Category Archives: Topics

Scorching ‘new normal’ as world buckles under extreme heat: WMO

Heatwaves sweeping large parts of the world offer yet another reminder that extreme weather events boosted by human-induced climate change have become “the new normal”, the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned on Friday.

Weather agency Spokesperson Clare Nullis said that heat warnings have been issued by many weather services across Europe this week, including in France, Germany, Poland and Switzerland.

Meanwhile, parts of the Middle East were expected to see temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius in the coming days, and Japan was experiencing a “prolonged” heatwave which shattered temperature records.

Wildfires ‘off the charts’

Speaking to reporters about the recent massive wildfires fuelled by the hot and dry conditions in Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands, Ms. Nullis highlighted the “many evacuations and much devastation”.

“Unfortunately, that is a picture with which we’ve become all too familiar this summer,” she said.

The WMO Spokesperson also noted that Canada’s record-breaking season was continuing and that it was “completely off the charts” this year. As of 17 August, more than 600 wildfires across the country were out of control, she said.

Even Canada’s far north near the Arctic Circle had not been spared, as a mass evacuation order was in force in the town of Yellowknife in the Northern Territories due to an approaching blaze.

Meanwhile, in the British Columbia town of Lytton, a record temperature of 42.2 degrees Celsius was reached this week, Ms. Nullis said.

Massive rainfall via Hurricane Hilary

WMO also warned that Hurricane Hilary had intensified “very rapidly” to a major category four hurricane off Mexico’s Pacific Coast, “fed by warm ocean surface temperatures”.

Sustained winds of up to 220 kilometres per hour were expected in Mexico’s coastal areas over the weekend. Ms. Nullis noted that, as it was often the case with tropical cyclones, “the threat is not just from the wind but also from water”, and rainfall of up to 152 millimetres was forecast in the affected areas in Mexico.

The usually arid southwest of the United States, including major cities such as San Diego, would also see “a huge amount of rain in a short time”, she said, with a high risk of flash flooding.

WMO climate expert Alvaro Silva commented that “the frequency and intensity of many extremes, such as heatwaves and heavy precipitation, have increased in recent decades”. He noted that it can be said with “high confidence” that human induced climate change from greenhouse emissions is the main driver.

Dramatic impacts for Pacific islands

The southwest Pacific was another region hit hard by the impacts of a warming climate, WMO said, with weather-related disasters “unravelling the fabric of society” there.

According to the UN agency’s latest report, sea level rise threatened the future of low-lying islands, while increasing ocean heat and acidification devastated vulnerable marine ecosystems.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said that the El Niño climate pattern will have a major impact on the region this year, bringing higher temperatures, disruptive weather “and more marine heatwaves and coral bleaching”.

The State of the Climate in the South-West Pacific 2022 – English – August 2023

Sea level rise accelerating

The WMO report shows that sea-level rise rates in the region were higher than the global rate, reaching approximately four millimetres per year in several areas. It also notes that ocean warming contributes 40 per cent of the observed sea-level rise, “through thermal expansion of seawater”.

The agriculture sector is one of the most-affected by climate-related disasters in the southwest Pacific, WMO said, and enhancing the resilience of food production was a high priority for the region.

Mr. Taalas also stressed that implementing early warning systems was “one of the most effective” ways of reducing damage from climate disasters, as it empowered people to make risk-informed decisions.

Seven out of 10 people protected by at least one tobacco control measure

A new World Health Organization (WHO) report highlights that 5.6 billion people – 71% of the world’s population – are now protected with at least one best practice policy to help save lives from deadly tobacco – five times more than in 2007.

In the last 15 years since WHO’s MPOWER tobacco control measures were introduced globally, smoking rates have fallen. Without this decline there would be an estimated 300 million more smokers in the world today.

This WHO Report on the global tobacco epidemic, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, is focused on protecting the public from second-hand smoke, highlighting that almost 40% of countries now have completely smoke-free indoor public places.

The report rates country progress in tobacco control and shows that two more countries, Mauritius and the Netherlands, have achieved best-practice level in all MPOWER measures, a feat that only Brazil and Türkiye had accomplished until now.

