average in driving 10 kms, 134 hours was spent on traffic congestion. The city also emitted a total of 1,009 kilograms of carbon dioxide in 2022, out of which, 275 kilograms was emitted due to traffic congestion for a distance of 10 kilometres. The index suggested that if commuters work from home on Fridays, it can save 52 hours of traffic time a year and 201 kilograms of carbon dioxide.
The newly launched pink only-women buses in Pakistan’s city Karachi are seen as a source of pride and a democratic space where women from all walks of life can be together and reach their destinations in relative safety. The idea of traveling in packed buses, struggling for space in the limited enclosure designated for women and having to bear snide comments from ogling men seem to have put off thousands of young women from seeking employment outside their homes. The lack of mobility not only hindered women’s economic activities but also limited their social lives. ‘People’s Pink Bus Service for Women’ has been hailed as a ground-breaking move towards making Karachi accessible for women. Not all think so. Urban planner and researcher at Karachi’s Habib University, Sana Rizwan, says that while “the initiative may help increase female ridership and change household perception of public transport being unsafe for women”, all other factors such as policing, street lighting, safe bus stops, and changes in male mentality are vital for making public spaces and transport safer for women.
Dhaka and Chittagong, which have hundreds of climate migrants, are already suffering from land subsidence. Dhaka is home to more than 20 million people, with over 48,000 people per kilometre, and is itself facing the climate crisis. The fastest-growing megacity in the world also suffers from depleting groundwater levels due to excessive extraction and inadequate infrastructure. The city is almost entirely dependent on groundwater resources as the freshwater sources are nearly unusable. The river basin area of Dhaka is linked to the Ganges-Brahmaputra river basin system. Chittagong has been identified as one of the coastal cities in Asia subsiding at a rate almost 10 times faster than the sea level is rising. It has sunk by as much as 20 millimetres per year during 2015-2020. The Chittagong Development Authority Chief Engineer Kazi Hasan Bin Shams shared: “We elevated roads by three feet in 2019 spending millions but the tidal surge won again as it flooded the whole area this year. This is due to increasing sea level rise and some unplanned development.”
Oklahoma City is one of the unhealthiest cities in the US today. The city’s ongoing urban transformation taps into something that researchers have long said: The built environment plays an influential role in the physical and mental health of a community. In 2008, the then-mayor Mick Cornett challenged residents to collectively lose a million pounds. The city built parks, added sidewalks and invested in new running and biking trails, as part of a nearly $800 million tax-funded investment to improve walkability. Quynh Nguyen, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, with her team, studied how individual elements of the built environment – stop signs, sidewalks, buildings, streetlights – affect health outcomes and behaviour. By 2012, the city hit Cornett’s weight loss goal; between 2014 and 2017, reports showed decline in deaths from stroke and cardiovascular disease, as well as improvements in overall mortality rates.
Many people in the United States are switching to induction stove in their homes to protect their health and the climate. A body of research stretching back to the 1970s has pointed out respiratory hazards linked to indoor pollution from gas stoves. And because gas stovetops are powered by methane, a potent greenhouse gas, reducing its use in homes and commercial spaces would have a small but tangible impact on efforts to trim greenhouse gas emissions. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission is currently exploring the risks of gas stove emissions in the 38 per cent of American households who have one, and looking for ways to minimise indoor air pollution caused by their use. “It’s a triple win,” says Brady Seals: Climate, health, and ease of use. Seals led a recent study suggesting over 12 per cent of the US’s childhood asthma cases could be associated with breathing in gas stove pollution. NO2 isn’t just an outdoor problem: It can build up indoors, too, but the US and European countries don’t regulate it inside.
