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Seagrass ‘Neptune balls’ may be key to clearing oceans of plastic

Every year, an estimated eight million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans, threatening the lives of fish, seabirds and marine mammals. 

Now, a new study suggests that the key to clearing our oceans of plastic may lie in seagrass. 

Seagrass forms so-called ‘Neptune balls’ – oval orbs made from the base of leaves that have been shredded and intertwine into a ball. 

These Neptune balls collect plastic as they form, before carrying the rubbish to shore. 

The new study estimates that Neptune balls sieve over 867 million pieces of plastic from the oceans every year.  

The team hopes the findings will encourage environmental agencies to take urgent action to ensure conservation of seagrass meadows.

A new study suggests that the key to clearing our oceans of plastic may lie with seagrass

HOW MUCH PLASTIC IS CAPTURED BY NEPTUNE BALLS? 

The study between 2018 and 2019 was carried out around Mallorca where there are extensive meadows and high levels of plastic near the shore.

There was plastic debris among 50 percent of the 42 samples and intertwined in 17 percent of 198 fibres, known as Neptune balls.

Up to 613 and 1,470 items per kilogram were in loose leaves and Neptune balls, respectively.

They come from everyday household products including packaging, bottle caps and tableware.

Combining the data with estimates of seagrass production in the Mediterranean suggested meadows capture up to 867 million pieces a year in Neptune balls alone.

An analysis of loose leaves from four Spanish beaches found plastic pellets, cosmetic microbeads and polyester fibres from clothes entangled in half of them.

They get mistaken for food by creatures that live in the water – with some ending up on our dinner plates.

Study lead author Professor Anna Sanchez-Vidal, of the University of Barcelona in Spain, said: ‘Seagrass meadows may help counteract marine plastic pollution.’

Global losses of the plant – due to development, pollution and invasive species – are estimated at seven per cent a year since 1990.

The study between 2018 and 2019 was carried out around Mallorca where there are extensive meadows and high levels of plastic near the shore.

There was plastic debris among 50 percent of the 42 samples and intertwined in 17 percent of 198 fibres, known as Neptune balls.

Up to 613 and 1,470 items per kilogram were in loose leaves and Neptune balls, respectively.

They come from everyday household products including packaging, bottle caps and tableware.

Combining the data with estimates of seagrass production in the Mediterranean suggested meadows capture up to 867 million pieces a year in Neptune balls alone.

Seagrass forms 'Neptune balls' that trap, extract and carry hundreds of millions of plastic particles to shore every year

Seagrass forms ‘Neptune balls’ that trap, extract and carry hundreds of millions of plastic particles to shore every year

Prof Sanchez-Vidal said: ‘There is strong evidence the seafloor constitutes a final sink for plastics from land sources.

‘There is also evidence that part of the plastics lying on the shallow seafloor are washed up back to the shoreline.

‘However, little is known on the natural trapping processes leading to such landwards return.

‘Our findings show seagrass meadows promote plastic debris trapping and aggregation with natural fibres, which are then ejected and escape the coastal ocean.

The findings offer hope of protecting some of the world's most popular tourism spots. Keeping coasts pristine is critical to many economies

The findings offer hope of protecting some of the world’s most popular tourism spots. Keeping coasts pristine is critical to many economies

‘Seagrasses, one of the key ecosystems on Earth in terms of provision of goods and services, also counteract marine plastic pollution.

‘In view of our findings, the regression of seagrass meadows in some marine regions acquires a new dimension each year.’

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, follows research showing seagrasses are good for beaches.

They were found to hold sand and sediment in place around the Caribbean Sea and Mexico.

It offers hope of protecting some of the world’s most popular tourism spots. Keeping coasts pristine is critical to many economies.

Prof Sanchez-Vidal said: ‘Seagrass meadows are widespread in shallow coastal waters.

‘They provide important ecosystem services and benefits, such as water quality improvement, CO2 absorption, climate change mitigation, sediment production for seafloor and beach stabilisation, coastal protection, nursery and refuge areas for many species and support in fisheries production.’

Seagrass areas in the Mediterranean Sea have decreased by 13 to 50 per cent since 1960.

Prof Sanchez-Vidal added: ‘What is clear is the deterioration of seagrass meadows may compromise the services they provide, so it is crucial to undertake specific actions to mitigate threats causing regression and ensure conservation.’

WHAT ARE THE LATEST PREDICTIONS FOR THE FUTURE IMPACT OF OCEAN WASTE?

The amount of plastic in the oceans is expected to triple in just ten years, a report issued by the UK government in March 2018 warned.

This key environmental problem risks being ‘out of sight, out of mind’ with more known about the surface of Mars and the Moon than the deep sea bed, it added.

The toll of plastic pollution in the sea could be 150million tonnes by 2025 – treble the 50million tonnes estimated in 2015. 

Our oceans store carbon dioxide and heat while producing oxygen and food, the Foresight Future of the Sea Report stressed. 

On the growing blight of plastic pollution, the document warned this will leave a physical presence, accumulating on coasts or in particular areas of ocean.

The report also warned plastic litter on coasts can increase the risk of dangerous bacteria in the water, such as E.coli. 

It said efforts to reduce plastic pollution should focus on stopping it entering the sea, developing new biodegradable materials and public awareness campaigns. 

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Hawaii Headline USA

Early humans had already developed the skills and tools to survive climate change, study finds 

Early humans living two million years ago already had the skills and tools they needed in order to cope with the effects of climate change, study shows. 

Archaeologists from the Max Planck Institute studied changes to the environment and habitats of early hominins at the Oldupai Gorge heritage site in Tanzania. 

Also known as the ‘Cradle of Humankind’, new field work at the site revealed our ancestors remained stable despite environment changes over 200,000 years. 

These early humans stayed in a habitat continuously throughout – despite having to cope with global warming, wildfires, droughts and volcanic eruptions.

It shows migrations ‘out of Africa’ were possible even during the early human periods – as our ancestors possessed the ability to expand into new ecosystems.

Olduvai (now Oldupai) Gorge, known as the Cradle of Humankind, is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Tanzania. Early human used a wide diversity of habitats amidst environmental changes across a 200,000 year-long period

Co-author Professor Michael Petraglia, of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, in Germany, said it is evidence of a behavioural flexibility.

OLDUPAI GORGE WAS THE CRADLE OF HUMANKIND 

The Unesco World Heritage Oldupai Gorge site is in modern Tanzania.

It is located in the Great Rift Valley, between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park.

It was formed about 30,000 years ago, the result of aggressive geological activity and streams. 

The steep ravine is about 30 miles long and 300 feet deep.

The location boasts extraordinary records of extinct human species.

They span several million years and for more than a century experts have been exploring the region to understand where we came from. 

He said this started in the context of the dawn of the evolution of the hominins – and helped ‘set the stage for the eventual global, invasive spread of Homo sapiens.’

Excavations at Tanzania’s Oldupai Gorge, previously known as the Olduvai Gorge,  uncovered the presence of hominins – our most primitive ancestors – that lived between two and one point eight million years ago.

The oldest form of stone tools, known as Oldowan, were also unearthed, along with a wide variety of mammal fossils including wild cattle, pigs, hippos, panthers, lions, hyena, primates, reptiles and birds – all had been butchered for food.

