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Week in Review: Top Climate News for May 15-19

by Earth.Org Asia Europe Global Commons May 19th 20234 mins
Week in Review: Top Climate News for May 15-19

This weekly round-up brings you key climate news from the past seven days, including a grim study by the World Meteorological Organization, a potential nuclear comeback for Italy, and the concerning avian flu outbreak that is decimating bird populations around the world.

1. World ‘More Likely Than Not’ to Breach 1.5C Temperature Limit by 2027, UN Warns

There is a 66% chance that the world will breach the critical 1.5C global warming threshold in the next four years, owing to a rise in anthropogenic carbon emissions and an imminent El Niño weather pattern expected later this year, the UN has warned.

In the latest annual climate update published Wednesday, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also suggested a 98% chance of at least one year between now and 2027 exceeding history’s warmest year on record, 2016, which happened after an “exceptionally strong” El Niño event. Indeed, the El Niño Southern Oscillation expected between December and February next year, a phenomenon that pushes more heat up from the oceans into the atmosphere, will push global temperatures off the charts, resulting in unprecedented heatwaves.

“This report does not mean that we will permanently exceed the 1.5C limit specified in the Paris Agreement which refers to long-term warming over many years,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. “However, WMO is sounding the alarm that we will breach the 1.5C level on a temporary basis with increasing frequency.”

Read more here.

2. Deadly Cyclone Mocha Batters Bangladesh and Myanmar, Leaves Thousands Homeless

Category-5 tropical cyclone Mocha slammed into northwestern Myanmar and Bangladesh on Sunday, bringing torrential rains and wind gusts of over 200 kilometres per hour (196 mph) that have cut communications to coastal areas and triggered the evacuation of nearly a million people.

Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp located in the Bangladeshi coastal district of Cox’s Bazar and inhabited mostly by Rohingya that fled from ethnic and religious persecution in neighbouring Myanmar, was badly hit, with more than 3,000 shelters damaged and many completely destroyed. Despite the significant damage, authorities say the worst had been avoided.

According to the country’s refugee commissioner, 32 learning centres and 29 mosques were also damaged during the passage of Mocha. Government figures revealed on Sunday night that around 250,000 were in need of food and shelter across the region.

Read more here.

3. Italy Votes to Include Nuclear Power In the National Energy Mix

Nuclear energy may be back in style in Italy. Last week, the Italian Chamber of Deputies gave the green light to the government to “evaluate the opportunity to include nuclear power in the national energy mix” as a clean energy source.

According to the motion – proposed by the opposition party Azione – the government should create a national deposit for radioactive waste, consider using modular reactors, support nuclear power research, and join the “Nuclear Alliance” proposed by the French government.

“Fourth-generation nuclear power […] is as safe as it is clean,” said Environment Minister Gilberto Picetto Fratin following the Chamber’s approval. “We will now discuss with our European partners and evaluate […] how to include it in the national energy mix.”

Fratin also noted that this would set Italy on the way to reaching its decarbonisation objectives and will support the European Union in achieving its goal of climate neutrality by 2050.

Read more here.

4. Unprecedented Avian Flu Outbreak Continues to Decimate Bird Populations

The world is currently grappling with the largest avian flu outbreak in history, with over 140 million culled farmed birds since October 2021. In the United Kingdom alone, more than 4 million domesticated birds have been culled and an estimated 50,000 wild birds have died. The real figure of wild bird deaths is likely to be far higher than this; given that on an island with vast swathes of seabirds like the UK, the majority die at sea and their carcasses are never found. 

It is not just birds that have been subjected to this virus. Avian flu (or ‘bird flu’) has been dubbed a ‘spillover event’ and has affected many mammals including otters, foxes, domesticated cats, and sea lions

Seabirds are international travellers, meaning that once they come in contact with the virus from the epicentre of the UK, they then spread it across the globe. 

Stretching 2,500 kilometres, the Peruvian coastline is home to one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world. The avian flu outbreak, however, has decimated local populations of sea lions, with 3,500 bodies found on their beaches in the last few months. At a farm in Spain, over 50,000 minks were euthanised after coming into contact with infected wild birds. This outbreak was a significant moment as it is believed that the avian influenza virus can also spread from mink to mink, indicating mammal-to-mammal spread, thus raising fears that humans could be more vulnerable. 

Read more here.

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