View Q&A: Europe’s heatwaves show we might be spinning out of control

As Europe swelters in record temperatures this summer, Euronews View spoke to Global Chief Heat Officer at UN-Habitat Eleni Myrivili about the impact of the extreme heat and what can be done to save lives and make our cities more liveable.

Large parts of southern and eastern Europe have been sweltering in soaring temperatures once more due to the latest string of heatwaves caused by a massive anticyclone aptly named Charon.

The record-breaking temperatures reached the mid to high 40s in Italy and Greece and even approached the 50s in parts of Spain, causing a spike in heat-related deaths as authorities scrambled for measures that would ease their impact.

Wildfires, another consequence of extreme heat, have been raging in several European countries, including Greece and Italy, disrupting travel, endangering towns and cities in their path and forcing evacuations of tens of thousands of people.

The continent has experienced a similar pattern over the previous summers, yet scientists are now warning that the window to turn things around and revert the climate emergency is becoming exceptionally slim.

Euronews View spoke with Global Chief Heat Officer at UN-Habitat and Board Member at the EU Mission for Adaptation of the European Commission, Eleni Myrivili, about the consequences of extreme weather events have on the continent’s citizens and the immediate and long-term measures governments can implement to save lives and make our cities more liveable. 

Euronews View: You have done an immense amount of work on extreme heat both locally in the city of Athens and on a much larger scale. What can you tell us about where we are now in 2023 in terms of the heatwaves we are experiencing?

Eleni Myrivili: I’ve been working since 2021 in Athens as a chief heat officer, but I had started working on heat resilience before that in Athens, so I created the strategy and started doing different kinds of measures and policies in relation to heat resilience since 2017, and I didn’t really expect things to accelerate so fast.

I mean, it’s not really a surprise, but this year, with the heat domes sitting over the US, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and China, it kind of got really scary. It’s been weeks and weeks of heatwaves and then a couple of days of respite, and then again and again.

It feels like we might have started spinning out of control, which is something that the scientists have been talking about and which is what we’ve been trying to prevent by sticking with the 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, with the Paris Agreement.

But it seems like things have started maybe already to get a little bit out of control because it’s happening fast, right? 

In Europe, we seem to be heating up twice as fast as the global average. The global average today is 1.1C, 1.2C, and in Europe, we’ve already reached an average of 2.2C from the pre-industrial era. 

And that’s because the Arctic is heating up very fast and because of the Mediterranean. So the south and the north are bringing up the average. 

But hopefully, this will become a wake-up call because it’s in the Northern Hemisphere, so the big polluters are the ones now dealing with these extreme heat events, and I’m still hoping this will move the mitigation aspect much much faster.

Euronews View: The extreme temperatures felt in the south of the continent have still not reached Europe’s generally colder parts. Could you explain what kind of difficulties people experience in their daily lives in a city like Athens, where they have to deal with rolling heatwaves like we’ve seen this summer?

Eleni Myrivili: First of all, it’s the fact that we have a very high death threat. We don’t really know yet, but we’re very worried about what the impact of these rolling heatwaves will be on the mortality of the people that are most vulnerable in Athens.

We have a city that has a lot of people that are above 60 years old — in Europe, we do have a lot of people that are older in relation to other continents. We have a high average age, and this is a problem because people over 60 are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat.

But it’s not just them. It’s also women that are pregnant, babies, young children, and people with pre-existing conditions — any kind of pre-existing conditions, any kind of problems that the body might have from physical to mental illness, really deteriorates fast with heat.

And then we also have people that work that are also very vulnerable, and we’re really worried for their health. 

So last year, in 2022, we thought we had lost about 15,000 to 20,000 people in all of Europe linked to extreme heat. Two weeks ago, we had a report that actually raised the number to over 60,000 people. 

When we lose 60,000 people in one summer because of one extreme phenomenon, we have to make sure people realise how bad this is. So one aspect has to do with death morbidity and mortality, and we will find out months later what the exact numbers were.