The crude Oldowan implements were used to smash open the bones and extract the nutritious marrow from the butchered animals, experts discovered.

Remains of one of the first hominins were found just 350 metres away from this site in deposits dating back 1.82 million years.

Known as Homo habilis, the four foot tall species had a short body, long arms like an ape’s – and a big brain. Its name translates as ‘handy man’ after his tool skills.

Despite having to cope with persistent weather catastrophes, the area remained occupied by early humans – proving they could adapt to climate change.

It turned from lakeside palm groves, idyllic meadows littered with ferns and mosaics of woodland to landscapes burned by natural disasters and dry steppes.

The evidence shows periodic but recurrent land use across a subset of environments – punctuated with times when there is an absence of activity.

The Oldubai Gorge, previously known as Oldavai Gorge, in northern Tanzania has produced some of the oldest remains of early human ancestors known to date

The Oldubai Gorge, previously known as Oldavai Gorge, in northern Tanzania has produced some of the oldest remains of early human ancestors known to date

Co-author Dr Pastory Bushozi, of Dar es Salaam University, Tanzania, said: ‘The occupation of varied and unstable environments – including after volcanic activity – is one of the earliest examples of adaptation to major ecological transformations.’ 

The Unesco World Heritage Oldupai Gorge site is located in the Great Rift Valley, between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park.

It was formed about 30,000 years ago, the result of aggressive geological activity and streams. The steep ravine is about 30 miles long and 300 feet deep.

The location boasts extraordinary records of extinct human species spanning several million years and for more than a century experts have been exploring outcrops. 

The latest study published in Nature Communications sheds light on the environmental contexts in which these hominins lived for the first time. 

Excavation at Ewass Oldupa uncovered the oldest Oldowan stone tools ever found at Oldupai Gorge, dating to ~2 million years ago and fossils of mammals, reptiles and birds

Excavation at Ewass Oldupa uncovered the oldest Oldowan stone tools ever found at Oldupai Gorge, dating to ~2 million years ago and fossils of mammals, reptiles and birds

Hominin occupation of fluctuating and disturbed habitats is unique in the prehistoric records. It shows complex behavioural adaptations among these early humans.

In the face of new challenges they did not substantially alter their toolkits – but instead their technology remained stable over time.

Indicative of their versatility, typical Oldowan stone tools hewn from pebbles and cobbles and sharp-edged flakes continued to be used even as conditions changed.

It shows they had the capacity to continually exploit a multitude of habitats using reliable tools to process plants and cut up animals – over the long term. 

Other hominins such as Australopithecines – the species to which the famous early human ancestor ‘Lucy’ belongs – may also have been making stone tools there.

The findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications. 

DNA AND GENOME STUDIES USED TO CAPTURE OUR GENETIC PAST

Four major studies in recent times have changed the way we view our  ancestral history.

The Simons Genome Diversity Project study

After analysing DNA from 142 populations around the world, the researchers conclude that all modern humans living today can trace their ancestry back to a single group that emerged in Africa 200,000 years ago.

They also found that all non-Africans appear to be descended from a single group that split from the ancestors of African hunter gatherers around 130,000 years ago.

The study also shows how humans appear to have formed isolated groups within Africa with populations on the continent separating from each other.

The KhoeSan in south Africa for example separated from the Yoruba in Nigeria around 87,000 years ago while the Mbuti split from the Yoruba 56,000 years ago.

The Estonian Biocentre Human Genome Diversity Panel study

This examined 483 genomes from 148 populations around the world to examine the expansion of Homo sapiens out of Africa.

They found that indigenous populations in modern Papua New Guinea owe two percent of their genomes to a now extinct group of Homo sapiens.

This suggests there was a distinct wave of human migration out of Africa around 120,000 years ago.

The Aboriginal Australian study

Using genomes from 83 Aboriginal Australians and 25 Papuans from New Guinea, this study examined the genetic origins of these early Pacific populations.

These groups are thought to have descended from some of the first humans to have left Africa and has raised questions about whether their ancestors were from an earlier wave of migration than the rest of Eurasia.

The new study found that the ancestors of modern Aboriginal Australians and Papuans split from Europeans and Asians around 58,000 years ago following a single migration out of Africa.

These two populations themselves later diverged around 37,000 years ago, long before the physical separation of Australia and New Guinea some 10,000 years ago.

The Climate Modelling study

Researchers from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa used one of the first integrated climate-human migration computer models to re-create the spread of Homo sapiens over the past 125,000 years.

The model simulates ice-ages, abrupt climate change and captures the arrival times of Homo sapiens in the Eastern Mediterranean, Arabian Peninsula, Southern China, and Australia in close agreement with paleoclimate reconstructions and fossil and archaeological evidence.

The found that it appears modern humans first left Africa 100,000 years ago in a series of slow-paced migration waves.

They estimate that Homo sapiens first arrived in southern Europe around 80,000-90,000 years ago, far earlier than previously believed.

The results challenge traditional models that suggest there was a single exodus out of Africa around 60,000 years ago.

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Headline USA

Shocking NASA images showing how climate change is affecting Earth

Emissions

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. After the gas is released into the atmosphere it stays there, making it difficult for heat to escape – and warming up the planet in the process. 

It is primarily released from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, as well as cement production. 

The average monthly concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, as of April 2019, is 413 parts per million (ppm). Before the Industrial Revolution, the concentration was just 280 ppm. 

CO2 concentration has fluctuated over the last 800,000 years between 180 to 280ppm, but has been vastly accelerated by pollution caused by humans. 

Nitrogen dioxide 

The gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) comes from burning fossil fuels, car exhaust emissions and the use of nitrogen-based fertilisers used in agriculture.

Although there is far less NO2 in the atmosphere than CO2, it is between 200 and 300 times more effective at trapping heat.

Sulfur dioxide 

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) also primarily comes from fossil fuel burning, but can also be released from car exhausts.

SO2 can react with water, oxygen and other chemicals in the atmosphere to cause acid rain. 

Carbon monoxide 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an indirect greenhouse gas as it reacts with hydroxyl radicals, removing them. Hydroxyl radicals reduce the lifetime of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. 

Particulates

What is particulate matter?

Particulate matter refers to tiny parts of solids or liquid materials in the air. 

Some are visible, such as dust, whereas others cannot be seen by the naked eye. 

Materials such as metals, microplastics, soil and chemicals can be in particulate matter.

Particulate matter (or PM) is described in micrometres. The two main ones mentioned in reports and studies are PM10 (less than 10 micrometres) and PM2.5 (less than 2.5 micrometres).

Air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, cars, cement making and agriculture 

Scientists measure the rate of particulates in the air by cubic metre.

Particulate matter is sent into the air by a number of processes including burning fossil fuels, driving cars and steel making.

Why are particulates dangerous?

Particulates are dangerous because those less than 10 micrometres in diameter can get deep into your lungs, or even pass into your bloodstream. Particulates are found in higher concentrations in urban areas, particularly along main roads. 

Health impact

What sort of health problems can pollution cause?

According to the World Health Organization, a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease can be linked to air pollution. 

Some of the effects of air pollution on the body are not understood, but pollution may increase inflammation which narrows the arteries leading to heart attacks or strokes. 

As well as this, almost one in 10 lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by air pollution. 