“These data show that slowly but surely, more and more people are being protected from the harms of tobacco by WHO’s evidence-based best-practice policies,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “I congratulate Mauritius on becoming the first country in Africa, and the Netherlands on becoming the first in the European Union to implement the full package of WHO tobacco control policies at the highest level. WHO stands ready to support all countries to follow their example and protect their people from this deadly scourge.”

“With a strong political commitment, we have made great progress in tobacco control policies in Mauritius. Our country has adopted the MPOWER strategy and is moving resolutely towards a smoke-free country.” stated the Hon Pravind Kumar Jugnauth​, Prime Minister, Republic of Mauritius.

Maarten van Ooijen, State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sports for the Netherlands said, “Civil society organizations, health experts and medical professionals are strong driving forces behind everything that we are achieving with regard to tobacco control in the Netherlands. They deserve the primary credits for the praise that our country receives from the World Health Organization. Although we are making progress in reducing smoking prevalence and improving our tobacco control policy we also still have a long way to go. Together we will keep fighting for a smoke free generation by 2040!”

Smoke-free public spaces is just one policy in the set of effective tobacco control measures, MPOWER, to help countries implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and curb the tobacco epidemic.

Smoke-free environments help people breathe clean air, shield the public from deadly second-hand smoke, motivate people to quit, denormalize smoking and help prevent young people from ever starting to smoke or use e-cigarettes.

“While smoking rates have been going down, tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death in the world – largely due to relentless marketing campaigns by the tobacco industry,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies. “As this report shows, our work is making a big difference, but much more remains to be done. By helping more countries implement smart policies, backed by public opinion and science, we’ll be able to improve public health and save millions of more lives.”

Eight countries are just one MPOWER policy away from joining the leaders in tobacco control: Ethiopia, Iran, Ireland, Jordan, Madagascar, Mexico, New Zealand, and Spain.

There is still much work to be done, 44 countries remain unprotected by any of WHO’s MPOWER measures and 53 countries still do not have complete smoking bans in healthcare facilities. Meanwhile, only about half of countries have smoke-free private workplaces and restaurants.

“WHO urges all countries to put in place all of the MPOWER measures at best-practice level to fight the tobacco epidemic, which kills 8.7 million people globally, and push back against the tobacco and nicotine industries, who lobby against these public health measures,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, WHO, Director for Health Promotion. 

Around 1.3 million people die from second-hand smoke every year. All of these deaths are entirely preventable. People exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke are at risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, type 2 diabetes and cancers.

This report demonstrates that all countries irrespective of income levels can drive down the demand for deadly tobacco, achieve major wins for public health and save economies billions of dollars in health care and productivity costs.

Note to the editor:

The ninth WHO Report on the global tobacco epidemic launched today summarizes national efforts to implement the most effective demand reduction measures from the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) that are proven to reduce tobacco use. These measures are known collectively as “MPOWER”.

The MPOWER interventions have been shown to save lives and reduce costs from averted healthcare expenditure. The first MPOWER report was launched in 2008 to promote government action on six tobacco control strategies in-line with the WHO FCTC to:

  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies.
  • Protect people from tobacco smoke.
  • Offer help to quit tobacco use.
  • Warn people about the dangers of tobacco.
  • Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
  • Raise taxes on tobacco.

About the World Health Organization

Dedicated to the well-being of all people and guided by science, the World Health Organization leads and champions global efforts to give everyone, everywhere an equal chance at a safe and healthy life. We are the UN agency for health that connects nations, partners and people on the front lines in 150+ locations – leading the world’s response to health emergencies, preventing disease, addressing the root causes of health issues and expanding access to medicines and health care. Our mission is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.

For more information visit and follow WHO on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, PinterestSnapchat, YouTube

About Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 700 cities and 150 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2022, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed US $1.7 billion.

The G20 is a global force for sustainability


FOR: G20 Environment and Climate Sustainability Ministerial Meeting

LOCATION: Chennai, India

Excellencies, colleagues, and friends.

My sincere thanks to India for warmly hosting us in the beautiful city of Chennai and for providing global leadership during the country’s Presidency of the G20.

With control of 84 per cent of the global economy, G20 nations are the world’s driving force for development and growth. This is a good thing. However, while acknowledging the diversity and different development paths within G20 nations, this strength and influence also makes the bloc largely responsible for many of the environmental issues facing the world today.

Unsustainable production and consumption patterns in the G20 are driving the three environmental planetary crises: the crisis of climate change, the crisis of nature and biodiversity loss, and the crisis of pollution and waste. This is indisputable.

