• This weekly round-up brings you some of the key environment stories from the past seven days.
  • Top stories: Antarctica's emperor penguins could be extinct within 30 years; China's sea levels reach record high; Rich nations must stick to climate goals, says US Climate Envoy John Kerry.

1. News in brief: Top environment and climate change stories to read this week

The emperor penguin, which roams Antarctica's frozen tundra and chilly seas, is at severe risk of extinction in the next 30 to 40 years as a result of climate change, an expert from the Argentine Antarctic Institute has warned.

Some 80% of Indian states are prone to heatwaves and most have plans ready to alter work and school timings to avoid the hottest time of day when necessary, a government official has told Reuters. India this year suffered its hottest March in more than 100 years, and in April many places recorded unusually high temperatures in excess of 40°C on most days.

The US Department of Energy intends to commit $2.25 billion for projects to store carbon dioxide underground and help fight climate change, it said on 5 May. The funding for carbon storage validation and testing over the next five years will come from the bipartisan infrastructure bill that was signed into law last year.

The development comes as California energy officials issued a sober forecast for the state's electrical grid on 6 May, saying it lacks sufficient capacity to keep the lights on this summer and beyond if heatwaves, wildfires or other extreme events take their toll.

Extensive building renovations and the use of heat pumps could nearly halve Europe's Russian gas use, researchers said on 6 May, although industry groups said this would require a substantial increase in policy support and funding.

US President Joe Biden has approved a disaster declaration for parts of drought-parched New Mexico hit by wildfires and ordered that federal aid be made available for recovery efforts. The series of wildfires – which includes the biggest active blaze in the United States – started earlier this year and is more widespread than normal due to climate change, according to scientists.

2. China's sea levels reached record high in 2021

China's sea levels reached their highest on record last year, swelled by rising water temperatures and the melting of glaciers and polar icecaps, the government said in a report.

Coastal sea levels were 84 millimetres higher in 2021 than the average for 1993-2011, the National Marine Environmental Monitoring Center said in an annual bulletin.

Rising sea levels brought on by climate change are having a "continuous impact" on the development of coastal regions, the report warns. It goes on to urge the authorities to improve monitoring and bolster early-warning and prevention efforts.

The long-term effects of such rises include the erosion of coastal ecoystems and the loss of tidal flats, while coastal cities face greater risks of floods and salt tides, the National Marine Environmental Monitoring Center says.

Coastal sea levels around China have now risen by an average of 3.4 millimetres a year since 1980, higher than the global rate over the period.

Coastal flooding in 2100, Guangzhou, China.
How coastal flooding could affect Guangzhou, China, in 2100.
Image: Earth.org

3. Rich nations must stick to climate promises, says US envoy Kerry

The world's richest nations must implement their promises to keep alive a global goal to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, US Climate Envoy John Kerry told Reuters on 7 May.

Kerry said progress is vital as Egypt prepares to host the next round of UN climate talks, known as COP27, in November.

For the meeting to be a success, the 20 richest nations accounting for 65% of global gross domestic product must stay committed to limiting global warming to 1.5°C, as they did at last year's UN summit in Glasgow, he said.

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"That is critical," Kerry said. "Those 20 countries account for 80% of all [greenhouse gas] emissions. If those countries move, we solve the problem."

Addressing global crises such as COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine has taken some focus away from efforts to combat climate change, Kerry added.

At the same time, "it underscores the imperative of being energy independent and for not being a hostage to gas, a fossil fuel held by somebody who is ready to weaponize that fuel", he said referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"No country should be dependent that way. Nobody has to be [with renewables]," he said.