TEN ENVIRONMENTAL REPORTS

November 2021

1. Only 14% of UK Rivers Rated as In Good Condition

Water UK, 21st Century Rivers: Ten Actions for Change (September 2021).  www.water.org.uk/rivers/

Robin McKee, “Heatwaves, sewage, pesticides: why England’s rivers need a ‘new deal’ to avert crisis,” The Observer (3 Oct 2021).   bit.ly/3uBYZ53 via @guardian

England’s rivers are facing a crisis from climate change, agricultural pollution and lack of effective planning controls. That is the key warning of Water UK, the industry group that represents the nation’s water suppliers.

The authority calls for the government to set up a national rivers plan and enact a rivers act to ensure the health of the country’s waterways. “We are calling for a new deal for rivers in England,” it states.

The report – 21st Century Rivers: Ten Actions for Change – says that despite billions of pounds being spent on improving water quality over the past 30 years, only 14% of England’s rivers are rated as being in a good condition, a figure that has remained unchanged since 2009.

2.  The Disappearing Coral Reefs

Global Reef Expedition Final Report. Carlton, R., Dempsey, A., Thompson, L., Heemsoth, A., Lubarsky, K., Faisal, M., and Purkis, S. Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, Annapolis, MD. Vol 15. (October 2021)

Rachel Treisman, “A new report shows just how much climate change is killing the world’s coral reefs,” NPR (5 October 5, 2021).

In what NOAA called the largest global analysis of coral reef health ever undertaken, it was found that warming caused by climate change, overfishing, coastal development and declining water quality has placed coral reefs around the world under “relentless stress.”  For example, rising ocean temperatures killed about 14% of the world’s coral reefs in just under a decade, and the amount of coral lost between 2008 and 2019 is equivalent to more than all of the living coral in Australia.

While the report determined that coral reefs are still resilient and if pressures on the reefs eased, then they have the capacity to recover, potentially within a decade.  At the same time continuing warmth could undermine any recovery.

3.  Loss of half of Britain’s biodiversity

UK Natural History Museum, Biodiversity Intactness Index (September 2021). bit.ly/3ltppDm

Robin McKee, “Nearly half of Britain’s biodiversity has gone since industrial revolution,” The Observer (10 Oct. 2021). bit.ly/3Fv27VH

 Study shows UK has lost more biodiversity than any G7 country, and is in worst global 10%

Almost half of Britain’s natural biodiversity has disappeared over the centuries, with farming and urban spread triggered by the industrial and agricultural revolutions being blamed as major factors for this loss.

That is the shock finding of a study by scientists at London’s Natural History Museum, which has revealed that the UK is one of the worst-rated nations in the world for the extent to which its ecosystems have retained their natural animals and plants.

“Britain has lost more of its natural biodiversity than almost anywhere else in western Europe, the most of all the G7 nations and more than many other nations such as China,” said Professor Andy Purvis, of the museum’s life

4. Burning Fossil Fuels is Literally Killing Us

WHO, COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health: The Health Argument for Climate Action (11 Oct 2021)  bit.ly/3avugxt

Emily Beament, “Burning of fossil fuels is ‘killing us’ and climate change is biggest single health threat facing humanity – WHO report,” Irish Independent (11 Oct 2021).  bit.ly/3oWJ0Oi

The burning of fossil fuels “is killing us”, the World Health Organisation has warned in a report calling for ambitious climate action.

The WHO’s report, issued in the run-up the UN Cop26 conference in Glasgow where countries will be under pressure to raise ambition on tackling climate change, warns it is the single biggest health threat facing humanity.

The climate crisis threatens to undo the past 50 years of progress in development, global health and poverty reduction, it says.

Climate change is leading to death and illness from increasingly extreme weather such as heatwaves and floods, disruptions to food systems, increases in disease spread and mental health issues.

5.  Rooftop solar can power the globe

Joshi, S., Mittal, S., Holloway, P. et al. “High resolution global spatiotemporal assessment of rooftop solar photovoltaics potential for renewable electricity generation,” Nat Commun 12, 5738 (2021). doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-25720-2

Caroline O’Doherty, “Rooftop solar could power the world, finds Irish-led study,” Irish Independent (6 Oct 2021).  bit.ly/3oU2gvO

Putting solar panels on all available rooftops would more than meet the world’s electricity needs, a major study led by Irish engineers and scientists has found.