The other very big issue is work productivity. So we have a city that starts kind of not really functioning because everything slows down, and all the kind of ways that people interact and all the ways that people work slow down.

So that’s why we have the people that are working in manual jobs because of fatigue because they don’t sleep. Due to this long period of heat, what starts happening is that we have higher levels of work-related injuries.

**Euronews View: What about lifestyle and basic services? 

Eleni Myrivili: Another issue that happens in Athens is that the city slowly empties out, the people withdraw inside or into airconditioned areas, or they come out only at night or after sunset. 

This is a real pity because our cities in the Mediterranean are lively and beautiful, and vibrant in the summer. People in them love to meet and hang out and eat and talk, and I’m hoping we’re not going to see our cities become more and more cities that are just outside-inside, where this continuum kind of stops.

And finally, tourism is also an issue. We have to realise that we have to protect the tourists who might not be so accustomed to these crazy temperatures. 

So in Athens, together with the Red Cross, we had ambulances outside of the Acropolis giving out water and information, we closed the Acropolis and other archaeological spaces, but it’s a weird kind of shutting down of vital parts of the city. 

And also, there’s the fear of energy blackouts. We have had a few blackouts in some of the suburbs, but I believe they were more linked to the fires that were closer to Athens about two weeks ago. 

But there is this lingering stress about our infrastructure, especially our basic resources: water, energy, and food that we will make sure we have enough — and thankfully, we didn’t have any serious problems yet as far as I can tell.

Euronews View: All of this points to a bigger trend where the quality of life suffers, which seems very juxtaposed to the general outside view of “Well, doesn’t that just mean that you have nicer weather for longer,” or “The tourists are going to love it, and more tourists are going to come because it’s sunnier and hotter and they’re going to enjoy the seaside even more.”

**Meanwhile, what kind of remedies are there that you can maybe envision or propose that can be done immediately? **

Eleni Myrivili: One thing that has made me happy is that since last year, the Greek Ministry of Labour and the city of Athens have created a decree that has put into effect a really detailed set of guidelines for workers and employers that they have to follow in order to protect the workers from heatwaves. 

And also, just last week, because we had the real peak of the third heatwave, there was a special addition to the decree that between 11 am and 5 pm, they prohibited all deliveries, including closing down all the platforms for deliveries. This is really at the forefront of all the different measures that we can take. 

Then there is a whole series of different measures that we can take to protect the most vulnerable. 

A lot of cities have done a lot of different things, but there are more short-term measures like making sure that during heatwaves, people have access to information, spaces that can protect them, and water and cooling mechanisms so that they can protect themselves.

Then the other big category is creating cities that are cooler, which involves how we deal with the public space, how we design the public space and what we do with the public space and how we deal with our construction sector and how we retrofit kind of our construction sector so that we can make a difference. 

Euronews View: Thinking ahead, what would be the actual cure for this? What would be the solution?

Eleni Myrivili: So the main thing, just the most basic thing that gives comfort to people, is shade. 

If we manage to give them shade from trees and water elements, this is the best possible option because trees don’t just create shade — they do this thing called vapour transpiration, which lowers the temperature, so actually, they are amazing for people, and they’re life-saving for cities.

We have to slowly make our public spaces, which are made out of cement and concrete, into more water-permeable, green-and-blue kind of infrastructure. 

And we also have to slowly take cars away from the city centres, which often is not very popular but will become more and more a matter of survival for our cities.

Cars heat up the atmosphere and the air of the cities even more, like air conditioning, and also they take up a lot of our public space. 

In many of our cities, the majority of our public spaces are dedicated to cars, which is ridiculous, so this has to stop.

And also, we have to stop making any kind of public places, such as big squares and big monumental interventions, that don’t take into account the idea of the idea of lowering temperatures by creating wind movement or shading into the design really seriously.

These are the basic principles that we have to start using for our public spaces and one of the most important things we can do for our cities. 

