People's Stories Environment


Safe planetary boundary for pollutants, including plastics, exceeded
by Stockholm Resilience Centre, agencies
 
Jan. 2022
 
Safe planetary boundary for pollutants, including plastics, exceeded, say researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Centre
 
There has been a 50-fold increase in the production of chemicals since 1950. This is projected to triple again by 2050.
 
For the first time, an international team of researchers has assessed the impact on the stability of the Earth system of the cocktail of synthetic chemicals and other “novel entities” flooding the environment.
 
The 14 scientists conclude in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology that humanity has exceeded a planetary boundary related to environmental pollutants including plastics.
 
“There has been a 50-fold increase in the production of chemicals since 1950. This is projected to triple again by 2050,” says co-author Patricia Villarubia-Gómez from the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
 
Plastic production alone increased 79% between 2000 and 2015, the team reports.
 
The pace that societies are producing and releasing new chemicals and other novel entities into the environment is not consistent with staying within a safe operating space for humanity.
 
There are an estimated 350,000 different types of manufactured chemicals on the global market. These include plastics, pesticides, industrial chemicals, chemicals in consumer products, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals. These are all wholly novel entities, created by human activities with largely unknown effects on the Earth system. Significant volumes of these novel entities enter the environment each year.
 
“The rate at which these pollutants are appearing in the environment far exceeds the capacity of governments to assess global and regional risks, let alone control any potential problems,” says co-author Bethanie Carney Almroth from the University of Gothenburg.
 
The research fills an important gap in analysis of “planetary boundaries”.
 
In 2009, an international team of researchers identified nine planetary boundaries that demarcate the remarkably stable state Earth has remained within for 10,000 years - since the dawn of civilization. These boundaries include greenhouse gas emissions, the ozone layer, forests, freshwater and biodiversity.
 
The researchers quantified the boundaries that influence Earth’s stability, and concluded in 2015 that four boundaries have been breached. But the boundary for novel entities was one of two boundaries that remained unquantified. This new research takes this a step further.
 
Overwhelming evidence
 
The researchers say there are many ways that chemicals and plastics have negative effects on planetary health, from mining, fracking and drilling to extract raw materials to production and waste management.
 
“Some of these pollutants can be found globally, from the Arctic to Antarctica, and can be extremely persistent. We have overwhelming evidence of negative impacts on Earth systems, including biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles,” says Carney Almroth.
 
Global production and consumption of novel entities is set to continue to grow. The total mass of plastics on the planet is now over twice the mass of all living mammals, and roughly 80% of all plastics ever produced remain in the environment.
 
Plastics contain over 10,000 other chemicals, so their environmental degradation creates new combinations of materials – and unprecedented environmental hazards. Production of plastics is set to increase and predictions indicate that the release of plastic pollution to the environment will rise too, despite huge efforts in many countries to reduce waste.
 
Shifting to circular economy
 
The researchers conclude that current increasing trends of chemical production and release put the health of the Earth system at risk. The authors call for actions to reduce the production and release of pollutants.
 
“We need to be working towards implementing a fixed cap on chemical production and release,” says Carney Almroth.
 
“And shifting to a circular economy is really important. That means changing materials and products so they can be reused not wasted, designing chemicals and products for recycling, and much better screening of chemicals for their safety and sustainability along their whole impact pathway in the Earth system”, adds Sarah Cornell from the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
 
http://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/research-news/2022-01-18-safe-planetary-boundary-for-pollutants-including-plastics-exceeded-say-researchers.html http://eia-international.org/news/plastic-pollutions-deadly-ticking-clock-a-dire-emergency-for-people-and-the-planet/ http://www.unep.org/resources/pollution-solution-global-assessment-marine-litter-and-plastic-pollution http://www.beyondplastics.org/plastics-and-climate http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/SRToxicsandhumanrights/Pages/Index.aspx http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/brv.12816


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WMO recognizes new Arctic temperature record of 38⁰C
by IFRC, World Meteorological Organization
 
Dec. 2021 (WMO News)
 
A temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk on 20 June 2020 has been recognized as a new Arctic temperature record by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
 
The temperature, more befitting the Mediterranean than the Arctic, was measured at a meteorological observing station during an exceptional and prolonged Siberian heatwave. Average temperatures over Arctic Siberia reached as high as 10 °C above normal for much of summer last year, fuelling devastating fires, driving massive sea ice loss and playing a major role in 2020 being one of the three warmest years on record.
 