Particulates find their way into the lungs and get lodged there, causing inflammation and damage. As well as this, some chemicals in particulates that make their way into the body can cause cancer. 

Deaths from pollution 

Around seven million people die prematurely because of air pollution every year. Pollution can cause a number of issues including asthma attacks, strokes, various cancers and cardiovascular problems. 

 

Asthma triggers

Air pollution can cause problems for asthma sufferers for a number of reasons. Pollutants in traffic fumes can irritate the airways, and particulates can get into your lungs and throat and make these areas inflamed. 

Problems in pregnancy 

Women exposed to air pollution before getting pregnant are nearly 20 per cent more likely to have babies with birth defects, research suggested in January 2018.

Living within 3.1 miles (5km) of a highly-polluted area one month before conceiving makes women more likely to give birth to babies with defects such as cleft palates or lips, a study by University of Cincinnati found.

For every 0.01mg/m3 increase in fine air particles, birth defects rise by 19 per cent, the research adds. 

Previous research suggests this causes birth defects as a result of women suffering inflammation and ‘internal stress’. 

What is being done to tackle air pollution? 

Paris agreement on climate change

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. 

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

Carbon neutral by 2050 

The UK government has announced plans to make the country carbon neutral by 2050. 

They plan to do this by planting more trees and by installing ‘carbon capture’ technology at the source of the pollution.

Some critics are worried that this first option will be used by the government to export its carbon offsetting to other countries.

International carbon credits let nations continue emitting carbon while paying for trees to be planted elsewhere, balancing out their emissions.

No new petrol or diesel vehicles by 2040

In 2017, the UK government announced the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would be banned by 2040.  

However,  MPs on the climate change committee have urged the government to bring the ban forward to 2030, as by then they will have an equivalent range and price.

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. Pictured: air pollution over Paris in 2019.

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. Pictured: air pollution over Paris in 2019.

Norway’s electric car subsidies

The speedy electrification of Norway’s automotive fleet is attributed mainly to generous state subsidies. Electric cars are almost entirely exempt from the heavy taxes imposed on petrol and diesel cars, which makes them competitively priced.

A VW Golf with a standard combustion engine costs nearly 334,000 kroner (34,500 euros, $38,600), while its electric cousin the e-Golf costs 326,000 kroner thanks to a lower tax quotient. 

Criticisms of inaction on climate change

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said there is a ‘shocking’ lack of Government preparation for the risks to the country from climate change. 

The committee assessed 33 areas where the risks of climate change had to be addressed – from flood resilience of properties to impacts on farmland and supply chains – and found no real progress in any of them.

The UK is not prepared for 2°C of warming, the level at which countries have pledged to curb temperature rises, let alone a 4°C rise, which is possible if greenhouse gases are not cut globally, the committee said.

It added that cities need more green spaces to stop the urban ‘heat island’ effect, and to prevent floods by soaking up heavy rainfall. 

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Headline USA Politics

Greta Thunberg jokes in 18th birthday tweet that her ‘evil handlers can no longer control her’

Greta Thunberg has joked that her ‘evil handlers can no longer control her’ in a tongue-in-cheek tweet marking her 18th birthday. 

The activist sarcastically hit back at critics who claim parents secretly masterminded her rise to fame by saying she is ‘free at last’ now she has turned 18. 

Miss Thunberg said she would be spending her birthday night in her ‘local pub’ as Sweden’s minimum drinking age is 18.

There, she will be ‘exposing all the dark secrets behind the climate and school strike conspiracy’ in reference to those who falsely believe global warming is a lie. 

Along with her humourous caption, the 18-year-old shared a selfie, giving a thumbs-up to the camera while wearing a shirt reading ‘flat Mars society’.

It appears to be a sarcastic reference to the Flat Earth Society whose members tout the bizarre conspiracy theory that the Earth is a disk surrounded by an ice wall.

Greta Thunberg has joked that her ‘evil handlers can no longer control her’ in a tongue-in-cheek tweet marking her 18th birthday. She shared the caption along with a selfie (pictured)

The activist jokingly hit back at critics (her tweet, pictured) who claim parents secretly masterminded her rise to fame by saying she is 'free at last' now she has turned 18

The activist jokingly hit back at critics (her tweet, pictured) who claim parents secretly masterminded her rise to fame by saying she is ‘free at last’ now she has turned 18

Her post read: ‘Thank you so much for all the well-wishes on my 18th birthday! 

‘Tonight you will find me down at the local pub exposing all the dark secrets behind the climate and school strike conspiracy and my evil handlers who can no longer control me! I am free at last!’

In an interview ahead of her milestone birthday, Miss Thunberg said she ‘doesn’t care’ about the jet-setting exploits of celebrities who preach about the environment.

The teenage activist became the face of the youth climate movement after launching a solo ‘school strike’ outside the Swedish parliament aged just 15.

Since then, Miss Thunberg has spoken at the United Nations climate summit, been nominated for a Nobel peace prize and was dubbed Time magazine’s 2019 person of the year. 

But she said her global superstardom won’t last forever so is trying to ‘use her position’ to get as much done as possible ‘in this limited amount of time’.

Speaking in an interview with The Times, the 17-year-old was asked how she feels about celebrities who travel the world in gas-guzzling planes while preaching about climate change.

Miss Thunberg (pictured) has said she 'doesn't care' about the jet-setting exploits of celebrities who preach about the environment in an interview ahead of her 18th birthday

The teenage climate change activist (pictured) became the face of the youth climate movement after launching a solo 'school strike' outside the Swedish parliament aged just 15

Miss Thunberg (pictured) has said she ‘doesn’t care’ about the jet-setting exploits of celebrities who preach about the environment in an interview ahead of her 18th birthday

Miss Thunberg has spoken at the United Nations climate summit, been nominated for a Nobel peace prize and was dubbed Time magazine's 2019 person of the year (pictured)

Miss Thunberg has spoken at the United Nations climate summit, been nominated for a Nobel peace prize and was dubbed Time magazine’s 2019 person of the year (pictured)

She simply replied: ‘I don’t care.’

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were criticised for using private jets in 2019 – including four trips in just 11 days in August – despite their eco credentials. 

Miss Thunberg said: ‘I’m not telling anyone else what to do, but there is a risk when you are vocal about these things and don’t practise as you preach, then you will become criticised for that and what you are saying won’t be taken seriously.’

The teenager – who has Asperger’s  syndrome – was critical of Boris Johnson’s ten-point ‘green industrial revolution’.

The Prime Minister launched a £12billion plan for the environment last year, saying it could create 250,000 jobs and significantly slash the country’s carbon emissions.

Among the ambitious proposals are plans to ban new sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, install thousands of offshore wind turbines and plant 75,000 acres of trees per year.

But Miss Thunberg (pictured) said her global superstardom won't last forever so she is trying to 'use her position' to get as much done as possible 'in this limited amount of time'

But Miss Thunberg (pictured) said her global superstardom won’t last forever so she is trying to ‘use her position’ to get as much done as possible ‘in this limited amount of time’

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (pictured) were criticised for using private jets in 2019 - including four trips in just 11 days in August - despite their eco credentials

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (pictured) were criticised for using private jets in 2019 – including four trips in just 11 days in August – despite their eco credentials

Miss Thunberg said that while the proposals were seen as better than the Government doing nothing – she pointed out that scientists have criticised it for not doing enough to tackle climate change.

