February 2022

1     COVID and Urban Litter

Olivia Kelly, “Covid-related waste adds to deteriorating levels of urban litter,” The Irish Times (4 Jan 2022).  bit.ly/3GcDiO0


2.   The 15-Minute City in Ireland

Hassell/Irish Institutional Property, Close to Home: Exploring 15-minute Urban Living in Ireland  (October 2021). bit.ly/3qeLx6w

This report provides an introduction to the 15-minute city, and an evaluation of the conditions, benefits, and challenges associated with making this idea a reality. The study is also relevant for understanding the parallel concepts of 20-minute neighbourhoods and 10-minute towns.  In analysing the concept’s real-world use, the report is focused on Ireland and the five Irish cities, ordered by ascending size of population: Waterford, Galway,  Limerick, Cork, and Dublin.

The study finds considerable alignment between Ireland’s push towards more compact, sustainable, and equitable urbanism, and the key tenets of the 15-minute city. Notably, both development forms require a combination of medium-to-high population density, amenity-richness, and excellent walking, cycling, and public transport networks.  By living closer together and sharing more resources, people benefit from greater levels of access to services and social opportunities, while the environment benefits from more efficient land, material, and energy use.

See, also, Kevin O’Sullivan, “Oslo on Lee? Five Irish cities where 15-minute living could happen now,” The Irish Times (7 Jan 2022). bit.ly/3JVmBZQ


3.  Declining sea ice and polar bears hunting grounds

Anthony M. Pagano, George M. Durner, Todd C. Atwood, David C. Douglas, “Effects of sea ice decline and summer land use on polar bear home range size in the Beaufort Sea,” Ecopshere (26 October 2021.)  doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.3768

See, also, Mary Jo DiLonardo, “Melting Sea Ice Forces Polar  to Travel Farther to Survive:  The change has led to nearly a 30% drop in population,”Treehugger (10 Jan 2022).   bit.ly/3FbgLA0

Polar bears in the Beaufort Sea have been forced to travel outside their usual Arctic hunting grounds because of declining sea ice. Their increased, sprawling movement has contributed to a nearly 30% drop in their overall population.

Recent research has found that the bears’ home range was about 64% larger from 1999-2016 than it was in the decade-plus earlier from 1986-1998. Their home range is the amount of space the animals need for food and other resources required for survival and reproduction.

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) depend on sea ice for hunting and fishing. They stalk seals on the ice, ambushing them when they surface to breathe at openings in the ice. But as the Arctic temperatures warm and sea ice melts, polar bears have to travel increasingly farther to find habitat.


4.  Big oil becoming not so big

Ron Bousso and Sabrina Valle, “Analysis-Shrink to fit: the year Big Oil starts to become Small Oil,” Reuters Commodities News (10 Jan 2022).  apple.news/Ayx1W0N6OT-qT2GUglTLEqA

“Europe’s Big Oil companies are planning to spend their windfall from high energy prices on becoming Small Oil.

Surging oil and gas prices in 2021 delivered billions of dollars in profits to top oil companies, in stark contrast to the previous year when energy prices collapsed as the coronavirus pandemic hit travel and economic activity.

Typically, companies would invest the lion’s share of that cash in long-term projects to boost oil and gas production and reserves after the previous year’s deep cuts.

The growing pressure from investors, activists and governments to tackle climate change means that European oil giants are turning off the taps on spending on oil even as the outlook for prices and demand remains robust


5.  20 climate events with losses exceeding $1billion in 2021

2021 Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters, NOAA: National Centers for Environmental Informationbit.ly/33axaaH

In 2021, there were 20 weather/climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each to affect the United States.

See also, Nina Lakhani, “US hit by 20 separate billion-dollar climate disasters in 2021, Noaa report says: Year was third-costliest extreme weather year on record with affected communities spread from coast to coast,”  The Guardian (11 Jan 2022).  bit.ly/3r6ukvv


6.  Globally, the seven hottest years on record were the last seven and both carbon dioxide and methane concentrations continue to rise

Copernicus Climate Change Services, Globally, the seven hottest years on record were the last seven; carbon dioxide and methane concentrations continue to rise (10 Jan 2022).  bit.ly/3tqU3BK

See also, “Last 7 years ‘warmest on record’ globally, EU climate service reports: it found that last year was the fifth warmest on record globally,” the journal.ie (10 Jan 2022).  bit.ly/3fmRyIc

THE LAST SEVEN years have been the hottest on record globally “by a clear margin” and last year was the fifth warmest on record globally, marginally warmer than 2015 and 2018”… ”The annual average temperature was 1.1 to 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, measured between 1850 and 1900…”

“2021 was yet another year of extreme temperatures with the hottest summer in Europe, heatwaves in the Mediterranean, not to mention the unprecedented high temperatures in North America,” said C3S Director Carlo Buontemp“The C3S also monitored atmospheric concentrations of the planet-warming gases carbon dioxide and methane, finding that both had increased with no sign of a slowdown. Methane particularly has gone up “very substantially”, to an annual record of about 1,876 parts per billion (ppb).  Growth rates for 2020 and 2021 were 14.6 ppb per year and 16.3 ppb per year, respectively. That is more than double the average annual growth rate seen over the previous 17 years.”