The project mapped the landmass of the entire world, assessing the rooftop potential of more than 300 million sample structures from small outdoor sheds to mega-factories.

Based on the computer models they constructed from this analysis, the team found that making use of all suitable rooftops would generate more electricity than the world in total used in 2018.

They said solar was already on track to provide 25-49pc of global electricity needs by 2050, with rooftop solar making up 40pc of that output.

With the right policies, however, they found rooftop solar alone had a global potential to generate 27 petawatt hours of electricity per year.

“For comparison, our total electricity use in all homes around the world was 6PWh in 2019.

Rolling out solar on such a scale would require major investment but the study shows seven trillion dollars could install 10PWh of solar that would serve all the electricity needs of 3.72 billion people.

For context, seven trillion dollars is the same amount of money US President Joe Biden pledged to invest in infrastructure in the US over a decade as part of his ‘build back better’ package.

6.  Cutting Methane emissions

International Energy Agency, Curtailing Methane Emissions from Fossil Fuel Operations: Pathways to a 75% Cut by 2030  (October 2021).  bit.ly/3avx7Xd

Kevin O’Sullivan, “Cutting methane emissions most impactful way to limit climate change: New report confirms methane responsible for 30% of global temperature rise to date,” The Irish Times (7 Oct 2021). bit.ly/3BFqBck

Governments and energy companies have major opportunities to reduce methane emissions, which provides the most impactful way to limit near-term climate change, according an International Energy Agency (IEA) report released on Thursday.

Methane is responsible for around 30 per cent of the global rise in temperatures to date, it confirms. Rapid steps to tackle methane emissions from oil, gas and coal operations would have immediate impacts because of the potent effect of methane on global warming and large scope for cost-effective actions, the report concludes.

It outlines pathways to curtailing methane emissions from fossil fuel operations with a view to a 75 per cent cut by 2030. The largest source of global methane emissions from human activities is agriculture, closely followed by the energy sector, which includes emissions from coal, oil, natural gas and biofuels. Agriculture accounts for a third of Ireland’s overall emissions; most of which are made up to methane.

7.  Wetlands Protecting Coastal Communities

Robert Costanza et al., “The global value of coastal wetlands for storm protection,” Global Environmental Change (September 2021).  bit.ly/3paWeHd

Australian Associated Press, “Tropical wetlands reduce storm impacts and save thousands of lives and $600bn each year, study suggests,” The Guardian (17 Oct 2021).  bit.ly/3vlSmo3

Tropical wetlands provide storm protection that saves thousands of lives and more than $600bn each year, an Australian-linked world-first study has found.

Jarvis was part of a team of 12 scientists that has examined more than 1,000 hurricanes and cyclones responsible for deaths or damaged property since 1902.

The results showed wetlands offered significant protection by reducing the speed and turbulence of extreme storms and providing natural barriers when storm surges hit, the researcher said.

“When a storm makes landfall, if it crosses a wetland, that absorbs some of the force of the storm.”

While there have been similar studies in Australia, the US and China, it’s the first time scientists have proved the protective properties of wetlands globally.

8.  Food and water insecurity and high population

Institute for Economics & Peace, Ecological Threat Report 2021: Understanding Ecological Threats,
Resilience and Peace, Sydney (October 2021). visionofhumanity.org/resources

Isal Binnie, “Climate change set to worsen resource degradation and conflict – report,” Irish Independent (7 Oct 2021). 

Report details how food insecurity, lack of water and the impact of natural disasters, combined with high population growth, are stoking conflict and displacing people in vulnerable areas around the world 

Food insecurity, lack of water and the impact of natural disasters, combined with high population growth, are stoking conflict and displacing people in vulnerable areas, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) think-tank said.

IEP uses data from the United Nations and other sources to predict the countries and regions most at risk in its “Ecological Threat Register”.