“This new Arctic record is one of a series of observations reported to the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes that sound the alarm bells about our changing climate. In 2020, there was also a new temperature record (18.3°C) for the Antarctic continent,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
 
“WMO investigators are currently seeking to verify temperature readings of 54.4°C recorded in both 2020 and 2021 in the world’s hottest place, Death Valley in California, and to validate a new reported European temperature record of 48.8°C in the Italian island of Sicily this summer. The WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes has never had so many ongoing simultaneous investigations,” said Prof. Taalas.
 
The Arctic is among the fastest warming regions in the world and is heating more than twice the global average. The extreme temperature and ongoing climate change prompted a WMO panel of experts to add a new climate category “highest recorded temperature at or north of 66.5⁰, the Arctic Circle” to its international Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes.
 
Verkhoyansk is about 115 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle and the meteorological station has been observing temperatures since 1885. It is located in the northern part of Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), is in a region of Eastern Siberia which has an extreme very harsh dry continental climate (very cold winter and hot summer).
 
“Fundamentally, this investigation highlights the increasing temperatures occurring for a climatically important region of the world. Through continued monitoring and assessment of temperature extremes, we can remain knowledgeable about the changes occurring in this critical region of the world, the polar Arctic,” said Professor Randall Cerveny, Rapporteur of Climate and Weather Extremes for WMO.
 
“The record is clearly indicative of warming across Siberia,” said the noted UK climatologist and committee member Dr Phil Jones. Historical research established from the national records of Arctic countries that there were no known temperatures of 38 °C or above at any Arctic locations. http://bit.ly/3IXnb94 http://bit.ly/30xzJCs
 
Dec. 2021
 
Over 57 million affected by climate disasters across Asia Pacific in 2021. (IFRC)
 
Asia and the Pacific have experienced relentless and unpredictable climate-related disasters in 2021, severely affecting more than 57 million people during the peak of the global pandemic.
 
In 2021, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched 26 new operations, 15 of which are climate-related disaster responses. The IFRC is still responding to a further 21 disasters across Asia and the Pacific, from previous years.
 
South Asia has been the worst hit this year, with millions of people affected by multiple disasters and little time to recover from one to the next.
 
In India, more than 18 million people have been severely impacted by floods and cyclones this year, according to data from the Indian Government, Disaster Management Division. In Bangladesh, more than half a million people have been swamped by floods, with hundreds of villages marooned for weeks at a time. Around one third of Nepal suffered floods or landslides with many occurring outsides of the traditional monsoon season.
 
Jessica Letch, IFRC Emergency Operations Manager said:
 
“For much of this year, millions of families across Asia have been reeling after multiple blows from successive disasters and the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
“From India to Indonesia, in Nepal and Bangladesh, our health and emergency teams are reporting livelihoods shattered by frequent and unpredictable climate disasters.”
 
In China’s Henan Province, 13.9 million people were affected by severe flooding in July. In Southeast Asia, Indonesia has been worst affected by disasters, with more than one million people swamped by floods in the past month alone, according to the Indonesian Government Regional Disaster Authority.
 
Drought, combined with associated economic collapse – which unfolds slowly but with devastating consequences – is affecting more than 22.8 million people in Afghanistan, according to the latest Integrated Food Security data.
 
Other countries across Asia have also been hit by multiple disasters. Nearly one million people were swamped by flooding in Thailand, more than half a million people affected by floods and typhoons in the Philippines and over 125,000 people hit by floods in Myanmar. Pacific Island countries also faced significant flooding due to storms and rising sea tides.
 
“Responding to disasters at the height of the COVID pandemic has involved some of the most complex operations and the changing climate is throwing unpredictable floods and storms at millions of people, making life even tougher,” said Jessica Letch.
 
“As risks mount with climate change, the IFRC is investing in anticipatory early warning systems to better prepare communities to act before disasters strike, to reduce the loss of lives and livelihoods.”
 
http://www.ifrc.org/press-release/over-57-million-affected-climate-disasters-across-asia-pacific-2021 http://www.climatecentre.org/7246/cop-26-climate-change-risks-runaway-humanitarian-crisis-and-the-collapse-of-the-aid-system/ http://www.climatecentre.org/resources/news-archive/


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