Now, the G20 faces a choice. Lead the world down the same high-carbon, resource-hungry path that is threatening to undermine the many gains the G20 has brought and cripple the Sustainable Development Goals. Or lead the world down a new, better path that brings the world into harmony with nature.

By endorsing the high-level principles on Lifestyles for Sustainable Development under the development track, this cycle and the Indian presidency has shown that the G20 is embracing the latter path. My thanks to the Indian Presidency for its commitment.

There are, of course, many areas in which the G20 can lead as it follows the brighter path for humanity it is increasingly committed to. But let us focus on the three themes of this session, which are also UNEP priority areas.

First, climate change

Climate action is the great unifier. Climate change drives desertification, biodiversity loss, food insecurity, poor human health, water scarcity and overall societal insecurity spurring conflict, strife and so much more. So, if the G20 legislates to make zero-carbon choices the norm – in everything from green and efficient energy and transport to nature-based solutions – the whole sustainable development agenda advances. I ask G20 countries to lead with ambitious climate action plans to reduce emissions and protect vulnerable communities from disasters. Plans that are backed with large-scale investment in domestic solutions and financial mechanisms that support developing countries.

Second, the blue economy

Healthy and resilient marine and coastal ecosystems are fundamental to sustainable development. But climate change is warming and acidifying oceans, threatening mass species extinction. Climate action is clearly essential to protect the oceans. We also need to look at everything from sustainable fisheries to boosting ocean ecosystems in the restoration agenda. I commend India’s leadership on the blue agenda in its Presidency and the efforts of G20 in developing High-Level Principles for a Sustainable and Resilient Blue/Ocean-based Economy. And I also ask the G20 to do more to ensure the blue world supports humanity for centuries to come.

Third, resource efficiency and circular economy

As India’s LiFE initiative makes clear, how humanity produces and consumes resources is a major driver of environmental crises. Plastic pollution is a perfect example. This pollution is harming biodiversity. Driving climate change. Damaging human health.

We now have an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee working on a deal to end plastic pollution. This deal, due by 2024, must be nothing less than a complete redesign of products, packaging and the system – to reduce the amount of virgin plastic used and circulate what remains in the economy. The G20 is engaging with this process. However, I ask G20 nations and businesses to get ahead of the game and start innovating on product design and business models now.


There are many other action areas, from transforming food systems to integrating nature into decision making. UNEP is, of course, here to support the G20 with science and know-how to make progress in all these action areas. I look forward to working with the Brazilian Presidency as we head towards the sixth United Nations Environment Assembly – at which many decisions will be taken on pressing environmental issues of concern.

But I ask G20 nations not to wait for the next meeting, or agreement or crisis. I ask the G20 to act with urgency to secure their own long-term prosperity. To flex its financial muscle to move investments into low-carbon, nature-positive economic models. To support less-wealthy nations to address the environmental crises facing the world. And to play a leading role in a just transition to a world of peace, prosperity and harmony with nature.

Chemicals in plastics

Chemicals: an integral part of plastics

All plastics are made of chemicals, including polymers, additives to make products stronger, softer, colourful or fire resistant, and non-intentionally added substances such as impurities from manufacturing, use and recycling. With the increased production and consumption of plastics worldwide, the production of plastic-associated chemicals has also increased, both in quantity and diversity. 

Plastics have indeed become ubiquitous in our modern life because of their light weight, low cost and versatility. As a result, global plastic production has increased exponentially since the 1950s, reaching about 460 million tonnes in 2019. The continuing growth of the global annual production of primary plastic is currently on course to possibly reaching 1.1 billion tonnes in 2050.

Concerned by the devastating impacts of plastic pollution, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) adopted a historical resolution in March 2022 (UNEA Resolution 5/14), calling for the development of an international legally binding instrument by the end of 2024. The instrument is to be based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastics.


The 2023 Chemicals in Plastics: A Technical Report by UNEP and the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions aims to inform the global community about the often-overlooked chemical-related issues of plastic pollution, particularly their adverse impacts on human health and the environment as well as on resource efficiency and circularity.  Based on scientific evidence, it further highlights the urgent need to act and outlines possible areas for action. A Summary and key Findings report highlights the main points.