In the interview, the activist also said that she doesn’t mull over criticism levied at her from world leaders.  

In 2019, Miss Thunberg shouted ‘How dare you?’ during the UN General Assembly – claiming that country heads were failing the younger generation.

US President Donald Trump sarcastically said of her UN Speech: ‘She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see.’

Last December, President Trump told Miss Thunberg to ‘work on her anger management problem’ and ‘get a good old-fashioned movie with a friend’ after she became the youngest person to be awarded with Time magazine’s Person Of The Year accolade. 

After she was named Person Of The Year by Time Magazine, President Trump said Thunberg needed to 'chill' and 'work on her anger management problem'

After she was named Person Of The Year by Time Magazine, President Trump said Thunberg needed to ‘chill’ and ‘work on her anger management problem’

The teenage activist mocked the president and changed her Twitter bio using his words

The teenage activist mocked the president and changed her Twitter bio using his words 

The 17-year-old mimicked a tweet the President had directed at her last year and told him to 'chill' and 'work on his anger management problem'

The 17-year-old mimicked a tweet the President had directed at her last year and told him to ‘chill’ and ‘work on his anger management problem’

In his tweet last year the President wrote: ‘So ridiculous. Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, chill!’ 

In November, Miss Thunberg threw the criticism back at him.

Taking to Twitter to reply to the President’s calls to ‘stop the count’, the teenager wrote: ‘So ridiculous. Donald must work on his anger management problem, then go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Donald, Chill!’ 

Last month, the activist said she was celebrating being back in school but accused nations of ignoring climate experts, despite the pandemic showing the importance of following science.

Miss Thunberg took a gap year from 2019 in a bid to force leaders from around the world to take action on climate change.

The schoolgirl was seen at the UN headquarters last year with an enraged expression on her face as President Trump walked in

The schoolgirl was seen at the UN headquarters last year with an enraged expression on her face as President Trump walked in

As her studies get back under way she told novelist Margaret Atwood during her guest editorship of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the coronavirus crisis has ‘shone a light’ on how ‘we cannot make it without science’. 

And she accused the world of listening to ‘one type’ of scientist, and ignoring others warning of climate change.

When asked if the pandemic’s impact on people’s appreciation of science could have an effect on climate information the teenager said: ‘It could definitely have.

‘I think this pandemic has shone a light on how … we are depending on science and that we cannot make it without science.

‘But of course, we are only listening to one type of scientist, or some types of scientists, and, for example, we are not listening to climate scientists, we’re not listening to scientists who work on biodiversity.

‘That of course needs to change.’

Earlier she had shared a picture of herself on a bike with her school rucksack over her shoulder as she celebrated returning to education.

But the environmental campaigner expressed scepticism when questioned about nations’ pledges to reduce their carbon emissions, such as China which has committed to reach a net zero target by 2060.

She said: ‘That would be very nice if they actually meant something.

‘We can’t just keep talking about future, hypothetical, vague, distant dates and pledges. We need to do things now. And also net zero … that is a very big loophole, you can fit a lot in that word net.’

But she praised the election of Joe Biden as US president who has pledged to rejoin the Paris climate accord on the first day of his presidency.

Miss Thunberg added: ‘It could be a good start of something new.

‘Let’s hope that it is like that, and let’s push for it to become like that.’  

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Headline USA Politics

Greta Thunberg ‘doesn’t care’ about jet-setting exploits of celebrities who preach about the planet 

Greta Thunberg has said she ‘doesn’t care’ about the jet-setting exploits of celebrities who preach about the environment in an interview ahead of her 18th birthday.

The teenage activist became the face of the youth climate movement after launching a solo ‘school strike’ outside the Swedish parliament aged just 15.

Since then, Miss Thunberg – who will turn 18 on Sunday – has spoken at the United Nations climate summit, been nominated for a Nobel peace prize and was dubbed Time magazine’s 2019 person of the year. 

But she said her global superstardom won’t last forever so is trying to ‘use her position’ to get as much done as possible ‘in this limited amount of time’.

Speaking in an interview with The Times, the 17-year-old was asked how she feels about celebrities who travel the world in gas-guzzling planes while preaching about climate change.

She simply replied: ‘I don’t care.’

The teenage climate change activist (pictured) became the face of the youth climate movement after launching a solo 'school strike' outside the Swedish parliament aged just 15

Greta Thunberg (pictured) has said she ‘doesn’t care’ about the jet-setting exploits of celebrities who preach about the environment in an interview ahead of her 18th birthday

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were criticised for using private jets in 2019 – including four trips in just 11 days in August – despite their eco credentials. 

Miss Thunberg said: ‘I’m not telling anyone else what to do, but there is a risk when you are vocal about these things and don’t practise as you preach, then you will become criticised for that and what you are saying won’t be taken seriously.’

The teenager – who has Asperger’s  syndrome – was critical of Boris Johnson’s ten-point ‘green industrial revolution’.

The Prime Minister launched a £12billion plan for the environment last year, saying it could create 250,000 jobs and significantly slash the country’s carbon emissions.

Among the ambitious proposals are plans to ban new sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, install thousands of offshore wind turbines and plant 75,000 acres of trees per year.

Miss Thunberg - who will turn 18 on Sunday - has spoken at the United Nations climate summit, been nominated for a Nobel peace prize and was dubbed Time magazine's 2019 person of the year (pictured)

Miss Thunberg – who will turn 18 on Sunday – has spoken at the United Nations climate summit, been nominated for a Nobel peace prize and was dubbed Time magazine’s 2019 person of the year (pictured)

But Miss Thunberg (pictured) said her global superstardom won't last forever so she is trying to 'use her position' to get as much done as possible 'in this limited amount of time'

But Miss Thunberg (pictured) said her global superstardom won’t last forever so she is trying to ‘use her position’ to get as much done as possible ‘in this limited amount of time’

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (pictured) were criticised for using private jets in 2019 - including four trips in just 11 days in August - despite their eco credentials

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (pictured) were criticised for using private jets in 2019 – including four trips in just 11 days in August – despite their eco credentials

Miss Thunberg said that while the proposals were seen as better than the Government doing nothing – she pointed out that scientists have criticised it for not doing enough to tackle climate change.

In the interview, the activist also said that she doesn’t mull over criticism levied at her from world leaders.  

In 2019, Miss Thunberg shouted ‘How dare you?’ during the UN General Assembly – claiming that country heads were failing the younger generation.

US President Donald Trump sarcastically said of her UN Speech: ‘She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see.’

Last December, President Trump told Miss Thunberg to ‘work on her anger management problem’ and ‘get a good old-fashioned movie with a friend’ after she became the youngest person to be awarded with Time magazine’s Person Of The Year accolade. 

After she was named Person Of The Year by Time Magazine, President Trump said Thunberg needed to 'chill' and 'work on her anger management problem'

After she was named Person Of The Year by Time Magazine, President Trump said Thunberg needed to ‘chill’ and ‘work on her anger management problem’

The teenage activist mocked the president and changed her Twitter bio using his words

The teenage activist mocked the president and changed her Twitter bio using his words 

The 17-year-old mimicked a tweet the President had directed at her last year and told him to 'chill' and 'work on his anger management problem'

The 17-year-old mimicked a tweet the President had directed at her last year and told him to ‘chill’ and ‘work on his anger management problem’

In his tweet last year the President wrote: ‘So ridiculous. Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, chill!’ 