9.  Rewilding and boosting local economies

Rewilding Britain, Rewilding and the Rural Economy: How Nature-Based Economies can help boost and sustain local communities  (Oct 2021).  bit.ly/3AXgHl9

In the new report, ​‘Rewilding and the rural economy’, Rewilding Britain’s says a thriving ​‘ecosystem of employment’ can be built around nature restoration.

Its analysis of 33 rewilding projects in England covering over 82,000 acres has revealed a 54% increase in full-time equivalent jobs since rewilding began. Jobs across the sites have risen from 173 to 267, and now include education, nature tourism, food and drink production, ecology and events. Volunteering opportunities on the sites have risen from 61 to 810 – a thirteenfold increase.

Rewilding Britain says nature-based economies should incorporate core rewilding areas across at least 5% of Britain. These should restore as wide a range of natural processes, habitats and missing species as possible to form mosaics of native forest, peat bogs, heaths, species-rich grasslands, wetlands, and coastal areas, with little or no human impact or extraction of resources.

Another 25% of the country should be regenerative areas – with a mix of land and marine uses and enterprises such as low-impact mixed forestry, nature-friendly farming and local food, nature-based tourism, low-impact fishing and hunting, locally grown sustainable timber, and conservation grazing.

10.  The financial threat of climate change

Financial Stability Oversight Council (US), Report on Climate-Related Financial Risk (2021). bit.ly/3B4jau7

Alan Rappeport and Christopher Flavellew, “U. S. Warns Climate Change Is ‘Emerging Threat’ to Financial System, “The New York Times (22 Oct 2021).  nyti.ms/3pHSYDN

The report by the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which is led by the Treasury secretary and includes leaders from the major financial regulatory agencies, portrayed the financial threat of climate change in stark terms. Higher temperatures are leading to more natural disasters, such as hurricanes, wildfires and floods. These, in turn, are resulting in damaged property, lost income and disruptions to business activity that threaten to alter how assets, such as real estate, are valued.

At the same time, the move away from fossil fuels could cause a sudden drop in the price of stocks and other assets tied to oil, gas, coal and other energy companies, or sectors that rely on them such as carmakers and heavy manufacturing. Such a shift could hurt the stock market, retirement savings and other parts of the financial sector.

The average abundance of native species in most major terrestrial biomes has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900, according to a major report on the state of the world’s biodiversity published by Larigauderie’s panel, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. An estimated 1 million species are threatened with extinction, it found.

Climate change is only one driver of biodiversity loss. For now, the major culprit on land is humans destroying habitat through activities like farming, mining and logging. At sea, it’s overfishing. Other causes include pollution and introduced species that drive out native ones.

 

EDITORS NOTE (August 2021) re revision to Reports section

In August 2021, we revised the Reports section of the magazine.   In the past we used the Reports section to provide digests of generally long, complex and usually technical discussions of environmental issues or developments.  The authors of these reports were typically environmental agencies, non-government organizations (NGOs), or academics.  The intent was to make these reports more accessible to a wide, general audience so readers could get a sense of what the reports covered and what they concluded. Readers then could connect to the link for the reports and delve further into the details and findings.

Over the past dozen years publications of technical reports have included executive summaries, often written in simpler language than the reports themselves.  At the same time there has been a rapid growth in environmental studies across the globe and just finding relevant or interesting reports through the internet is a challenge.

So we have converted the Reports section to a list of ten of the most interesting, long form examples of writing on key environmental issues and developments.  We will include the information necessary to find the writing — authors, title and link to publication — and we will add a short subheading to provide more clues about what is covered in the writing, much like a subheading expands on the headline for a newspaper article.  We interpret the term “reports” liberally to include almost any format that provides us with data, information, and opinion on environmental matters.  For instance, in the first of these new reports, we included a website, The Geography of Future Water Challenges, derived from a written report by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency with the same name and found at bit.ly/3fgSK0n

On one level this list of reports will do for long-form writing what our News section does for newspaper articles.

With the explosion of information across the internet, just finding what’s out there can be difficult.  We hope this new version of the Reports is helpful.

As with the other material in the irish environment magazine, the focus is on environmental matters on the island of Ireland, and that necessarily requires coverage of developments in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.  We will also continue to include material from across the globe as developments everywhere can inform developments anywhere.

 

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