- This weekly round-up contains key nature and climate news from the past week.
- Top nature and climate stories: Climate crisis likely to impact world food supply before 1.5°C; Pacific Ocean sea levels rising above global average; AI could cut aviation emissions by more than half.
1. Climate crisis likely to impact world food supply before 1.5°C, says UN
Global agriculture faces the threat of water scarcity sooner than expected, the president of the United Nations Conference to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) COP15, Alain-Richard Donwahi has warned.
The climate crisis, water scarcity and unsustainable farming practices could disrupt the world's food supply long before temperatures exceed the 1.5°C above pre-industrial level set by the Paris Agreement.
“Climate change is a pandemic that we need to fight quickly. See how fast the degradation of the climate is going – I think it’s going even faster than we predicted,” he told the Guardian.
“Everyone is fixated on 1.5C [above pre-industrial levels], and it’s a very important target. But actually, some very bad things could happen, in terms of soil degradation, water scarcity and desertification, way before 1.5C,” he said.
Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like droughts and heatwaves, further straining already stressed water and land resources.
Alongside this, poor farming practices can erode and degrade the soil, decreasing crop yields.
The issue of desertification receives less attention than other aspects of the climate and nature crisis, with desertification COP talks held less frequently than climate summits.
However, the world cannot afford to ignore this issue, said Donwahi, who called for more investment from the private sector to help safeguard global agricultural and improve crop yields.
2. Pacific Ocean sea levels rising above global average, study says
Sea levels in the Southwest Pacific Ocean are rising faster than global average levels, according to a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) study.
Some parts of the ocean region are experiencing annual water rises of around 4mm, which exceeds global mean temperature rises, according to the WMO's State of the Climate in the South-West Pacific 2022 report.
Sea level rise poses a threat to the future of low-lying islands, while increasing ocean heat and acidification is damaging delicate marine ecosystems, according to the report.
Despite the cooling effect on ocean temperatures of the three-year-long La Niña event, the most 'prominent and persistent' heatwaves affected a large area of ocean north-east of Australia and South of Papua New Guinea in the Solomon and Coral seas.
Data from NASA shows global sea levels steadily rising since 1900, caused primarily by two factors linked to atmospheric warming.
The planet's ocean absorb more than 90% of the excess heat caused by the climate crisis. Warming waters cause a thermal expansion of seawater that contributes around 40% of the observed global mean sea-level rise.
Water is also added to ocean levels by climate-induced ice sheets and glaciers melting.
For some low-lying Pacific islands, time is running out.
3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week
AI could cut aviation emissions by more than half by rerouting planes to avoid humid conditions that create contrails - the thin white lines produced by planes, which account for a third of aviation's global warming impact. Google research shows this high-tech solution could also reduce fuel consumption of planes by 2%.
More than 3,000 people were forced to flee a wildfire that engulfed 41km of dry woodland near the Mount Teide volcano on the island of Tenerife in Spain. A further 3,800 people were ordered to stay home for their safety.
In Canada, all 20,000 residents of the Northwest Territories city of Yelllowknife have been evacuated as a wildfire threatened to reach the outskirts, enveloping the area in thick smoke.
Planting crushed volcanic rocks in agricultural fields improves the soil and helps absorb harmful carbon dioxide emissions, according to researchers from Yale University. The effect is amplified in humid tropical climates.
Moths might be better pollinators than bees and butterflies, but nocturnal moths are threatened by night-time street lighting and other artificial light, new research shows.
The bill for damage to property caused by wildfires between 2020 and 2049 could reach $11 billion, research published in Environmental Research Letters predicts.
What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?
Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.
To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The World Economic Forum's Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.
This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.
Contact us to get involved.
4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda
Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of heatwaves. Here are some of the coping mechanisms that cities around the world are adopting to tackle extreme heat.
Removing Europe's river dams and obstructions is restoring free-flowing waterways and reviving water ecosystems. Record numbers of dams were removed from European rivers in 2022.
Warming global temperatures causing heatwaves and wildfires are changing the face of several tourist hotspots, leaving some tourists rethinking their choice of holiday destinations.