In November, Miss Thunberg threw the criticism back at him.

Taking to Twitter to reply to the President’s calls to ‘stop the count’, the teenager wrote: ‘So ridiculous. Donald must work on his anger management problem, then go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Donald, Chill!’ 

Last month, the activist said she was celebrating being back in school but accused nations of ignoring climate experts, despite the pandemic showing the importance of following science.

Miss Thunberg took a gap year from 2019 in a bid to force leaders from around the world to take action on climate change.

The schoolgirl was seen at the UN headquarters last year with an enraged expression on her face as President Trump walked in

The schoolgirl was seen at the UN headquarters last year with an enraged expression on her face as President Trump walked in

As her studies get back under way she told novelist Margaret Atwood during her guest editorship of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the coronavirus crisis has ‘shone a light’ on how ‘we cannot make it without science’. 

And she accused the world of listening to ‘one type’ of scientist, and ignoring others warning of climate change.

When asked if the pandemic’s impact on people’s appreciation of science could have an effect on climate information the teenager said: ‘It could definitely have.

‘I think this pandemic has shone a light on how … we are depending on science and that we cannot make it without science.

‘But of course, we are only listening to one type of scientist, or some types of scientists, and, for example, we are not listening to climate scientists, we’re not listening to scientists who work on biodiversity.

‘That of course needs to change.’

Earlier she had shared a picture of herself on a bike with her school rucksack over her shoulder as she celebrated returning to education.

But the environmental campaigner expressed scepticism when questioned about nations’ pledges to reduce their carbon emissions, such as China which has committed to reach a net zero target by 2060.

She said: ‘That would be very nice if they actually meant something.

‘We can’t just keep talking about future, hypothetical, vague, distant dates and pledges. We need to do things now. And also net zero … that is a very big loophole, you can fit a lot in that word net.’

But she praised the election of Joe Biden as US president who has pledged to rejoin the Paris climate accord on the first day of his presidency.

Ms Thurnberg added: ‘It could be a good start of something new.

‘Let’s hope that it is like that, and let’s push for it to become like that.’  

Categories
Headline USA Politics

Sir David Attenborough welcomes Joe Biden’s US presidential election victory

Sir David Attenborough welcomes Joe Biden’s US presidential election victory – and stresses America’s importance in fighting climate change

  • David Attenborough says ‘of course’ Joe Biden’s victory was good for the world 
  • Mr Biden pledged to rejoin Paris climate accord on the first day of his presidency
  • Broadcaster Sir David discussed the US returning to the climate change table

Sir David Attenborough has welcomed Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential election and stressed America’s importance in the fight against climate change.

Mr Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris climate accord on the first day of his presidency, after Donald Trump controversially pulled Washington out of it.

The international agreement aims to curb global warming.

Sir David, a passionate environmental campaigner, said ‘of course’ Mr Biden’s November election victory was good for the world, adding ‘how could I deny that?’

Sir David, who recently worked on Netflix documentary A Life On Our Planet, is an intrepid traveller and has made films from around the world. However, his flying days may be over

Sir David, a passionate environmental campaigner, said 'of course' Mr Biden's November election victory was good for the world, adding 'how could I deny that?'

Sir David, a passionate environmental campaigner, said ‘of course’ Mr Biden’s November election victory was good for the world, adding ‘how could I deny that?’

Speaking to the Radio Times, the beloved naturalist, 94, discussed the US returning to the climate change table.

He said: ‘It’s of the greatest possible importance. The major power in the world and the major economic power in the world?

‘Of course, it’s absolutely crucial that it is party to all these things and if we are to find a solution with international agreements the presence of America is beyond measure.’

Sir David, who recently worked on Netflix documentary A Life On Our Planet, is an intrepid traveller and has made films from around the world.

However, his flying days may be over. Asked if he will ever travel overseas again to film, he said ‘no, not a lot’.

Sir David added: ‘It’s probably a fact of age, but I was finding my heart was sinking deeper and deeper into my boots every time I walked up into an aircraft and looked down that long line and thought, ‘I’m going to be here for another 24 hours.’

‘It didn’t make my heart lift with pleasure.’

Read the full interview in the Radio Times.

Categories
Headline USA New York Politics

AOC loses out on prestigious committee role after secret ballot

AOC loses out on prestigious committee role after secret ballot of her fellow House Democrats after calling for ‘new leadership’ and feuding with Joe Manchin

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lost a race for a seat on the prestigious House Energy and Commerce Committee 
  • Democrats voted overwhelmingly for fellow New York Democrat, Rep. Kathleen Rice, in a secret ballot 
  • Moderate Democrats openly criticized the progressive star on a video call, upset that she had backed some of their primary challengers  

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lost a race for a seat on the prestigious House Energy and Commerce Committee, as colleagues through a secret ballot voted overwhelmingly for fellow New York Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice. 

Politico reported Thursday that the two New York Democrats were forced to fight over a final seat on the committee, which oversees big policy areas like climate change and healthcare. 

During a video call, moderate Democrats took on AOC prior to the vote, as she’s called for ‘new leadership’ in her party and gotten in a public feud with fellow Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lost a race for a seat on the prestigious House Energy and Commerce Committee, when Democrats voted overwhelmingly for Rep. Kathleen Rice in a secret ballot 

Rep. Kathleen Rice

Sen. Joe Manchin

Rep. Kathleen Rice (left), a New York Democrat, bested AOC to get a seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In recent weeks, Ocasio-Cortez has called for fresh party leadership and feuded with Sen. Joe Manchin (right) 

During a private meeting of the Steering and Policy Committee – where members secretly voted 46 to 13 in favor of Rice – Democrats called out Ocasio-Cortez for supporting progressive primary challengers over House incumbents, Politico reported. 

‘I’m taking into account who works against other members in primaries and who doesn’t,’ said Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat who faced the AOC-backed primary opponent, Jessica Cisneros, according to the newsite. 

AOC also got called out for refusing to pay party campaign dues.   

Ocasio-Cortez withheld money to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee over its policy to ‘blacklist’ political firms and vendors who support Democratic primary challengers. 

Most members of the New York delegation signed statements of support for both Ocasio-Cortez and Rice, with the exception of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, who only signed AOC’s document, Politico reported. 

While a superstar on the left, Ocasio-Cortez has long ruffled the feathers of more moderate Democrats. 

She was in a weeks-long back-and-forth with Manchin of West Virginia, taking umbrage when he said, ‘She’s more active on Twitter than anything else.’ 

‘I find it amusing when politicians try to diminish the seriousness of our policy work, movement organizing and grassroots fundraising to “she just tweets,” as though “serious” politics is only done by begging corporate CEOs for money through wax-sealed envelopes delivered by raven,’ Ocasio-Cortez shot back.  

AOC sent out a tweet showing her staring daggers into the back of moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's head, during their weeks-long feud, which showed the left-moderate divide of the current Democratic Party

AOC sent out a tweet showing her staring daggers into the back of moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s head, during their weeks-long feud, which showed the left-moderate divide of the current Democratic Party 

More recently she suggested there should be new leadership at the top of the caucus, during an appearance on The Intercept’s ‘Intercepted’ podcast. 