California’s town, Healdsburg, treats and reuses about 7,28,000 acre-feet, or approximately 18 per cent, of the yearly wastewater it produces. Free, non-potable water produced by its wastewater-reclamation facility is helping residents grow trees and grapes in their gardens. The plant recycles 350 million gallons of effluent drained and flushed in the city every year, according to city officials. The reused H₂O is used in irrigation, construction, and other applications that require lower levels of treatment than drinking water. This eases pressure on regional reservoirs and wells while promoting conservation among a wide pool of users and managing the amount of treated wastewater discharged into the nearby river. The state has higher ambitions for increasing water security: New goals call for a near threefold increase by 2030 to 2 million acre-feet annually. Developing a water-recycling plan that suits the needs of the community can diversify a region’s water portfolio and offset overall demand. The recycled water requires separate plumbing and tubing.
While presenting the 2020 budget, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said: “Power utilities running old thermal power units would be asked to shut them if these emitted more than the pre-set norms.” Contrary to the statement, the government has asked power utilities not to retire any coal-fired thermal power units till 2030, according to a recent Central Electricity Authority (CEA) notice. The notice directed these utilities to ensure the availability of thermal power units after completing renovation and modernisation. This year’s budget has allocated Rs 35,000 crore for priority capital investments towards energy transition and net-zero objectives, but despite Sitharaman’s assurance that India is moving forward firmly for net-zero carbon emission by 2070 to usher in a green industrial and economic transition, there is a lack of clarity from the government on how it intends to meet Climate Change obligations. The retirement of old and inefficient units of thermal-power stations and their replacement is one of the major initiatives required to reduce CO2 emissions footprints, says a report by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment.
India, France and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to undertake energy projects with a focus on solar and nuclear sources, fight Climate Change and protect biodiversity, particularly in the Indian Ocean region. They agreed to explore the possibility of working with the Indian Ocean Rim Association to pursue projects on clean energy, the environment and biodiversity. They will expand their cooperation through initiatives such as the Mangrove Alliance for Climate, led by the UAE, and the Indo-Pacific Parks Partnership led by India and France. It was agreed that the three countries should focus on key issues such as single-use plastic pollution, desertification and food security in the context of the International Year of Millets, a statement said. The countries will organise trilateral events in the framework of the Indian presidency of the Group of 20 rich and developing nations, and the UAE’s hosting of COP28 climate negotiations this year, said a statement by India’s External Affairs Ministry. The three countries decided to adopt a roadmap for the implementation of the initiative.
Migration can be an effective and sustainable climate adaptation mechanism in South Asia if supported by the necessary institutional and policy frameworks, writes Mahika Khosla. Despite widespread consensus on “loss and damage” at COP27 in Egypt last November, climate migration in developing countries was barely mentioned. However, the reality is that it is already occurring at an unimaginable scale. The World Bank estimates that South Asia will face a crisis of 50 million climate refugees each year by 2050, resulting from both short-term natural disasters like floods and cyclones and slow-onset environmental changes such as sea-level rise, soil degradation, and desertification. Experts suggest that climate migration is a “threat multiplier” that will result in the overcrowding of cities, conflict over land and resources, and regional instability. In other words, climate migration is viewed as a dire negative outcome of Climate Change, and a crisis that must be managed and minimised. However, this framing does not reflect ground realities, and migration has been a viable adaptive strategy to changing environmental conditions for decades.
Hundreds of male migrants were uprooted from a Manhattan hotel, one of many that Mayor Eric Adams’ office had converted into a shelter following the influx of asylum seekers who arrived in the city last August. The hotel will now house female migrants and children. After living at the Watson Hotel for months, the men were ordered to leave last week. Many of the migrants were initially given a notice to vacate by January-end, but had been forced out before that, something they said made them feel like they were “criminals” and also just as the city plunged into one of its brutal winter cold snaps. Since arriving in New York, many of the migrants have taken up numerous jobs as they await their paperwork to enroll in the job market legally. They often work in the construction, restaurant or transportation industries. All the while, they are “shuffled” from one accommodation to another, which makes it nearly impossible for them to maintain or establish their footing in the job market.
