May 28, 2023

Top nature and climate news: Climate could force migration

More than a fifth of the planet's population could be living with extreme temperatures by 2100, according to new research.

Scientists from the University of Exeter and climate experts from Europe, the US and China say human-induced climate change could result in 1 billion people living in locations with temperatures beyond the safe range for human life, UK newspaper The Times reports.

Around 0.9% of people currently face average annual temperatures of above 29°C, which is considered the upper limit for populations to thrive. But the percentage of people experiencing these excessive temperatures has been increasing steadily as the climate crisis bites, having risen from 0.3% in 1980.

The world's current climate commitments put it on course for warming of between 2.4°C and 2.8°C above pre-industrial levels. Climate modelling suggests that at 2.7°C, almost a quarter of Earth's population would face temperatures exceeding the upper safe limit. Heating on this scale could force tens of millions of people to migrate to cooler climates.

Keeping temperatures less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, in line with the target set by the Paris Agreement, would see five times fewer people pushed beyond liveable temperatures by 2100, modelling shows.

The most impacted countries could include India, Indonesia, Nigeria, the Philippines and Pakistan, where heat extremes would affect the highest numbers of people and where most population growth is expected to take place.

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The first-ever framework that allows companies to measure the impact of their operations on nature has been released.

The Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) says its guidance will enable companies to account for their impact on biodiversity in the same way they can already measure and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, UK newspaper The Guardian reports.

"It's moving nature into the boardroom," SBTN Executive Director Erin Billman says. "There is enough information for companies to be able to assess and prioritize where to take action."

The SBTN framework will help companies assess how their activities contribute to challenges like land degradation, pollution and use of freshwater resources. A pilot programme is running with 17 companies this year, but other companies can also submit data now.

Since 1970, animal populations (for which data is available) have declined in size by around 69%. While there is currently no universally agreed set of metrics for companies to assess their impact on biodiversity loss, the new SBTN framework will provide an opportunity to report, manage and reduce their negative impacts on nature.

Talks are underway in Paris this week, held by a United Nations committee seeking to agree upon a landmark treaty to bring an end to global plastic pollution. Many countries involved believe the focus of the treaty should be on 'circularity', meaning renewing or regenerating resources, rather than wasting them.

Typhoon Mawar has left most of the US Western Pacific territory of Guam without power or water, with 240 kilometre-per-hour winds taking down power lines and trees, according to local media and the Guam Waterworks Authority.

Butterfly behaviour is helping scientists protect natural wildlife habitats under threat from agriculture and urban development, by showing them which grasslands to conserve in order to protect insect ecosystems.

Investment in solar power projects is set to exceed new oil project financing for the first time, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Annual investment in renewable energy increased by almost a quarter in 2021, compared with a 15% rise for fossil fuels.

Economic losses due to climate change exceeded $4.3 trillion between 1970 and 2021 and caused more than 2 million deaths. But better early warning systems are reducing death numbers from such events, figures from the World Meteorological Organization show.

It was the International Day for Biodiversity on 22 May, and this year's theme was "From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity". It follows the adoption of the historic Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework by 196 nations in late 2022.

A new IEA report contains a roadmap for the oil and gas industry to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, outlining five areas where immediate action is needed to meet emissions-reduction targets.

Professor Jim Skea discusses the role of climate scientists in combatting the climate crisis and explains how stakeholders must come together to "get the work done".

Australia's wildfires in 2019 and 2020, which engulfed more than 155,000 square kilometres of land, caused an estimated 1 billion animal deaths, and heightened droughts and famine in Africa, a new study suggests.

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