First, she talked about being disillusioned by the party before running for a Congressional seat. 

‘You know, for me personally it was when I was waitressing, and I would hear Democrats talk about why the Affordable Care Act was so amazing all the time and how this is the greatest thing ever, and the economy was doing wonderfully,’ she recalled. ‘And frankly, it is the same trick that Trump pulls, which is, you know, people touting the Dow as a measure of economic success, when we’re all getting killed out here.’ 

‘And so, you know, do we need new leadership of the Democratic Party? Absolutely,’ she said. ‘But how do we ensure that when we shift, we don’t even move further to the right?’    

Categories
Headline USA

Climate change to blame for wiping out Central Asia’s medieval river civilisations 700 years ago 

Climate change – not Genghis Khan – was to blame for wiping out Central Asia’s medieval river civilisations 700 years ago, a new study claims. 

UK researchers investigated the river channels around the Aral Sea in Central Asia, which was historically a vast body of water but is now a fraction of its former size. 

Hundreds of years ago, the Aral Sea and its major rivers were the centre of advanced river civilisations that used floodwater irrigation to farm.

The region’s decline is often attributed to the devastating invasion by the Mongol Empire in the early 13th century, led by the ruthless and legendary Khan.  

However, the new research into the long-term river dynamics and ancient irrigation networks shows that a changing climate and dryer conditions was the real cause. 

The experts reconstructed the effects of climate change on floodwater farming in the region, partly using radiometric dating of irrigation canals.

They found decreasing river flow – caused by drier conditions – was ‘equally if not more’ important for the abandonment of these previously flourishing civilisations.

Genghis Khan, the brutal founder of the Mongol Empire, created a military state that invaded its neighbours and extended across Asia, causing the deaths of roughly 40 million people in the process. 

Scroll down for video 

The lush green corridor of the current Arys river in Kazakhstan. The high left bank was used for medieval floodwater farming

‘Our research shows that it was climate change, not Genghis Khan, that was the ultimate cause for the demise of Central Asia’s forgotten river civilisations,’ said study author Professor Mark Macklin, director of the Lincoln Centre for Water and Planetary Health at the University of Lincoln. 

‘We found that Central Asia recovered quickly following Arab invasions in the 7th and 8th centuries CE because of favourable wet conditions. 

‘But prolonged drought during and following the later Mongol destruction reduced the resilience of local population and prevented the re-establishment of large-scale irrigation-based agriculture.’

The Aral Sea basin in Central Asia began shrinking in the 1960s and had largely dried up by the 2010s, in what UNESCO has previously described as an ‘environmental tragedy’. 

The Aral Sea basin in Central Asia and its major rivers, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, were the centre of advanced river civilisations, and a principal hub of the Silk Roads over a period of more than 2,000 years. The Aral Sea was the fourth-largest inland expanse of water in the world and once covered an area of 26,000 square miles. But it began shrinking in the 1960s and had largely dried up by the 2010s. Pictured is a comparison of the Aral Sea in 1989 (left) and 2014 (right)

The Aral Sea basin in Central Asia and its major rivers, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, were the centre of advanced river civilisations, and a principal hub of the Silk Roads over a period of more than 2,000 years. The Aral Sea was the fourth-largest inland expanse of water in the world and once covered an area of 26,000 square miles. But it began shrinking in the 1960s and had largely dried up by the 2010s. Pictured is a comparison of the Aral Sea in 1989 (left) and 2014 (right)

The once vast single expanse of water was split into a large southern Uzbek part and a smaller Kazakh portion. In the intervening years, the water continued to disappear and the Eastern region of the Aral Sea is now known as the Aralkum Desert

The once vast single expanse of water was split into a large southern Uzbek part and a smaller Kazakh portion. In the intervening years, the water continued to disappear and the Eastern region of the Aral Sea is now known as the Aralkum Desert

But it was once a vast lake lying between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, covering a landmass half the size of England. 

Its major rivers the Amu Darya and Syr Darya were the centre of advanced river civilisations and a principal hub of the Silk Roads over a period of more than 2,000 years. 

Silk Roads were the historical land routes that hosted a lucrative trade in silk, connecting East Asia and Southeast Asia with South Asia, Persia, the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and Southern Europe.    

The research focused on the archaeological sites and irrigation canals of the Otrar oasis, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was once a Silk Road trade hub located at the meeting point of the Syr Darya and Arys rivers in present southern Kazakhstan. 

The researchers investigated the region to determine when the irrigation canals were abandoned and studied the past dynamics of the Arys river, whose waters fed the canals.

Professor Macklin and colleagues reconstructed the effects of climate change on floodwater farming in the region about 700 years ago. 

Trenching of an ancient irrigation canal north of the fortified settlement of Kuik Mardan (in the background) in Otrar Oasis

Trenching of an ancient irrigation canal north of the fortified settlement of Kuik Mardan (in the background) in Otrar Oasis

The abandonment of irrigation systems matches a phase of riverbed erosion between the 10th and 14th century that coincided with a dry period with low river flows, rather than corresponding with the Mongol invasion, they found. 

Analysis of historic river patterns and archaeological sites shows the region revived quickly following the Arab invasions in 7th and 8th century, likely due to favourable wet conditions.

But major drought following the Mongol destruction later on likely prevented the re-establishment of large-scale irrigation-based agriculture. 

‘Climate, politics and warfare, and the gradual decline of the Silk Roads trade network all played a role,’ Professor Macklin told MailOnline.

‘Prior to our study, climate change was not seen as a potential factor influencing the success or failure of floodwater farmers in this region. 

‘But our new research demonstrates that a decline had already started before the arrival of the Mongols with the gradual abandonment of the irrigation system, agricultural lands and settlements in the region. 

‘The timing of these changes correspond with climate-driven changes in the local river system. 

‘This makes a strong case for a causal relation between climate change and cultural demise, as the effect of waning floods on floodwater farming is a very direct one – no flood, no water, no crops.’ 

The research, which is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows the critical role that rivers can have in shaping world history, according to the authors.    

‘The great rivers of Central Asia it seems were not just static “stage sets” for some of the turning points of world history, but in many instances, inadvertently or directly shaped the final outcomes and legacies of imperial ambitions in the region,’ they say.

Earlier this year, another team of researchers reported that Genghis Khan’s Wall’ in Mongolia was actually built to control the movements of nomadic populations. 

The famous Great Wall actually consists of multiple fortifications built over time. Pictured, locations of the network of walls that made up the famous Great Wall of China, including the Northern Line, which stands in modern-day Mongolia. The Northern Line has been 'neglected' by later researchers, a team of archaeologists  reported in another study in 2020

The famous Great Wall actually consists of multiple fortifications built over time. Pictured, locations of the network of walls that made up the famous Great Wall of China, including the Northern Line, which stands in modern-day Mongolia. The Northern Line has been ‘neglected’ by later researchers, a team of archaeologists  reported in another study in 2020

The archaeologists conducted the first systematic survey of ‘The Northern Line’ – part of The Great Wall that’s located outside China.

This particular part of the Great Wall network was originally thought to be intended to defend against large invading armies. 

