Antarctica's shrinking ice shelves and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

Top nature and climate stories: Antarctica's shrinking ice shelves; the IEA urges for greater methane emissions reduction to limit global warming; and more.
Top nature and climate stories: Antarctica's shrinking ice shelves; the IEA urges for greater methane emissions reduction to limit global warming; and more.
Image: Photo by 66 north on Unsplash
  • This weekly round-up contains key nature and climate news from the past week.
  • Top nature and climate stories: Antarctica's shrinking ice shelves; the IEA urges for greater methane emissions reduction to limit global warming; climate change is knocking the world's water cycle off balance.

1. More than 40% of Antarctica's ice shelves have shrunk since 1997

Scientists have found that over 40% of Antarctica's ice shelves have shrunk since 1997, due to climate breakdown.

Researchers at the University of Leeds say half of these ice shelves show 'no sign of recovery'.

They calculated that, between 1997 and 2021, 67 trillion tonnes of ice was lost in the west, while 59 trillion tonnes was added to the east. This means there has been a net loss of 7.5 trillion tonnes of ice.

Study lead, Dr Benjamin Davison told The Guardian: “There is a mixed picture of ice-shelf deterioration, and this is to do with the ocean temperature and ocean currents around Antarctica.

“The western half is exposed to warm water, which can rapidly erode the ice shelves from below, whereas much of east Antarctica is currently protected from nearby warm water by a band of cold water at the coast.”

The location of Antarctica's ice shelves.
The location of Antarctica's ice shelves.
Image: National Snow and Ice Data Center

2. Cutting methane emissions essential to limit global warming - IEA

Rapid cuts in methane emissions from fossil fuels could have a greater impact in the climate fight than removing all cars and trucks from the road, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The Imperative of Cutting Methane from Fossil Fuels report says reduction of methane emissions could prevent a temperature rise of up to 0.1 °C by mid-century.

Methane is responsible for around 30% of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution. But, the IEA estimates more than 80 million tonnes of annual methane emissions from fossil fuels could be avoided by 2030 using existing technologies.

Main sources of methane emissions. climate pollution
Image: IEA

Targeted actions, such as eliminating venting and flaring and repairing leaks, are needed in addition to decreasing fossil fuel use, to limit global warming and prevent irreversible climate changes, the IEA said.

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

Human-caused climate change is knocking the world's hydrological cycle off balance, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) that offers an extensive assessment of global water resources. The WMO's State of Global Water Resources 2022 report calls for a significant policy change, improved monitoring, data sharing, cross-border collaboration, and increased investments to manage extreme conditions.

Damage caused by extreme weather has cost the world $16 million an hour for the past 20 years, according to a study of the impact of storms, floods, heatwaves, and droughts.

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London, have warned that almost half of world's known flowering plants are at risk of extinction, including orchids, pineapple varieties, and crucial crop species. They also said more than 2 million species of fungi are still waiting to be identified.

Natural disasters and extreme weather cost China $42 billion in direct economic losses in the first nine months of 2023, the government has reported. Torrential rains, deadly landslides, hailstorms, and multiple typhoons were among the catastrophic events the country faced.

Meanwhile, global economic losses under a 'plausible increase' in extreme weather events could reach $5 trillion, according to insurance marketplace Lloyd's of London.

The indigenous inhabitants of the Amazon have called on the Brazilian government to declare a climate emergency. Their villages are suffering from a severe drought, causing a lack of drinking water, food, and medicine.

It comes as World Weather Attribution found global warming caused South America's heat wave in August and September, which saw temperatures rise by as much as 4.3C.

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 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.

4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

Plastic pollution is a critical challenge for the future of the ASEAN region, with over 31 million tonnes of plastic waste generated annually in six out of ten ASEAN countries. The ASEAN region has huge potential in terms of creativity, innovation and transformative business models. Liviana Zorzi explains how bold models of cooperation among governments, businesses and civil society can address the plastic crisis.

Carbon removal is a strategic imperative for businesses, essential for their future and the well-being of our planet. Investment in carbon removal is critical, not only to remove emissions immediately but also to build market capacity to achieve net zero. Nasim Pour and Leila Toplic explain how robust digital MRV (Monitoring, Reporting, Verification) systems enable businesses to act immediately.

Carbon Brief delves into the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, research on habitat loss and climate change as the main extinction risks facing plants and fungi. Here are five key findings from the State of the World’s Plants and Fungi report.

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