Wood-burners are also likely to be affecting many more people than conventional pollution patterns focused on roads. An increasing proportion of air pollution in urban areas is coming from wood-burning stoves, which have taken off in popularity in recent years, partly for aesthetic reasons and in some cases in response to the high price of fossil fuels. Research by Kantar for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has shown that wood-burners are increasingly a middle-class purchase, with almost half bought by people in the upper AB social grades. A sharp rise in wood burning in urban areas could be bringing harmful pollution to greater numbers of people, and shifting the pattern of pollution from poorer to more affluent areas, one of the UK’s leading air pollution experts has warned. Currently, air pollution monitoring focuses on busy roads, which have been the main hotspots for fine particulate matter (known as PM2.5) and other air pollutants, largely from diesel vehicles. PM2.5 pollution has been linked to a wide range of health problems, from heart failure and lung problems to dementia and mental illness in children.
Some scientists say that Climate Change – and more specifically rapid warming in the Arctic – may actually be increasing the likelihood that frigid, polar air can dive south. Last month will be remembered for the winter-that-wasn’t in the heavily populated US Northeast – ranking as the warmest January on record for nearly all US Northeast cities. It was the first month in New York City that temperatures ranked above-average every single day, and the first time the month ended without measurable snowfall in the city. Extreme winter weather is now shifting to the US, with dangerously cold Arctic air pushing southwards, sweeping across many parts of the country and quickly dispensing with what had been a mild January. “We are not arguing that winters are getting colder overall,” said Judah Cohen, a climatologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research. The world is smashing through many more heat records than cold records. But the idea that Climate Change will mean fewer swings between extreme temperatures is “an oversimplification,” he said.
Architect Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi passed away on January 24 at the age of 95. Doshi was the first Indian architect to receive the Pritzker Prize, considered architecture’s highest honour, in 2018. It was the latest in a long string of awards, conferred in India and abroad, that cited his achievements as both a designer and an educator. He founded a school of architecture in Ahmedabad and taught there for nearly half a century. Doshi said his real education had taken place in the Paris studio of the illustrious Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier. From 1951, Doshi spent about three years in Paris working on the High Court and the Governor’s Palace, parts of Le Corbusier’s vast new Capitol Complex in Chandigarh, and three projects in Ahmedabad: The Mill Owners’ Association building, a museum of history and culture, and a private residence. The main lesson he learned from Le Corbusier, he said during a 2018 interview, is that there was no one right way to do a building. He said, “I think it was my luck that I did not complete a formal school of architecture.”
The sinking of Joshimath has reignited a debate about the construction of hydropower projects in the Himalayan region. A Supreme Court-appointed committee looking into the 2013 floods in the Kedarnath area, had recommended scrapping of at least 23 hydropower projects in the fragile mountainous region. It argued that dams significantly amplified the damage caused by natural disasters here. A month before COP26 in Glasgow, more than 300 organisations across 69 countries had urged governments not to use climate funds to finance “false climate solutions” such as hydropower. They urged that these dams be removed from all the Nationally Determined Contributions targets pledged under the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat global warming. The appeal included 26 environment groups from India.
Change in climate has hit the quality and production of Darjeeling tea. Climate Change reduced production by “41.97 per cent and 30.90 per cent as compared with 1993 and 2002 respectively,” according to research done at the Darjeeling Tea Research and Development Centre. The study said the production of tea, a “rain-fed crop grown in different agro-ecological regions”, is heavily influenced by environmental factors, such as the total annual rainfall and its distribution, temperature and solar radiation. The study found that the temperature in the area has risen by 0.51 degree Celsius from 1993 to 2012, annual rainfall has declined by 152.50 cm and relative humidity by 16.07 per cent, leading to “overall production declines”. The distribution of rainfall is a problem too. “The groundwater level has gone down while the season now starts with drought,” said Sandeep Mukherjee, principal advisor of the Darjeeling Indian Tea Association.