However, the wall was not primarily defensive and instead helped the ruling Liao dynasty monitor and control the inhabitants of the region. 

In particular, the Northern Line helped monitor tribes that formed Genghis Khan’s powerful Mongolian Empire, according to the report from June, published in the journal Antiquity.  

GENGHIS KHAN: THE GENOCIDAL FOUNDER OF THE MONGOL EMPIRE

Genghis Khan was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire

Genghis Khan was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire

Genghis Khan was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. 

In the early 1200s he united the Mongol tribes, creating a military state that invaded its neighbours and expanded.

The Empire soon ruled most of what would become modern Korea, China, Russia, eastern Europe, southeast Asia, Persia and India.

Khan made himself master of half the known world, and inspired mankind with a fear that lasted for generations.

He was a prolific lover, fathering hundreds of children across his territories. Some scientists think he has 16 million male descendants alive today.

By the time he died in August 1227, the Mongol Empire covered a vast part of Central Asia and China.

Originally known as Temüjin of the Borjigin, legend has it Genghis was born holding a clot of blood in his hand. 

His father was Khan, or emperor, of a small tribe but was murdered when Temüjin was still young.

The new tribal leader wanted nothing to do with Temujin’s family, so with his mother and five other children, Temüjin was cast out and left to die.

In all, Genghis conquered almost four times the lands of Alexander the Great. He is still revered in Mongolia and in parts of China.

Historians estimate he was responsible for the deaths of nearly 40 million people with his large-scale massacres of civilian populations. 

Categories
California Headline USA

World’s wealthiest 1% account for more than twice the carbon emissions of the poorest 50%: UN report

The world’s wealthiest 1% account for more than twice the carbon emissions of the poorest 50%, a new UN report has found. 

The richest will need to shrink their CO2 footprints significantly to avoid dangerous levels of global warming this century, the Emissions Gap 2020 report said.      

The annual study, carried out by the UN Environment Programme (Unep), highlights the gap between the levels emissions should be at to keep temperatures down and current real-life levels.

It found that the world’s top 10% of earners devour about 45% of all energy consumed for land transport worldwide and 75% of that used for aviation. 

The world’s poorest 50% of households, meanwhile, consume just 10% and 5% respectively. 

In order to hit the target of restricting temperature rises this century to 1.5C, significant cuts will need to be made to the carbon footprints of the 1%, bringing them down to about 2.5 tonnes of CO2 per capita by 2030.    

The world’s wealthiest 1% account for more than twice the carbon emissions of the poorest 50%, a new UN report has found, saying the richest will need to shrink their CO2 footprints significantly to avoid dangerous levels of global warming this century

‘This elite will need to reduce their footprint by a factor of 30 to stay in line with the Paris Agreement targets,’ Unep executive director Inger Anderson wrote in a foreword to the report.

‘The wealthy bear the greatest responsibility in this area,’ she added. 

Tim Gore, the head of climate policy at Oxfam and a contributing author to the report said that while the world’s richest were consuming the most, others were bearing the negative environmental effects.

‘The UNEP report shows that the over-consumption of a wealthy minority is fuelling the climate crisis, yet it is poor communities and young people who are paying the price’. 

‘It will be practically and politically impossible to close the emissions gap if governments don’t cut the carbon footprint of the wealthy and end the inequalities which leave millions of people without access to power or unable to heat their homes,’ Gore said. 

According to the BBC, taking one less long-haul flight could reduce an individual’s CO2 consumption by almost two tonnes of CO2. 

Households that switch to renewable electricity can cut carbon by some 1.5 tonnes, while eating a vegetarian diet can save around half a tonne on average, it said.  

Rising temperatures are a contributing factor to wildfires which caused devastation in Australia, the Amazon and California (pictured) this year, along with other locations

Rising temperatures are a contributing factor to wildfires which caused devastation in Australia, the Amazon and California (pictured) this year, along with other locations

The report, published on Wednesday, also found that the positive environmental effects of lockdowns earlier this year intended to curb the spread of coronavirus are likely to be short lived.     

It predicted that carbon production will have fallen by around 7% this year because of the pandemic, but estimated the reduction would only curb warming by 0.01C by 2050. 

However, the report did highlight that countries have an opportunity to seek a greener mode of recovery from the pandemic. 

It found that if government’s invest in climate action, expected emissions for 2030 could be cut by 25%.

This would give a 66% chance of the planet keeping temperatures below 2C. 

‘The year 2020 is on course to be one of the warmest on record, while wildfires, storms and droughts continue to wreak havoc,’ said Inger Andersen.

‘However, Unep’s Emissions Gap report shows that a green pandemic recovery can take a huge slice out of greenhouse gas emissions and help slow climate change. 

‘I urge governments to back a green recovery in the next stage of Covid-19 fiscal interventions and raise significantly their climate ambitions in 2021.’

Green recovery has so far been limited, according to the report, though some countries have committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. 

However the ambition of the Paris Climate Agreement would need to be tripled in order to keep to the 2C goal and increased five-fold to meet the 1.5C target.

Categories
Headline USA

Venice floods: St Mark’s Square swamped with water after heavy rain

Venice has been flooded with water once again as officials warn of a ‘terrible situation’ a year after the city suffered a billion pounds of damage during high tides. 

Bad weather including heavy rain and high winds caused the tide in Venice to rise and flood waters reached a height of 122cm this morning, catching the authorities off guard before they could activate the huge flood barriers that were rolled out just two months ago.

Those tides then reached a 145 cm peak as strong sirocco winds blew in from Croatia and two rivers flooded near the sea around the historic Italian city.

The system of 78 flood gates, known as Mose, guard the entrance to the Venetian lagoon and are designed to protect the city from tides of up to 3 metres (10 ft). However, they require 48-hours notice to be activated.

Weather bulletins in past days had forecast rainfall pushing sea levels up to 120 centimetres, below the 130 cm threshold at which the flood barriers are operated.

A woman in a red dress on a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8, following following heavy rains and strong winds 

People walk across a flooded street on Tuesday in Venice. Bad weather including heavy rain and high winds caused the tide in Venice to rise and flood waters reached a height of 122cm this morning

People walk across a flooded street on Tuesday in Venice. Bad weather including heavy rain and high winds caused the tide in Venice to rise and flood waters reached a height of 122cm this morning

A view shows a flooded St. Mark's Square on December 8. Waters are expected to rise to a maximum of 145cm later today, according to local authorities

A view shows a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8. Waters are expected to rise to a maximum of 145cm later today, according to local authorities

A person takes photos while standing on a flooded St. Mark's Square on December 8

A person takes photos while standing on a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8

People walk across an arcade by a flooded St. Mark's Square on December 8, following heavy rains and strong winds

People walk across an arcade by a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8, following heavy rains and strong winds

A couple walks holding hands  in flooded St. Mark's Square

A couple walks holding hands  in flooded St. Mark’s Square

Video footage taken in the city shows the iconic St Mark’s Square, or Piazza San Marco, swamped with flood water. 

Carlo Alberto Tessein, procurator of the Basilica of San Marco, described the situation as ‘terrible’ and said the water had got inside the historic building, risking damage.  

The city’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, wrote on Twitter: ‘3.10pm… Now I’m at the Centro Maree to follow the development of the situation. Next maximum 145 cm at 16:40, due to the anomalous wind reinforcement. The MOSE system is not active.’  