The 2023 Turning off the Tap: How the world can end plastic pollution and create a circular economy report by UNEP offers concrete practices, market shifts and policies. It is published ahead of a second round of negotiations on a legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution. It aims to strengthen the understanding of the magnitude and nature of the change required in the plastics economy to achieve this goal. Criteria for prioritisation of control measures on chemicals in plastics are explored in a dedicated topic sheet to the report.

Over 13,000 substances have so far been associated with plastics, either known for use in plastic production or detected in plastic materials. Chemicals of concern have been found in plastics across a wide range of sectors and products value chains, including toys and other children’s products, packaging (including food contact materials), electrical and electronic equipment, vehicles, synthetic textiles and related materials, furniture, building materials, medical devices, personal care and household products, and agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries.

Chemicals of concern in plastics can impact our health and our environment: Extensive scientific data on the potential adverse impacts of about 7,000 substances associated with plastics show that more than 3,200 of them have one or more hazardous properties of concern. These include chemicals that are persistent and mobile in the environment, accumulate in the body, can mimic, block or alter the actions of hormones, reduce fertility, damage the nervous system, and/or cause cancer.

Existing evidence calls for urgent action to address chemicals in plastics as part of the global action on plastic pollution, to protect human health and the environment, and transition to a toxic-free and sustainable circular economy.

Original Post

Air conditioners fuel the climate crisis. Can nature help?

While summer in the northern hemisphere is just a few days old, it is already proving to be a scorcher, with heat waves blanketing countries from China to the United States.

As the mercury soars, city dwellers in those places – and many more – are turning to air conditioners (ACs) to stay cool. The irony: the widespread use of ACs is actually driving up temperatures by feeding the climate crisis, which could leave up to three-quarters of humans exposed to periods of life-threatening heat and humidity by 2100.

That has begged the question: can cities adapt to rising temperatures without resorting to air conditioning?

We spoke to Mark Radka, Chief of the Energy and Climate Branch of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), about that quandary – and he says some of the solutions lie in nature.

How much hotter could climate change make cities?

Mark Radka (MR): By 2050, if we continue on the same trajectory, close to 1,000 cities will experience average summer highs of 35˚C – nearly triple the 350 cities that already do. The urban population exposed to these high temperatures will increase by 800 per cent, reaching 1.6 billion by mid-century.

Extreme heat can obviously be deadly. But can’t it also have a devastating effect on economies?

MR: Yes. In fact, a recent report found that in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, heat stress was responsible for an estimated loss of 8 per cent of the city’s GDP, a figure that will increase with warming temperatures.

How does cooling contribute to the climate crisis?

MR: Cooling is a big contributor to global warming. Much of the existing cooling equipment uses hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, which are potent greenhouse gases, and use a lot of energy, making them a double burden for climate change. Even with the phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons required by the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, business as usual means emissions from refrigeration and air conditioning are expected to double by 2030 and triple by 2050, rising from 7 per cent of global GHG emissions today. Right now, the more we cool, the more we heat the planet. If we are serious about reversing current trends, we cannot go about cooling our planet with a business-as-usual approach.

How much energy is ultimately devoted to keeping buildings cool?

MR: We now know space cooling demand accounts for nearly 20 per cent of electricity used in buildings and is the fastest growing use of energy in buildings globally, set to triple by 2050. But this consumption and growth varies wildly by country and within countries. Those intra-country differences are often tied to location,  climate conditions and incomes.

How can municipalities reduce the environmental toll of cooling?

MR: Cities can deliver or incentivize many of the solutions needed to address cooling demand, whether through enforcing planning rules, bringing nature into cities, delivering social housing, or promoting approaches like district cooling. At UNEP, we have developed a handbook for cities to do just that: Beating the Heat: A Sustainable Cooling Handbook for Cities.

How can nature-based solutions help turn down the heat in cities?

MR: Nature-based solutions bring multiple benefits to cities and will be critical for cities to adapt to climate change. By keeping cities cool, they mitigate the urban heat island effect, lower cooling demand and improve citizens’ resilience to extreme heat.

What are some of those nature-based solutions?

MR: Planting and preserving large areas of trees and forests within cities can significantly cool the urban environment by shading streets and buildings, enhancing evaporative cooling, and reducing air temperatures through transpiration. On a normal sunny day, a single tree can transpire several hundred litres of water, which represents a cooling effect equivalent of two domestic air conditioners running for 24 hours. Research has found that globally, investing $100 million annually in street trees would give 77 million people a 1°C reduction in maximum temperatures on hot days.

