Nature and Biodiversity

250 million more older people could be exposed to dangerous heat levels, and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

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An elderly man rests on a bench in the shade with a small fan hanging around his neck during a heat wave in Valencia, Spain July 18, 2023. REUTERS/Eva Manez     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

This weekly round-up contains the key nature and climate news from the past week. Image: REUTERS/Eva Manez TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Michael Purton
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • This weekly round-up contains the key nature and climate news from the past week.
  • Top nature and climate news: 250 million more older people could be exposed to dangerous heat levels; World’s biggest carbon dioxide removal plant opens; Venezuela could be first country to lose all its glaciers

1. Almost 250 million more older people could be exposed to dangerous heat levels

An extra 246 million older people could be exposed to dangerous levels of heat by 2050, a new study has found.

The number of people aged 69 or over who live in climates where temperatures reach 37.5°C or above will rise from 14% in 2020 to more than 23% worldwide in 2050, according to the paper published in Nature Communications.

That would be “an absolute increase of about 177-246 million age 69+ individuals”, the report said.

This could have a colossal impact on health systems and global inequality, because older people are more vulnerable to high temperatures and the populations most affected will be in the poorer Global South.

“Climate change has potentially dire consequences for the health and well-being of older adults,” the authors warned.

“Increases in the intensity, duration, and frequency of heat spells pose direct threats to physical health and mortality risk, with especially severe consequences for older adults, given their heightened susceptibility to hyperthermia and common health conditions worsened by heat exposure.”

Chart showing health risks of high temperatures.
Globally and regionally, dangerously high temperatures are posing an increasing threat to people aged 69 and older. Image: Nature Communications
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How is the World Economic Forum fighting the climate crisis?

2. World’s biggest carbon dioxide removal plant opens in Iceland

Earth’s largest operational direct air capture and storage (DAC+S) plant, which sucks CO2 out of the atmosphere, has opened in Iceland.

Climeworks’ Mammoth plant in Hellisheidi can capture 36,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year and is 10 times the size of the previous largest DAC+S plant, the company’s Orca site, also in Iceland, which has a capacity of 4,000 tons annually.

Billions of tonnes of carbon must be removed from the atmosphere each year to meet global climate goals, scientists warn.

Mammoth works by filtering CO2 from the air and storing it permanently underground – and has successfully started to capture its first carbon, with 12 of its total 72 collector containers installed on-site.

Jan Wurzbacher, co-founder and co-CEO of Climeworks, said: “Starting operations of our Mammoth plant is another proof point in Climeworks’ scale-up journey to megaton capacity by 2030 and gigaton by 2050.”

Climeworks' carbon removal plant.
Climeworks’ Mammoth carbon removal plant in Hellisheidi, Iceland. Image: Climeworks

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

Venezuela may be the first country in modern history to lose all of its glaciers, with the last one downgraded in classification to an ice field. Scientific advocacy organization the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative said the nation's only remaining glacier, the Humboldt or La Corona, had become "too small to be classed as a glacier".

Sixty percent of adults in England say extreme weather has negatively impacted their ability to be physically active, a study has found. Sport England, which produced the report, has announced a new investment package of £45 million “to help sports battle climate change” as part of the funding agency’s first environmental and sustainability strategy.

The extreme heatwave across Asia in April, which caused deaths, water shortages and crop losses, would have been impossible without the climate crisis, according to scientists. Searing heat above 40°C experienced across the region was made 45 times more likely in India and five times more likely in Israel and Palestine due to climate change, they said.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing 10 times faster now than in the past 50,000 years, according to a new study led by researchers from the University of St Andrews and Oregon State University. Kathleen Wendt, lead author, said: “Our research identified the fastest rates of past natural CO2 rise ever observed, and the rate occurring today, largely driven by human emissions, is 10 times higher.”

The world may have had its hottest March on record, but England and Wales saw more than one-and-a-half times their average rainfall for the month. This comes after the UK’s eighth wettest winter since records began more than 150 years ago.

4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

What does it take to thrive as a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO)? A decade ago, the CSO role did not exist in many organizations, but now it’s a crucial position as businesses around the world try to reduce their environmental impact. We look at the four key attributes a CSO needs to succeed.

Demand for critical minerals has doubled in the past five years, as they play a vital role in the construction of green technologies such as wind turbines, electric vehicles and solar panels. Here are some solutions to boost the critical minerals supply chain.

The climate crisis is damaging our mental and physical health, with a World Economic Forum report estimating it will lead to 14.5 million deaths by 2050. From our brains to our bowels, here are five ways the crisis is affecting our health.

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Contents
1. Almost 250 million more older people could be exposed to dangerous heat levels2. World’s biggest carbon dioxide removal plant opens in Iceland3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

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