This week, it’s sobering news mixed with some exciting developments. We round up the UN Emissions Gap Report and a new analysis on how gender intersects with the climate crisis (spoiler alert: bad news). But also, Coldplay quit touring for the environment, and a Malaysian state protects 1 million hectares of land for conservation. Read on for the week’s top environmental news.
1. The UN Emissions Gap Report is out, and it’s not looking good.
Next week, world leaders are gathering in Madrid, Spain for the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference (better known as COP25). They’ve got a lot to do, but this new Report puts even more on their shoulders. Firstly, greenhouse gases are still rising dangerously, and countries are failing on their prior commitments. Secondly, the US, the wealthiest nation of all, and the second biggest polluter, has also begun to pull out from the Paris agreement. And finally, according to this assessment, emissions have grown by 1.5% every year. Where do we have to be? The report warns that if we want to stay within (relatively) safe limits, emissions must be declining by 7.6% every year, between 2020 and 2030. The worst part? Assuming every country fulfils its Paris commitments (this is a very optimistic approach—many are not on track), average temperatures are still on track to rise by 3.2°C from the baseline average at the start of the industrial age. We need to move fast and move now.
Alden Meyer, director of policy and strategy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, had this to say about the report: “We are sleepwalking toward a climate catastrophe and need to wake up and take urgent action.”
2. Climate change disproportionately affects women in Africa and Asia.
Climate change has always been an issue of injustice. And yet, we don’t talk about it enough. A new analysis of 25 studies published in Nature Climate Change endeavours to explore the complex intersection of gender and climate change. The short of it is that climate change worsens existing (often structural) gender inequalities. For example, global warming leads to crop uncertainty, and (usually male) breadwinners, migrate to earn an income. Women have to care for their children alone and earn whatever they can because men can’t send their wages home regularly. But labour markets discriminate against women, forcing them into low-paying, dangerous, or illegal jobs like selling drugs or prostitution. State regulations don’t help either. Women can’t seek loans from legitimate institutions and have to resort to private lenders, who charge higher interest rates and can be corrupt. Such discriminatory practices already exist, but climate change makes women more vulnerable to these situations.
“These are views that are missing in research,” said Nitya Rao, the lead author of the study, “and in producing real change.”
3. Harvard and Yale students disrupt football game for fossil fuel protest.
At half-time, over 200 students occupied the field in New Haven, Connecticut. They demanded the colleges divest from investment in fossil fuels. This is part of an ongoing divestment movement that started in 2012 within the two elite universities. Why? Because Harvard and Yale are complicit in the climate crisis. Both schools have massive endowments invested in fossil fuels. Harvard’s is worth $39 billion, and Yale’s $29 billion. The students believe that if the universities divest, hundreds of institutions will follow. Caleb Schwartz, a Harvard undergraduate, said that “these companies need to go out of business in order for us to have a safe and liveable future.”
4. Coldplay stopped touring—at least until they find a better alternative.
Some good news, finally: Coldplay joins the list of bands we love (even more) for taking (some) action on climate change. They’ve pledged to make any tour in support of their new album “actively beneficial” to the environment. Right now they’re looking at ways to carbon-neutralise their tours—frontman Chris Martin said that he would be “disappointed” if it wasn’t. “We’ve done a lot of big tours at this point,” he said. “How do we turn it around, so it’s not so much taking as giving?” We applaud this shift in the mindset of prominent musicians (think The 1975 and Billie Eilish), but more can be done. It’s not just touring that takes a toll on the environment, it’s excessive merchandise and even digital streaming too.
5. Sarawak to gazette 1 million hectares as a fully protected area!
Rounding off our scoop this week is some more good news. The Malaysian state said that by next year, 1 million hectares would be officially protected, as part of its conservation efforts. Currently, its gazetted 0.82 million hectares, including national parks, nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. Protecting forests and trees, of course, is just as important (if not more) a strategy as reforestation. That said, within ASEAN, Malaysia has really high carbon emissions. Its emissions per capita are disproportionately high at 7.27 tonnes, double that of Thailand’s and higher than even China’s. But implementing such nature-based strategies is a good (and essential) effort, and should be celebrated.
Every policy counts now.
Image credits: Arnold Gold/AP via The Guardian