Kochi Municipal Corporation will identify gender justice gaps in its planning and implementation process through a survey to be completed by mid-February. Women account for nearly 50 per cent of the over six lakh population of Kochi, according to an estimate. The survey will specifically look into the issues faced by women and transgender persons at the local level. Though there has been increased participation of women in village sabhas, they do not have a significant role in the decision-making process. Intersex and transgender persons are not even visible in such a forum, according to the project note. The societal needs of intersex and transgender persons will also be looked into. The data generated during the survey will be presented at a development seminar held later. The local body is expected to fix the gender justice gaps in its plans and programmes in light of the findings of the survey, officials said.
The Netherlands, already internationally famous for its bicycle infrastructure is opening a new bike garage in Amsterdam. Capable of holding up to 7,000 bikes, this unique facility at the city’s central station is going to be located entirely underwater. The garage is a part of a wider revamp of the grand and bustling area in front of the city’s main station — Amsterdam Centraal. This space abuts the city’s main harbour that has been overhauled since 2017. Above ground, space has been made for pedestrians and bikes after taking cars off the road while some roads have been cleared out to make more room for water, which is the site’s defining feature. Meredith Glaser, executive director of the Amsterdam-based Urban Cycling Institute, says, “Data from Amsterdam and the Netherlands’ urban region shows that there is far more to reducing car trips than just focusing on bicycles. To reduce car dependency, you need bikes plus a high-capacity, high-efficiency, high-frequency public transit system.”
Dust emitting outdoor activities such as construction, combustion from trucks has led the Bangkok administration to urge residents to work from home and wear masks outdoors while the air quality is brought back to acceptable levels. The rise in the PM 2.5 particles over the January 21-22 weekend caused officials to express concerns about the levels exceeding the safe limit during the week. Cities in Thailand are dealing with poor air quality since the past few years, especially in the dry winter months from December to February. Bangkok and other cities grappled with poor air quality in recent years. While the authorities continue to monitor the air quality levels, schools in the city are asked to remain open as normal. Thailand’s health authorities are closely monitoring the PM 2.5 levels in all 77 provinces. If unhealthy readings persist over three days, then they will open an emergency operation centre.
Planting trees to create shade is an obvious response to hot weather. However, in many cities it is a struggle just to stop the loss of trees. Hot and dry climates in the future will add to the challenge of urban greening. Medellin in Colombia is making progress on this front. With an urban greening budget of US$16.3 million, it has created a network of 30 “green corridors” through the city which have reduced the Urban Heat Island effect by 2 degrees Celsius three years into the programme. As the densely vegetated corridors mature, they are expected to deliver 4 to 5 degrees Celsius cooling. Vienna in Austria has had a strategy to combat Urban Heat Island since 2018. It includes planting 4,500 trees each year and subsidies for street-facing green walls. The city has developed a series of “cool streets” – traffic-calmed spaces with light-coloured road surfaces, “fog showers” that activate on hot days, water features, shade trees and drinking fountains. Vienna also has an extensive network of public swimming pools where residents can cool off.
Yakutsk, the capital city of Russia’s Sakha Republic in eastern Siberia, is widely identified as being one of the coldest places in the world. Large parts of Russia are currently experiencing record low temperatures and Yakutsk is seeing an abnormally long cold snap. Although most are accustomed to freezing temperatures, residents in the remote region are taking extra precautions to keep warm. Temperatures in the world’s coldest city have plunged to minus 62.7°C (minus 80.9 degrees Fahrenheit) — the coldest in more than two decades, meteorologists say. With a population of roughly 355,500, Yakutsk has become one of Russia’s most rapidly growing regional cities. It sits on continuous permafrost, a layer of frozen ground consisting of soil, gravel and sand bound together by ice. Its intensely subarctic climate deters tourists but the city still attracts adventurous travellers wanting to experience life in the coldest place on earth. Like elsewhere, Climate Change has had a major impact on Yakutsk.