Brugnaro said that the weather had suddenly worsened and water had reached a 145 cm peak as strong sirocco winds blew in from Croatia and two rivers flooded near the sea around Venice.  

He called for more rapid and reactive protocols in the operation of Mose in order to face sudden weather changes.

A person takes photos while standing on a flooded St. Mark's Square on December 8, in Venice following a high tide "Alta Acqua" event following heavy rains and strong winds

A person takes photos while standing on a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8, in Venice following a high tide ‘Alta Acqua’ event following heavy rains and strong winds

People take photos in the middle of a flooded St. Mark's Square on December 8

People take photos in the middle of a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8

People walk in flooded St. Mark's Square during high tide

People walk in flooded St. Mark’s Square during high tide

People were seen riding a traditional boat in a flooded street in Venice, Italy

People were seen riding a traditional boat in a flooded street in Venice, Italy

Workers are seen in the flooded St. Mark's Square during high tide

Workers are seen in the flooded St. Mark’s Square during high tide

A person poses for a photo in flooded St. Mark's Square

A person poses for a photo in flooded St. Mark’s Square

‘The situation is terrible, we are under water,’ said Carlo Alberto Tesserin, responsible for managing Saint Mark’s Basilica, adding that if the water rose further all the internal chapels would be flooded.

The centre for tidal forecasts in the Venice area said the water would recede to 120 cm on Wednesday and be back up to 135 cm on Thursday.

High tides, or ‘acqua alta’ in Italian, have been regular occurrences in Venice over the years, caused by a combination of factors exacerbated by climate change – from rising sea levels and unusually high tides to land subsidence that has caused the ground level of the city to sink.

Of the 24 tides ever recorded above the 140-cm level, 15 have occurred in the last two decades, including five last November when the city’s St Mark’s Square was submerged under a metre of water.

Designed in 1984, construction of the multi-billion euro Mose project started in 2003 but was plagued by delays, corruption and cost overruns. The 78 yellow barriers were tested in July and then first raised in October. 

People walk across an shopping arcade by a flooded St. Mark's Square on December 8, in Venice following a high tide "Alta Acqua" event following heavy rains and strong winds

People walk across an shopping arcade by a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8, in Venice following a high tide ‘Alta Acqua’ event following heavy rains and strong winds

A woman clears her flooded shop on December 8, 2020 in Venice following a high tide "Alta Acqua" event following heavy rains and strong winds, and the mobile gates of the MOSE Experimental Electromechanical Module that protects the city of Venice from floods, were not lifted

A woman clears her flooded shop on December 8, 2020 in Venice following a high tide ‘Alta Acqua’ event following heavy rains and strong winds, and the mobile gates of the MOSE Experimental Electromechanical Module that protects the city of Venice from floods, were not lifted

Heavy rain and high winds caused the tide in Venice to rise. Pictured two people in umbrellas walking in St. Mark's Square

Heavy rain and high winds caused the tide in Venice to rise. Pictured two people in umbrellas walking in St. Mark’s Square

It comes after Venice was hit by flooding three times last year – twice in November and once in December – causing a billion euros in damage. 

In November 2019, Italy declared a state of emergency after floods brought carnage to the city, flooding its historic basilica and leaving ‘widespread devastation’. 

Venice authorities said the damage last year ran to hundreds of millions of pounds, including millions in St Mark’s Basilica alone.

A man walks across an arcade by a flooded St. Mark's Square on December 8, 2020 in Venice following a high tide "Alta Acqua" event following heavy rains and strong winds, and the mobile gates of the MOSE Experimental Electromechanical Module that protects the city of Venice from floods, were not lifted

A man walks across an arcade by a flooded St. Mark’s Square on December 8, 2020 in Venice following a high tide ‘Alta Acqua’ event following heavy rains and strong winds, and the mobile gates of the MOSE Experimental Electromechanical Module that protects the city of Venice from floods, were not lifted

A view shows a flooded St. Mark's Square and a luminous Christmas Tree installation by Italian artist Fabrizio Plessi on December 8

A view shows a flooded St. Mark’s Square and a luminous Christmas Tree installation by Italian artist Fabrizio Plessi on December 8

A shop owner protects water from getting in on December 8, in Venice following a high tide "Alta Acqua" event following heavy rains and strong winds

A shop owner protects water from getting in on December 8, in Venice following a high tide ‘Alta Acqua’ event following heavy rains and strong winds

A view shows a flooded St. Mark's Square by the Doge's Palace and a luminous Christmas Tree installation by Italian artist Fabrizio Plessi on Tuesday

A view shows a flooded St. Mark’s Square by the Doge’s Palace and a luminous Christmas Tree installation by Italian artist Fabrizio Plessi on Tuesday

People walking past the Rialto Bridge during high tide

People walking past the Rialto Bridge during high tide

People standing inside a flooded cafe as flood waters reached a height of 122cm this morning

People standing inside a flooded cafe as flood waters reached a height of 122cm this morning

The system of 78 flood gates designed to protect the city from tides of up to 3 metres (10 ft) requires 48-hours notice to be activated. Pictured people walking in a flooded street

The system of 78 flood gates designed to protect the city from tides of up to 3 metres (10 ft) requires 48-hours notice to be activated. Pictured people walking in a flooded street

Venice archbishop Francesco Moraglia said at the time that the church had suffered ‘irreparable damage’ and the crypt was flooded for just the second time in its history.

The high waters in 2019 brought misery to local residents – stranding boats and gondolas, battering shops and hotels and leaving many of the city’s squares and alleyways deep underwater. 

In June this year, a quarter of Venice was submerged by a near-record high tide, at a time of year when such flooding is rare.

The flooding in summer came just two days after Italy reopened its borders to tourists in an attempt to salvage its summer season following coronavirus lockdown.

Previous times Venice has flooded 

A woman crosses the flooded St Mark's Square on November 13, 2019, where Venice's 1,200-year-old basilica (pictured behind her) was flooded by the high tide

A woman crosses the flooded St Mark’s Square on November 13, 2019, where Venice’s 1,200-year-old basilica (pictured behind her) was flooded by the high tide 

Venice was hit by flooding three times last year – twice in November and once in December – causing a billion euros in damage.

On November 12, 2019, the city was devastated by an acqua alta that reached 187 centimeters, with almost 90% of the city flooding. 

The northern Italian city of canals was hit by the highest tide in more than 50 years last year, with tourists wading through flooded streets to seek shelter as a fierce wind whipped up waves in St. Mark’s Square.

The exceptionally intense ‘acqua alta,’ or high waters, peaked at 1.87 metres (six feet) on November 12, 2019, according to the tide monitoring centre.

In November 2019, Italy declared a state of emergency after floods brought carnage to the city, flooding its historic basilica and leaving ‘widespread devastation’. 

Venice authorities said the damage last year ran to hundreds of millions of pounds, including millions in St Mark’s Basilica alone.

Venice archbishop Francesco Moraglia said at the time that the church had suffered ‘irreparable damage’ and the crypt was flooded for just the second time in its history. 

The high waters in 2019 brought misery to local residents – stranding boats and gondolas, battering shops and hotels and leaving many of the city’s squares and alleyways deep underwater.