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Planet Earth fails 'scientific health check', says study, and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

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Top nature and climate news: Planet Earth fails 'scientific health check', says study, and more.

Top nature and climate news: Planet Earth fails 'scientific health check', says study, and more. Image: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Johnny Wood
Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • This weekly round-up contains key nature and climate news from the past week.
  • Top nature and climate stories: Planet Earth fails 'scientific health check', says study; Annual bill is $2.7 trillion to reach net zero by 2050; The EU's disaster response reserve needs urgent funding.

From 18-22 September, the World Economic Forum is convening business leaders, policy-makers, civil society organizations, innovators and social entrepreneurs for the Sustainable Development Impact Meetings.

These carefully curated impact-driven leaders’ dialogues will focus on ways to get the Sustainable Development Goals back on track at the half-way point of the 2030 Agenda.

1. Planet Earth fails 'scientific health check', says study

A recent scientific health check of Earth's planetary boundaries shows the planet is operating "well outside the safe operating space for humanity", scientists say.

Human-caused pollution and environmental destruction have pushed six out of nine boundaries, or global systems - such as climate, water resources and biodiversity - beyond their ability to maintain a healthy planet.

A further two boundaries, air pollution and ocean acidification, are close to being broken the report says. Atmospheric ozone is the only boundary not under threat following concerted action to ban the use of ozone-depleting chemicals in recent years.

The study, published in the Science Advances journal, is the first to address all nine planetary boundaries.

While the findings are a major cause for concern, the damage done by humans is not irreversible. But urgent action on the climate and nature crises is needed to bring these systems back into a stable condition.

“Science and the world at large are really concerned over all the extreme climate events hitting societies across the planet. But what worries us, even more, is the rising signs of dwindling planetary resilience,” Prof Johan Rockström, who led the team that developed the boundaries framework told the Guardian.

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2. Annual bill is $2.7 trillion to reach net zero by 2050, report finds

Globally, annual investments of $2.7 trillion are needed to realize efforts to reach net zero emissions by mid-century, according to a new report from energy research and consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie.

Decarbonizing the global energy sector requires a projected annual investment of $1.9 trillion, which must increase by 150% to keep average global atmospheric temperatures below the 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels set by the Paris Agreement.

While many governments have made climate commitments, the world is not on track to meet climate targets. Earth's atmosphere is already 1.1°C warmer than the 1800s, according to the United Nations.

Existing government pledges would see temperatures reach 2.5°C, with dangerous consequences for the planet and all species that live on it, including humans.

"Achieving 1.5C is going to be extremely challenging, but it is possible and greatly depends on actions taken this decade,” said Simon Flowers, chairman and chief analyst at Wood Mackenzie.

Global greenhouse gas emissions and warming scenarios.
Global greenhouse gas emissions and warming scenarios. Image: Our World in Data

Commitments are one thing. But pledges need to be converted into action to prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis, and time is running short. Left unchecked, temperatures could reach beyond 4°C by the end of the century, with catastrophic consequences for humanity.

More action and investment is needed to bring annual greenhouse gas emissions in-line with pathways to achieve net zero by 2050.

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What is the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact summit?

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

The EU's disaster response reserve needs urgent funding to respond to mounting climate change-driven crises. The emergency aid fund was depleted in 2021 and 2022, while natural disasters have surged this year.

Devastating floods obliterated much of the Libyan city of Derna, killing thousands of people and sweeping many others out to sea. At least 30,000 people have been displaced, the UN International Organization for Migration said.

A powerful earthquake measuring 6.8 hit the Morocco's High Atlas Mountains, killing at least 2,000 people and injuring many more. Much of the historic old city of Marrakech and many remote villages have been destroyed.

A 1.2km stretch of the Aller river in the UK county of Somerset, has been filled-in with 4,000 tonnes of soil. The National Trust and Environment Agency project aims to restore a floodplain and establish a seven-hectare wetland reserve.

Accelerating ice movement has been recorded at the Halley station polar base, which sits on the Antarctic's vast floating Brunt Ice Shelf. While there is no imminent danger of the ice sheet breaking up, scientists are monitoring the situation.

Discover

What is the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact summit?

4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

Economic uncertainty is impacting progress on achieving the sustainable development goals, says World Economic Forum's Chief Economists Outlook report ahead of the upcoming Sustainable Development Impact Meetings.

Oceans represent the world's seventh-largest economy, but strong business leadership is needed to protect them. Here are 3 things businesses can do to accelerate ocean health.

Lessons learned from the devastating floods that hit South Africa in 2022, highlight the importance of investment in climate-resilient infrastructure that “is planned, designed, built and operated in a way that anticipates, prepares for, and adapts to changing climate conditions”.

Related topics:
Davos AgendaClimate and NatureClimate Change
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Contents
1. Planet Earth fails 'scientific health check', says study2. Annual bill is $2.7 trillion to reach net zero by 2050, report finds3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

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