Is there anything else cities can do?

Creating water bodies, such as lakes, canals, ponds and wetlands in urban areas, can have a significant cooling effect. UNEP and the government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic are currently working on a major project to restore wetlands in four cities, which is expected to benefit 10 per cent of the entire population.

As well, the National Research Council of Canada found that green roofs – where a roof is fully or partially covered in vegetation – can reduce air conditioning costs in the summer by up to 75 percent.

When it comes to cooling, where does the world need to go from here?

The cooling benefits of nature-based solutions are well documented, but they need to be better understood and leveraged to increase implementation and bring about change at a global level.

UNEP is at the forefront of supporting the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise well below 2°C, and aiming for 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. To do this, UNEP has developed a Six-Sector Solution, a roadmap to reducing emissions across sectors in line with the Paris Agreement commitments and in pursuit of climate stability. The six sectors identified are: Energy; Industry; Agriculture & Food; Forests & Land Use; Transport; and Buildings & Cities.

Original Post

How this week’s UN summit could help mend world’s broken food systems

A United Nations summit on the state of the world’s food systems opens today in Rome, Italy, a gathering that comes amid mounting concerns about the planet’s long-term ability to feed a fast-growing human population.

At the UN Food Systems Summit +2 Stocktaking Moment, delegates from across the planet are expected to discuss the often-devastating environmental impact of agriculture and how to make food production more sustainable.

The event is a follow-up to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, a landmark gathering that launched a global drive to transform the way humanity grows, processes and transports food.

To better understand what is at stake at the gathering this week, we spoke with Susan Gardner, Director of the Ecosystems Division at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The UN Secretary-General has said the world needs to quickly overhaul the way it produces food. What are we doing so wrong?

Susan Gardner (SG): Our food systems right now are unsustainable. They are a major contributor to the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. For example, agriculture alone generates about one-third of greenhouse gas emissions globally. As once-wild spaces are turned into pastures and cropland, it is also responsible for over 60 per cent of biodiversity loss. To top that all off, one-third of all food produced is wasted, needlessly taxing an already stressed planet. 

What are the long-term implications of all that?

SG: Food systems and nature are interlinked. Nature provides us with essential ecological services that make food production possible. That includes everything from pollination to pest control to water stability to soil fertility. We must stop nature’s decline,  in order to feed ourselves in the years to come.

There are 8 billion people on this planet, hundreds of millions of whom are already hungry. Is there a danger that by making dramatic changes to our food systems we might make hunger and malnutrition worse?

SG: Changes to our food systems, when done with careful planning, can actually help alleviate hunger and malnutrition. Sustainable food systems prioritize diverse and nutritious crops, local production and farming practices that can withstand climate change. By promoting things like agroecology, regenerative agriculture and sustainable fisheries, we can increase food production while preserving ecosystems. This will reduce the risk of food scarcity and improve food security for vulnerable people.

Transforming our food systems: Feeding the world while nourishing the planet

The UN Food Systems Summit in 2021 centered on making food production less damaging to the planet. This week’s gathering in Rome will focus on the progress the world has made since then. How do you think we’re doing?

SG: There is much more work yet to be done but the signs are promising. One-quarter of countries have signaled publicly that there’s a need to reform their food systems, opening an important public discourse. And over the past two years, the UN Food Systems Task Force, co-chaired by UNEP and the World Health Organization, has helped countries begin the complicated process of reforming the way they produce food. We are seeing examples of states expanding their national development plans to include strategies for transforming their food systems. Some countries have also begun considering how changes to their food systems could impact their nationally determined contributions, the targets that are at the heart of the Paris climate change agreement.

One issue likely to come up in Rome is agricultural subsidies, which have been called damaging to the planet. How can states better spend this money? 

SG: Right now,  agricultural producers receive US$540 billion a year in financial support from states. The vast majority of that – some 87 per cent – either distorts prices or is harmful to nature and human health. In 2021, UNEP published a report, along with other UN partners, that called on governments to rethink the way agriculture is subsidized. By redirecting agricultural subsidies towards sustainable practices, small-scale farmers, research and innovation, rural infrastructure and nutrition, states can foster a more equitable and resilient food system.