I call this third pillar redesign — a whole series of things we have to do to redesign our cities, and the second pillar is something I call preparedness — which are all these short-term measures we can take to protect the most vulnerable. 

The first pillar is what I call awareness raising, which is ensuring that we make it clear that this is a very, very dangerous factor for our health. 

There’s no other disaster out of all kinds of disasters linked to extreme weather events, or linked to other things like earthquakes, that has the amount of mortality linked to it as the heat has. 

In Europe, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands or 100,000 in a decade, while all the other things amount to 1,000, 3,000. The numbers tend to be really, really small in relation to the people we lose to the heat. 

And this is still something that people have to realise — and realise the seriousness of it.

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Wonkette Book Club Part 6: A Future Up In The Air

This week we finish up our reading of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2020 climate change epic The Ministry for the Future, and we close out our visit to a possible world where humanity manages, just barely, to save itself from the climate change disaster it created. Or at least that’s the case, as the song says, for the people who are still alive.

Since the start of the novel, with Chapter 1’s horrific heat wave in India, untold hundreds of millions of humans have died in the climate-related disasters and economic shocks resulting from 40 to 50 years of continued warming, although near the end of the novel atmospheric carbon has not only stopped increasing, but is finally beginning to decline. Of course, there’s still no guarantee that humanity still won’t find wonderful new ways to wipe itself out.

Cagey bastard writer that he is, Robinson begins Chapter 89 with the confirmation that yes, CO2 in the atmosphere is really declining, and has been for several years, so it’s clearly not a seasonal or economic blip. He immediately follows that with the assassination of Tatiana, the tough Russian member of the Ministry team, whose death (we never find out who did it) is devastating to Mary Murphy, who throws herself into work, as she does.

That all leads up to the international COP (Committee of the Parties) meeting in Zurich in Chapter 94, which includes a “global stocktake” of progress on climate, and what still needs to be done. Fun fact: Out here in reality, this year’s COP28, to be held in December in Dubai, will include the conclusion of the first global stocktake, a two-year process that started at 2021’s COP26 in Glasgow.

In a turn that should only happen in fiction, COP28 will be presided over by the head of an oil company. Sigh.

Unlike the mostly-celebratory COP58 in the novel, this year’s delegates will be reporting that we’re far behind where we should be to meet the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting warming since 1880 to below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), let alone the goal of 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F), which will still be quite bad enough. On average, the world is already at 1.1 degrees (1.9 degrees F) above 1880, and carbon emissions keep rising. That said, the rate of increase appears to finally be slowing as methane (“natural”) gas power generation increasingly replaces coal and as more renewables come online, so as David Wallace-Wells wrote last fall (NYT gift link), the worst-case scenarios projected just a few years ago are actually looking less likely.

But back to the novel: At COP58 (it’s an annual meeting, so the book is now up to 2053), there’s lots of good news to report, particularly that big banner showing a leveling off and decline in the Keeling Curve, the zigzag measurement of atmospheric carbon that today is still only going up, from preindustrial levels of 280 to 300 parts per million.

In case you were wondering, today’s reading is 422.97 ppm. The year I was born, it was 318.43 ppm. You can look up your birth year up here. The highest level mentioned in Ministry for the Future is 475.

In the closing chapters we read this week, Frank is diagnosed with a brain tumor, and Mary visits him as often as possible in hospice, even working from his hospital room as he quickly declines and eventually dies. (I’m listening to Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” while writing this, because it’s always good to write to. Mary is right.) Climate refugees are released from camps and given the opportunity to relocate anywhere, with the costs being shared by the rich nations, and that’s some real science fiction there, I fear. But then, the world’s economy has been rearranged to make that more possible.

Mary eventually retires, nominating Badim as acting head of the Ministry, and she travels around the world with Captain Art Nolan, an airship pilot who ushers tour groups around to see the animals that are returning to newly depopulated parts of the world. Mary is ready for romance, but they don’t quite take the plunge.