7.  Climate heating and air pollution and impacts on early birth and damage to babies’ health – 6 studies

Amelia K. Wesselink, Gregory A. Wellenius, editors, “Special Issue: Climate Change and Reproductive, Perinatal, and Paediatric Health,” Journal of Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology (January 2022).   bit.ly/3frNjv2

See also, Damian Carrington, “Global heating linked to early birth and damage to babies’ health, scientists find,” The Guardian (15 Jan 2022).  bit.ly/3GzA5sd

“The climate crisis is damaging the health of foetuses, babies and infants across the world, six new studies have found.

Scientists discovered increased heat was linked to fast weight gain in babies, which increases the risk of obesity in later life. Higher temperatures were also linked to premature birth, which can have lifelong health effects, and to increased hospital admissions of young children.

Other studies found exposure to smoke from wildfires doubled the risk of a severe birth defects, while reduced fertility was linked to air pollution from fossil fuel burning, even at low levels. The studies, published in a special issue of the journal Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, spanned the globe from the US to Denmark, Israel and Australia.”


8.  Changing diets and increased meat production and health

Xueying Liu et. Al., “Dietary shifts can reduce premature deaths related to particulate matter pollution in China,” Nature Food go.nature.com/3fsash5    bit.ly/3txJMDR

See also, Gary Fuller, “Could a global farmers’ assembly help cut agriculture pollution?” The Guardian (14 Jan 2022). bit.ly/3Fy4BkO

 “A new study from the Chinese University of Hong Kong examined the impacts from changing diets and increased meat production in China since the 1980s. Initially, the changes in agricultural production meant more food and better quality food. Undernourishment was reduced and people benefited from fresher fruit and vegetables, and improved animal products. However, continued increases in meat consumption, more processed food and less whole grains have offset these initial gains.

In addition to the direct dietary impacts on health, the quadrupling of China’s meat production between 1980 and 2010 has created an air pollution downside, due to the ammonia from animal waste and the fertilisers used to grow animal feed crops. The air pollution from the agricultural changes was estimated to have caused 90,000 extra deaths in 2010 – 66,000 from the rising demand for meat. People in poorer agricultural areas suffered the greatest effects even though they consumed the least meat.”

9.  Impacts from thawing permafrost

“Permafrost in a warming world,” Nature Reviews Earth & Environment (11 Jan 2022). go.nature.com/3A4VDdy

Permafrost regions are vast and thawing. A Collection of studies  examines the physical, biogeochemical, and ecosystem changes related to permafrost thaw and the associated impacts.

See also, Caroline O’Doherty, “Permafrost thaw places one-fifth of northern hemisphere at risk,” Irish Independent (12 Jan 2022).  bit.ly/3nxHiS1

“Half the buildings, roads and other infrastructure in the world’s cold regions will be at risk within 30 years because climate change is thawing the permafrost beneath them.

Scientists expect 30-50pc of critical infrastructure in the northern parts of Canada, Finland, Denmark, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway and Russia to be at high risk by 2050.

Already they have found 80pc of buildings in some of Russia’s northern cities showing signs of damage, while an assessment of roads in a vast region covering Tibet and southwestern China found 30pc were affected…

They say the financial costs beyond 2050 could rise to tens of billions of dollars.”


10.  Growing Climate Migration

World Bank Group, Groundswell Part 2 : Acting on Internal Climate Migration (Sept 2021).  bit.ly/3GZgmCq

World Bank, Climate Change Could Force 216 Million People to Migrate Within Their Own Countries by 2050 (Sept 2021). bit.ly/3nWblmv

“The World Bank’s updated Groundswell report released today finds that climate change, an increasingly potent driver of migration, could force 216 million people across six world regions to move within their countries by 2050. Hotspots of internal climate migration could emerge as early as 2030 and continue to spread and intensify by 2050. The report also finds that immediate and concerted action to reduce global emissions, and support green, inclusive, and resilient development, could reduce the scale of climate migration by as much as 80 percent.”



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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