In policy circles, there has been much talk about Indigenous food systems and how they often provide more nutrition and are easier on the planet. But how can we translate those systems, which tend to be smaller, into a global model that can feed the world?

SG: Indigenous communities hold a wealth of knowledge that can contribute greatly to our understanding of issues, such as sustainable farming techniques and seed preservation. But despite their immense cultural value, indigenous food systems are being eroded at an alarming pace. That’s because global agricultural systems are increasingly prizing just a few staple crops, specifically maize, wheat and rice. Investing in research and development specific to indigenous food systems can unlock their potential for wider application. This includes studying traditional crop varieties for their nutritional value, drought and pest resistance, and adaptation to climate change. By combining traditional wisdom with scientific advancements, we can develop crops and farming methods that are both sustainable and scalable.

The Rome meeting has been called a “make-or-break” moment for our food systems. What does a successful Stocktaking Moment look like to you?

SG: We are at a crossroads. There is no real alternative other than a strong, coordinated response to what is a deepening crisis. There are some tangible outcomes that we would like to see emerge from the discussion in Rome. Those include commitments to data-driven agricultural best practices that promote both human and ecosystem health . We’d also like to see increased support for farmers who want to transition from monocultures to more diverse and sustainable farming systems. And, we would like to see these practices integrated into national plans for agriculture, climate change and biodiversity preservation.

Are you optimistic that the world will be able to transform its food systems, especially with the clock ticking?

SG: I am. The task ahead of us is not easy. But by working collectively we can make our food systems more sustainable and resilient to climate change. That will ultimately help us make significant progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, creating a better future for us all.

Original Post

Pioneering Moroccan solar plant step towards a “greener world”

United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director Inger Andersen recently visited the Noor power plant in Morocco, one of the largest solar facilities in the world.

Located near the town of Ouarzazate, on the edge of the Sahara Desert, the plant produces 580 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the homes of 2.3 million people.

The facility is part of a larger push by Morocco to develop clean energy and Andersen called it a “step into a greener world.

“Climate justice and access to energy go hand in hand,” said Andersen during her visit. “Let’s make sure that we show the world that [renewable energy] is entirely doable, possible and indeed feasible, and that it’s not only the right thing to do, it is very much the smart thing to do.”

The world’s largest solar plant shows #renewableenergy is “doable, possible and feasible” #cop28

Original Post

Strengthening Disease Surveillance in Africa: A Landmark Health Security Partnership

In a groundbreaking move to safeguard public health in Africa, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) have unveiled the Health Security Partnership. This crucial collaboration aims to fortify disease surveillance and epidemic intelligence across the continent, bolstering Africa’s health security capabilities. In this blog post, we delve into the significance of this initiative and its potential impact on the region’s health.

Strengthened Disease Surveillance: A Cornerstone of Health Security:

With a focus on biosecurity, integrated disease surveillance, event-based surveillance, genomic surveillance, and epidemic intelligence, the Health Security Partnership recognizes the pivotal role of disease surveillance in ensuring effective health security. While significant progress has been made in this area over the past decade, Africa still faces a higher number of outbreaks and health emergencies, many of which could be averted through proven public health interventions.

Addressing Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic:

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of robust public health surveillance systems. It revealed the need for advancements in data collection, management, reporting, and dissemination to enable evidence-based policymaking during health security crises. The Health Security Partnership aims to build on these lessons and enhance Africa’s preparedness and response capabilities.

Key Objectives of the Health Security Partnership:

  1. Improved Integrated Disease Surveillance: The partnership will work towards better detection, confirmation, and notification of health security threats through enhanced integrated disease surveillance systems.
  2. Multi-Country Implementation: In its initial phase, the project will be implemented in six African Union Member States, including The Gambia, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Tunisia, and South Africa. It will later expand to include more countries, fostering a collaborative and continent-wide approach to health security.
  3. Collaboration with WHO and RKI: The Health Security Partnership will leverage the expertise of the WHO’s Regional Offices for Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean, along with the Robert Koch Institute, to strengthen health systems and promote regional cooperation in Africa.
  4. Emergency Preparedness and Response: By building and pooling capabilities and expertise for disease surveillance and epidemic intelligence, the partnership aims to enhance Africa’s emergency preparedness and response mechanisms.
  5. Funding and Support: Funded by the Government of Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program and aligned with the health security objectives of the G7-led Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, the partnership signifies a collective commitment to collaboration and support for Africa’s health security.

