A Mountain To Climate
October 21, 2021
The Good News
- Taliban will allow a national polio vaccination campaign in Afghanistan, says WHO (NPR)
- U.S. surgeons successfully test pig kidney transplant in human patient (Reuters)
“When I think of immigration, I want to think of families. I want to think of unity. I want to think of a safe place, you know, free of persecution, a place where we can welcome a child that is hungry.” — Rashida Tlaib
A Mountain To Climate
Mount Kilimanjaro — the world’s highest free-standing mountain, Africa’s tallest peak, the stuff of legends and mythology, so popular with experienced hikers and first-time adventurers alike — is doomed to death within 20 years. That is the warning in Tuesday’s latest press release from the World Meteorological Organization et al.
Climate change is shrinking the glaciers of Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, and the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda at rates much higher than the global average. It symbolizes the rapid and widespread changes to come if something drastic doesn’t occur to decelerate greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. Africa’s 1.3 billion people are perhaps the most vulnerable and least responsible for what’s happening to them — the continent’s 54 countries emit less than 4% of all greenhouse gases.
An incomprehensible disconnect remains between dire scientific warnings, what people can personally see and experience, and decisions being made by the energy industry and politicians. The Production Gap Report, first launched in 2019, is a collaboration between climate experts, researchers, academic institutions, and the U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP). It tracks the discrepancy between governments’ planned fossil fuel production per the 2015 Paris Agreement and global production levels consistent with limiting Earth’s warming to 1.5°C or 2°C.
2021’s Production Gap Report was released Wednesday, just days before the October 31 start of a major international climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. The report was compiled by more than 40 contributors who examined 15 major fossil fuel-producing countries. Their analysis showed that governments’ planned fossil fuel production remains dangerously out of sync with Paris Agreement limits. Most major oil and gas producers, and even some major coal producers, plan to extract more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than what would be consistent with the goal of keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). And over the next two decades — to at least 2040 — governments project an increase in global oil and gas production, but only a modest decrease in coal production.
Researchers also found that since 2020, the group of 20 major industrialized and emerging economies have invested more into new fossil fuel projects than into clean energy. Why is that? Perhaps because clearly, despite dire warnings about climate change and fossil fuels (see also the latest IPCC report), energy investors aren’t swayed. “Investors for the most part are not buying into the sky-is-falling climate change narrative,” said the portfolio manager at Wellington-Altus Private Counsel. “There is no doubt [there’s] a transition towards renewables, but the pace of that transition is what is under question.” Here’s the undeniable truth: ‘Pace’ is really the only question. (AP News, WMO, UNFCCC, UNEP, LA Times, IPCC)
Veterans Seeking Promised Benefits
- Over 40 years ago, thousands of South Africans joined the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC) to oust the repressive White-minority government and liberate their country from Apartheid. Now, a group of veterans are demanding benefits they say were promised to them years ago, like pensions, housing, and scholarships for their children.
- As one 58-year-old disgruntled combatant from Soweto said: “I liberated the country, people are enjoying the benefits of it and I am still nothing, not even respected by my own government.” Last week, some of the frustrated veterans barricaded the doors of a hotel ballroom and refused to let the defense minister and two other government officials leave. After three hours, police broke down the doors and arrested 53 protesters.
- On Tuesday, the detainees were charged with kidnapping. Government officials concede that dozens of former freedom fighters haven’t received their promised benefits; they blame a variety of obstacles, including an out-of-date database. A spokesperson estimated that of at least 20,000 veterans from liberation groups, 495 have been compensated since 2016. (NYT)
Putin Them Under Lockdown
- In Russia, a slow vaccination drive, an overwhelmed health care system, and widespread mistrust in the government have combined to plunge the country into its most deadly phase of the coronavirus pandemic to date. On Tuesday, Moscow’s mayor ordered all unvaccinated residents over 60, as well as unvaccinated people “suffering from chronic diseases,” to stay home for four months until late February as the city grapples with the growing crisis. Senior figures have also started openly admitting that the situation is dire as Russians head toward a bleak winter.
- On Wednesday, the same day a record 1,028 official fatalities were registered, President Vladimir Putin approved a proposal to declare non-working days from October 30 to November 7 across Russia in an effort to curb the latest wave of the pandemic. There are concerns that the government’s official figures do not reflect the true scale of its public health emergency. “I think the country is now falling into disaster,” said a Russian epidemiologist and former adviser to the World Health Organization. (CNN)
Additional World News
- Female Afghan Judges and Lawyers Now Fear For Their Lives (NYT, $)
- Bomb attack on Syrian military bus in Damascus kills 14 (CNN)
- Brazil Senate report will urge charges against President Bolsonaro over the pandemic (NPR)
- Volcano in southern Japan erupts with massive smoke column (ABC)
- Ecuador’s president declares 60-day state of emergency over rising crime (Reuters)
- Queen Elizabeth II ‘reluctantly’ accepts medical advice to rest, cancels Northern Ireland visit (WaPo, $)
- Polish prime minister escalates war of words with EU over rule of law (Guardian)
- Very few people love the actual process of grocery shopping, but delivery takes away your ability to choose your own products, leaving your lunchtime salad in the hands of a stranger. But now, there’s Picomart, a supermarket 10 feet from your door.
