Extreme heatwaves threaten world's food security, and other nature and climate news you need to read this week

Nature and climate stories: The climate crisis is increasing the frequency and intensity of Canada's wildfires.
Nature and climate stories: The climate crisis is increasing the frequency and intensity of Canada's wildfires.
Image: REUTERS/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
  • This weekly round-up contains the key nature and climate news from the past week.
  • Top nature and climate stories: Extreme heatwaves threaten world's food security; Canada's wildfire smoke reducing air quality for millions; Climate talks between US and China produce modest progress.

1. Extreme heatwaves threaten world's food security, scientists say

July saw the world's hottest day ever recorded as Europe, the US and China experienced life-threateningly high temperatures.

Researchers predict that the growing intensity and frequency of heatwaves will cause crop failures on land and lead to ecosystems and marine life dying in the world's oceans.

"Our food system is global," John Marsham, professor of atmospheric science at Leeds University, told The Guardian. “There are growing risks of simultaneous major crop losses in different regions in the world, which will really affect food availability and prices. This is not what we’re seeing right now, but in the coming decades that’s one of the things I’m really scared of."

The nature and climate crisis could create a 12-fold increase in the frequency of heatwaves by 2040, with potentially devastating impact on global food supplies.

At sea, marine heatwaves could bring about a "silent dying" in the world's oceans, according to Daniela Schmidt, professor of earth sciences at the University of Bristol.

Rapidly rising water temperatures could decimate delicate ocean ecosystems like coral reefs, threaten fish stocks and other marine food sources, and impact the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities.

Warming temperatures are causing land and marine species to migrate to cooler climates, increasing the likelihood of depletion or extinction.

2. Canada's wildfires leave millions tackling 'unhealthy' smoke levels

Smoke from Canada's wildfires has drifted south leaving millions of people in the US breathing poor-quality air.

Air quality advisories are in place across several states, as Air Quality Index (AQI) ratings exceeding 150 – considered "unhealthy" by the US Government – have been recorded in parts of Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Canada has experienced its worst wildfire season since records began, resulting in high smoke risks in Calgary, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto and other cities and regions.

As the climate crisis increases the incidents of hot, dry weather, this can fuel the spread of wildfires.

Nearly 900 wildfires are blazing with around 590 of those out of control, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

The incredible size of Canada's wildfires.
Canada's wildfires have increased exponentially in the last decade.
Image: Statista

The total surface area under fire this year shows a seven-fold increase on the 10-year average for this stage of the wildfire season.

More than 10 million hectares of burned land have been recorded, equivalent to the land area of South Korea.

Centre: Nature and Climate

How is the World Economic Forum fighting the climate crisis?

The Global Risks Report 2023 ranked failure to mitigate climate change as one of the most severe threats in the next two years, while climate- and nature- related risks lead the rankings by severity over the long term.

The World Economic Forum’s Centre for Nature and Climate is a multistakeholder platform that seeks to safeguard our global commons and drive systems transformation. It is accelerating action on climate change towards a net-zero, nature-positive future.

Learn more about our impact:

  • Scaling up green technologies: Through a partnership with the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, and over 65 global businesses, the First Movers Coalition has committed $12 billion in purchase commitments for green technologies to decarbonize the cement and concrete industry.
  • 1 trillion trees: Over 90 global companies have committed to conserve, restore and grow more than 8 billion trees in 65 countries through the 1t.org initiative – which aims to achieve 1 trillion trees by 2030.
  • Sustainable food production: Our Food Action Alliance is engaging 40 partners who are working on 29 flagship initiatives to provide healthy, nutritious, and safe foods in ways that safeguard our planet. In Vietnam, it supported the upskilling of 2.2 million farmers and aims to provide 20 million farmers with the skills to learn and adapt to new agricultural standards.
  • Eliminating plastic pollution: Our Global Plastic Action Partnership is bringing together governments, businesses and civil society to shape a more sustainable world through the eradication of plastic pollution. In Ghana, more than 2,000 waste pickers are making an impact cleaning up beaches, drains and other sites.
  • Protecting the ocean: Our 2030 Water Resources Group has facilitated almost $1 billion to finance water-related programmes, growing into a network of more than 1,000 partners and operating in 14 countries/states.
  • Circular economy: Our SCALE 360 initiative is reducing the environmental impacts of value chains within the fashion, food, plastics and electronics industries, positively impacting over 100,000 people in 60 circular economy interventions globally.

Want to know more about our centre’s impact or get involved? Contact us.

3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week

Climate talks between US and China produce modest progress, but goodwill between envoys John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua helped resolve recent diplomatic tensions between the two superpowers.

A charge-while-you-drive scheme will be tested in France on an electrified stretch of motorway near Paris, enabling electric vehicle owners to avoid waiting at charging stations.

A rice export ban in India could send already-high global prices soaring and exacerbate food insecurity, analysts have warned. India is the world's second-largest rice exporter after China.

Orca experts are stumped by the dramatic increase in boat bumping by killer whales, but believe their interactions with marine vessels are playful rather than malicious.

Dangerous wildfires across Greece continue as another heatwave hits. Hotter, drier and windy summers have turned the Mediterranean into a wildfire hotspot in recent years.

4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

Aviation is a hard-to-electrify industry that contributes 3% to global carbon emissions. What technologies can help put the sector en route to decarbonization?

As global temperatures surpassed the hottest day ever recorded on 4 July, are we currently living through what will become the warmest year since records began?

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