The Health Security Partnership forged between Africa CDC, WHO, and RKI represents a momentous step towards strengthening disease surveillance in Africa. With a focus on integrated surveillance, regional cooperation, and emergency preparedness, this collaboration aims to protect the health of millions across the continent. By pooling capabilities, expertise, and resources, the partnership stands poised to revolutionize disease surveillance and epidemic intelligence in Africa, creating a more resilient and secure health system for the future. Together, we can build a healthier Africa, ready to face any health challenges that may come its way.

Original Post on the WHO Website

El Niño brewing in Pacific raises prospect of record-breaking heat

Climactic event will almost certainly strengthen throughout the year, US climate scientists predict

Mild El Niño climatic conditions brewing in the Pacific Ocean will strengthen throughout the year, with an outside chance of a record-breaking event that will further turbocharge already sweltering temperatures around the globe, scientists have forecast.

Last month saw a “weak” El Niño form, a periodic climatic event where the circulation of the equatorial Pacific Ocean shifts and its temperature rises, causing knock-on heat around the world, according to an update from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

This Niño, which has replaced a three-year period of its reverse condition, La Niña, which typically cools the globe, will almost certainly strengthen throughout the year, with an 81% chance it will peak with a “moderate to strong intensity” between November and January, Noaa said.

There is a one-in-five chance that this event will be of “historic” strength, rivaling the major one experienced in 1997, Noaa said. Even if the record is not threatened, however, “El Niños tend to elevate global mean temperatures, so I would not expect this event to be an exception,” said Michelle L’Heureux, a Noaa meteorologist.

The developing event has been closely watched by scientists as it is compounding the excess heat spurred by human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels. Last week was, preliminary data suggests, the hottest week ever reliably recorded, following a June that was the hottest ever documented globally.

More than 100 million people in the US are currently under heat warnings, with scorching conditions felt across Texas and the south-west in recent weeks. Heatwaves have also roiled China, India, parts of Europe and the Arctic.

What you need to know about the ‘extreme’ heatwave hitting our oceans – video explainer

The danger is not limited to the US

The heat is not confined to the land, with Noaa confirming on Thursday that ocean surface temperatures were at a record high for a third consecutive month in June, with marine heatwaves sweeping the North Atlantic to the UK, as well as imperiling ailing coral reefs found off Florida.

The developing Niño is likely to push the world towards even more record-breaking temperatures, scientists warn, as the tangible impacts of the climate crisis continue to unfold.

“We have a major El Niño event on our hands, it will certainly continue to develop, and it will almost certainly contribute to 2023 being the hottest year on record,” said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The combination of human-caused warming and this emerging event is already wreaking havoc across the northern hemisphere this summer in the form of record heat, drought, wildfires and floods.”

Original Post on the Gaurdian Website

Heat waves are getting worse. Here’s how to prepare.

On a recent Monday in late June, the mercury in Phoenix, Arizona, was set to reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit—with even hotter weather on the way. Summers in Phoenix have always been scorchers, but it wasn’t until 2021 that the city set up the Office of Heat Response and Mitigation.

“We’ve seen a really significant rise in heat-associated deaths, ” said David Hondula, the new office’s director.

Like many parts of the world, Phoenix is seeing more intense warmth driven by climate change. Across the U.S., heat waves have become longer, hotter, and more frequent in recent decades. So, it would follow that the risk of heat-related deaths and illnesses could go up, too.

But Phoenix’s increase in deaths, Hondula said, is related to socioeconomic inequities such as access to an air-conditioned home or car. He pointed to a rise in the number of unsheltered people as a key factor.

While heat waves may worsen, public health crises are preventable. That’s why many cities and states are developing early warning systems, more public education, and community resources such as cooling centers where people can escape oppressive temperatures.

For individuals, the heat safety advice may sound familiar: limit outdoor activity, especially at peak midday temperatures; stay hydrated; and cool off at a public place like a library or heat-relief shelter if you don’t have air conditioning at home.

Such tips “all sound like kind of penetrating glimpses into the obvious, but we still have to point them out, because we keep seeing people die during these extreme heat events,” said Jeremy Hess, an environmental health scientist at the University of Washington.