- Located in apartment lobbies, each Picomart kiosk presents fresh, locally sourced produce, pantry items, and drinks. Unlike traditional supermarkets, Picomart is available 24 hours a day and allows customers to see, feel, and smell the produce they buy.
- Picomart has zero startup cost for apartments. They’ll provide the kiosk, products, and maintenance, while utilizing minimal real estate to provide quality groceries just feet from your door. Check out Picomart today and see if it might be right for your building.
Just Schumer Me
- Senate Republicans remain united in blocking Democrats’ push for new federal voting rights legislation. Joe Manchin (D-W.VA.) is still steadfastly opposed to creating a carve-out to the filibuster rule requiring a supermajority of 60 votes, so support from 10 GOP senators is needed. Manchin spent the summer trying to convince Republican colleagues, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to support a narrower version of the voting rights bill he had helped craft.
- No Senate Republican emerged to even support Manchin’s bill. So in part, to show Manchin the depth of Republican opposition, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for another vote on Wednesday, which would only have permitted a floor debate on voting rights. As expected, the vote failed 51 to 49; for procedural reasons, Schumer joined all 50 Republicans in voting no. One voting rights advocate said now the question for Manchin is if he’s “going to show more loyalty to our democracy and our country” or “to an arcane Senate rule that is arbitrarily blocking your own legislation from being passed?” (WaPo)
A Proud Moment
- In March, Dr. Rachel Levine became not only the first openly transgender person approved by the Senate, but also the highest-ranking transgender federal official in the country when she was confirmed to be assistant secretary of health. Serving under Secretary of Health Xavier Becerra, she joined a cabinet with many other “firsts,” including Becerra, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, EPA chief Michael Regan. and U.S. trade envoy Katherine Tai.
- The former pediatrician has made U.S. history once again as the first openly transgender four-star officer in any of the nation’s eight uniformed services. In a ceremony on Tuesday, Levine was sworn in as a four-star admiral, making her the highest-ranking official in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. The Department of Health and Human Services said Admiral Levine will lead the department’s 6,000 Public Health Service officers, respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and “build a stronger foundation for a healthier future.” (CBS News)
Additional USA News
- Suspected human remains, items belonging to Brian Laundrie found in Florida park, FBI says (CNN)
- Amherst college is ending legacy admissions, which gave an edge to children of alumni (NPR)
- De Blasio Announces Vaccine Mandate for All City Workers (NYT, $)
- Houston plane crash: at least 2 injuries reported after plane crash in Waller County (CNN)
- Newsom expands California drought emergency statewide (The Hill)
- Border arrests have soared to highest levels since 1986, new CBP data shows (WaPo, $)
- Commerce Department announces new rule aimed at stemming sale of hacking tools to repressive governments (WaPo, $)
Sword Of A Big Deal
- An amateur scuba diver exploring the seabed off the coast of northern Israel made an exhilarating discovery that would have excited even the most experienced modern-day prospector. According to a statement published Monday by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), it was during a watery excursion on October 9 that the diver came upon a treasure trove of ancient artifacts “apparently uncovered by waves and undercurrents that had shifted the sand.”
- Among the artifacts — which included stone anchors, metal anchors and pottery fragments — was a 39″ long, 900-year-old sword believed to have belonged to an 11th century Crusader. The sword was found 656 feet from the shore at a depth of 13 feet. It’s made of iron, and well preserved because it had been buried in a deep layer of sand, without oxygen. It weighs around 11-13 pounds due to the heavy incrustation of stones, shells, and marine organisms, but the sword itself probably weighs 2.2-4.4 pounds. Besides its size and shape suggesting it belonged to a Crusader, the sword was found just a few kilometers from Atlit Castle, a Crusader fortress. As a reminder, the Crusades were military expeditions by Western European Christians carried out between 1096 to the late 13th century that aimed to retake the Holy Land in the Middle East after centuries of Muslim wars of expansion.
- The coastline in the area has many natural coves that provided shelter for ancient merchant ships, and settlements such as Dor and Atlit developed around the larger coves. The site has been monitored since June, when some artifacts were first discovered by members of the public. Other artifacts recovered from the site show it was used in the Late Bronze Age, some 4,000 years ago, by ships seeking shelter. While there’s a wealth of potential archaeological finds, the movement of the sands means artifacts are “very elusive,” which makes finding a sword in perfect condition a rare find. “It is exciting to encounter such a personal object, taking you 900 years back in time to a different era, with knights, armor and swords,” said the inspector for the IAA’s Robbery Prevention Unit. The sword will be cleaned and researched in IAA laboratories and thereafter displayed to the public. (CNN)
- Hail, Mary! High school’s halftime show is a drag pageant (AP)
- The world is banking on giant carbon-sucking fans to clean our climate mess. It’s a big risk. (CNN)
- Myth, busted: Spider silk might not have antibiotic properties after all (Ars Technica)
- New Zealand police respond to 4-year-old’s adorable emergency call (CNN)
- The mission to break barriers to space travel for people with disabilities (The Verge)
- Vikings were in the Americas exactly a thousand years ago (CNN)
- Trapped in amber: Fossilized dinosaur-era crab bridges evolutionary gap (Ars Technica)
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