Land subsidence in Joshimath, which is at an altitude of 1,890 metres in Uttarakhand state in India, is not a new phenomenon. In 1976, a committee was formed to investigate the cause of cracks developing in some structures in the town. The 18-member committee report stated that Joshimath was situated on an old landslide zone; it could sink if development-construction continued unabated and recommended that construction be prohibited in the town. Joshimath, on the Rishikesh-Badrinath National Highway (NH 7), is an overnight halt for pilgrims visiting shrines at Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib, and for tourist destinations Auli and the Valley of Flowers. This meant development of many hotels and resorts in addition to around 3,800 residential and 400 commercial buildings. SP Sati, Garhwal-based geologist, said, “What we are witnessing today in Joshimath is definitely a result of haphazard construction that has been going on…The mushrooming of urban settlements is not a parameter of development but just physical growth.”
In a first of its kind, a Rs 1,000-crore fund is being set up called the Tamil Nadu Green Climate Fund (TNGCF) to mobilise resources from the government, development finance institutions, and international climate funding agencies. The fund will be managed by the Tamil Nadu Infrastructure Fund Management Corporation (TNIFMC) Ltd with a greenshoe option of additional Rs 1,000 crore. As part of its Climate Change mission, the Tamil Nadu government is integrating climate concerns of the state with its development plans at the grassroots level to climate-proof districts and villages. The government recently constituted a governing council on Climate Change with eminent people and operationalised a climate studio in Anna University. The state government has set up three key missions – Tamil Nadu Green Mission, Tamil Nadu Climate Change Mission, and Tamil Nadu Wetlands Mission. It has also set up a special purpose vehicle, Tamil Nadu Green Climate Company (TNGCC), to steer climate action plans effectively.
Scientists have long warned that Climate Change disproportionately impacts the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. Negotiators from wealthy countries at the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt recently pledged to do more to help poorer countries. For women around the world, the threat of violence could rise as Climate Change makes extreme weather events more intense and frequent. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified a link between Climate Change and violence, citing growing evidence that extreme weather events are driving domestic violence, with global implications for public health and gender equality. A 2021 study of extreme weather events in Kenya by researchers at St. Catherine University in Minnesota found the economic stresses caused by flooding, drought, or extreme heat exacerbated violence against women in their homes. The research, which used satellite and national health survey data, showed that domestic violence rose by 60 per cent in areas that experienced extreme weather. In eastern India too, more frequent downpours and devastating floods are driving violence.
Climatologist Maximiliano Herrera, who has collated data from around Europe, found that countries including Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and the Czech Republic are experiencing record-breaking temperatures. Poland’s Korbielów recorded 19 degrees Celsius, a temperature more commonly experienced in May and 18 degrees Celsius higher than the annual average for January. Javorník in the Czech Republic is usually around 3 degrees Celsius at this time of year, but recorded 19.6 degrees Celsius. In Germany, almost 950 local records were broken across the country at small measuring stations between December 31 and January 2. The south of France and northern Spain sweltered with the mercury hitting almost 25 degrees Celsius in Bilbao. “We can regard this as the most extreme event in European history,” Herrera said, “Take the case of July 2022 UK extreme heatwave and spread this sigma (magnitude) in a much huger area, encompassing about 15 countries. We can arguably say this is the first time an extreme weather event in Europe (in terms of extreme heat) is comparable to the most extreme in North America.”
New York landowners are embracing unorthodox solutions to decarbonise buildings prior to the city’s new greenhouse gas law. Local Law 97, a pioneering Climate mandate passed in 2019, aims to cut emissions from New York’s largest buildings to the extent of 40 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050. Next year, the city will begin penalising owners of inefficient commercial and residential property with fines. New York’s share of its greenhouse emissions comes from buildings, not cars or power plants. The new law could trigger a $20 billion market in retrofits in the city over the next decade as property owners seek to slash emissions in about 50,000 buildings, according to the Urban Green Council. But the city’s myriad building types and budgets will also demand unorthodox solutions. “Everyone has done pretty sophisticated models of their building to understand where the energy consumption and carbon emissions are coming from,” Zachary Steinberg, senior vice president of policy at the Real Estate Board of New York City (Rebny), a trade association representing big landlords.