In the longer term, measures such as planting trees for shade and installing reflective cool roofs in certain places can help build resilience against hot weather in homes and communities. For the here and now, here’s how to keep cool.

Why is heat dangerous?

Hess recently released a report highlighting how serious, direct reactions such as heat stroke are only one health hazard from heat. Heat can exacerbate chronic conditions such as heart disease, which accounted for a quarter of heat-related deaths in the U.S. between 1999 and 2018.

“In some studies, the number of people who have chronic disease exacerbations related to heat actually outnumber the acute heat illness cases,” Hess said. Drowning accidents, too, go up during heat waves, as people head to pools and bodies of water to cool off.

(Learn more about how heat affects the body.)

Other vulnerable groups include outdoor workers, pregnant people, the elderly, children and infants, people experiencing homelessness, and those who use drugs and alcohol. About half the heat deaths in Phoenix, Hondula said, are associated with substance use.

High humidity coupled with high temperatures poses an increased danger, since the humid air makes it harder for sweat to evaporate and cool the body.

How to protect yourself 

Monitor forecasts including the heat index for your area so that you know when intense weather is coming and can plan accordingly.

If you can, limit time outdoors and avoid strenuous activity during the hottest parts of the day. Those heat index ratings? They pertain to shady areas. In direct sunlight, the value can increase up to 15°F, according to the National Weather Service.

Avoid sugar, caffeine, and alcohol in drinks, all of which will make you lose fluids. Drink plenty of water, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to do it. Hess said electrolyte drinks can be helpful in rehydrating, especially during sustained activity, but you don’t need to seek out a certain brand: lightly salted water is good.

Either way, drink the water you have, and carry plenty with you if you’re going out in nature. For hikers in the Phoenix area, the city recommends carrying 16 to 32 ounces per hour per person.

Wear light-colored, lightweight clothes. When outside, seek shade where possible; wear sunblock; and bring a hat or parasol.

How to protect your home 

Keep blinds drawn and use window reflectors. Avoid using heat-emitting appliances like ovens and stoves. Where possible, use weather stripping and insulation to keep cool air in and hot air out. If investing in home efficiency is out of reach, investigate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and similar programs in your area that might subsidize costs.

A 2019 study from the University of Sydney confirmed that using an electric fan is beneficial when it’s hot and humid, but may be harmful when it’s both very hot and very dry.

Hondula’s team used this and related research from the university’s Ollie Jay as the basis for an infographic with pros and cons of different low-cost or no-cost ways to cool down.

Soaking feet in cool water, ice towels, and wet clothing can all be effective strategies. Other ideas only work in certain conditions. Evaporative coolers (also known as swamp coolers), are cheaper than air conditioning to run, but they won’t help when it’s very humid.

Dehumidifiers may help with comfort, but don’t expect them to lower room temperatures.

What to do when things heat up 

“It’s important to recognize that heat is a really dangerous hazard when people aren’t protected from it,” Hess said.

When heat exhaustion sets in, symptoms include nausea, headache, and fatigue. At that point, experts recommend cooling down quickly to prevent heat stroke. The two major signs of heat stroke, Hess said, are an elevated body temperature and confusion or delirium. If you see these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Seek a cooling center if your home gets too hot. Air conditioning is obviously effective at cooling, but not everyone has it—and for some people who do, running it may be prohibitively expensive.

“There are definitely caveats with air conditioning. It’s expensive to install, and it requires more electricity than other measures to operate,” Hess said. “In public health, we’re reluctant to emphasize air conditioning as a primary strategy.”

Places like libraries, shopping malls, or community centers can provide relief. Public cooling centers, hydration stations, and ways to reach them are all part of the effort to keep people safe in Phoenix.

“We’ll be talking to a couple living in their vehicle in a parking lot, and they didn’t realize the building right next to where they’re parked is open to go in and cool off for a couple hours,” Hondula said.

Hess noted that evenings can be a vulnerable time for elders because heat accumulates throughout the day, particularly in cities, and people may stop contact in the late afternoon, thinking that the worst of the heat has passed.

Hondula echoed this caution. “It doesn’t take very long to transition from being in a good situation to not a good situation,” he said. “We can’t check on each other too much on our hottest days.”

Credit to National Geographic website.
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