Semi-spontaneously, the world Zeitgeists a new holiday, Gaia Day, into existence, so Badim’s dream of an environmentalism-based religion may have seen its first spark. Mary and Badim have a guarded conversation about the things his “black wing” of the Ministry did, and didn’t do. And Sky Captain Art returns for the last chapter, a literally carnivalesque Zurich festival celebrating the end of winter.

And in contrast to the novel’s first words, “It was getting hotter,” that’s no longer the case, except seasonally — there is no such thing as fate.

So let’s talk about this sucker! As always, these discussion questions are just a few of the things that occurred to me, but don’t feel limited to these. The other usual disclaimer: If you’re behind on the reading, or haven’t read the book at all, no problem, we’re not grading any of this. The conversation about climate is every bit as important. Also, no worries about spoilers, because hey, this is our last meeting!

1) How has the dynamic between Mary and Frank evolved over the course of the novel (if it has), and how does it relate to the book’s overall themes? Is Frank Mary’s Greek chorus or Jiminy Cricket, or something else?

2) After Badim meets with representatives of the Children of Kali to tell them that it’s time for the violence to stop (Chapter 78), terrorism does seem to largely vanish, at least from the plot of the novel, apart from reminders that the threat of being torpedoed has led shipping companies to retrofit container ships to run on solar, figuring the slower speed into their business model; by the time Mary takes her airship tour, most cargo ships are fully robotic, too. Again, I’m not sure that even effective, coordinated terrorism would have that effect, and the disappearance of the Kali groups from the final 30 or so chapters seems like a loose thread. Your thoughts?

3) Remember that terrific Wired profile of Jamie Beard, who’s doing everything she possibly can to get oil drilling companies to shift their expertise to enhanced geothermal? (We linked to it in Part 4 of the book club) My favorite climate-n-energy nerd David Roberts recently interviewed her on his Volts podcast, and she is exactly as brilliant, witty, and OMG even optimistic about the energy potential of geothermal as you’d expect from the profile. (If you’re not a podcast person, there’s also a transcript)

Why yes, this was more of a comment than a question. But it says a hell of a lot that Ministry doesn’t say much at all about using Earth’s own heat as an energy source, not because Robinson dropped the ball while researching the book, but because in the two and a half years since it was published, interest and investment in geothermal has accelerated to the point that it’s likely to be a huge part of the clean energy transition. As it happens, the very same month Ministry was published, October 2020, Roberts wrote that geothermal was “poised for a big breakout.” (He and Beard talk about that piece in the podcast, since it really did help shape much of the interest in geothermal.) The technology’s prospects are even more exciting now, with pilot projects in the works — another area Beard is helping with via a newly launched nonprofit, Project InnerSpace.

OK, fine, I’ll just embed Beard’s TED Talk too. It’s Saturday, so we can be a bit sprawling.

4) I really want to talk about how we can be optimistic about climate. Not in any Pollyannaish “Oh, they’ll figure it out” sense, but in the way I think Ministry for the Future encourages: very much aware of the challenges, and always on the lookout for ways to leverage existing systems to make significant advances. (One obvious example: the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which is already remaking American industrial and energy policy. We need a lot more like it, but combined with other Biden policies, it’s really very freaking impressive! How did Ministry for the Future — or our discussions of it here — affect your overall sense of what we can do about climate?

That’s plenty to start with, and please, add other questions and ideas as we discuss! I plan to come back to the discussion all weekend, too.

The one rule I am going to enforce strictly for this post is that, to keep the conversation focused, I will remove any off topic comments and ask you to move ’em to the open threads, either the Top Ten from this morning, or the late-afternoon Open thread later. I’d honestly like to keep the book & climate conversation going all weekend, and if you wanna come back and say more, please do so!

Here are our previous installments:

Book Club Part 1

Book Club Part 2

Book Club Part 3

Book Club Part 4

Book Club Part 5

Wonkette depends on your donations to keep going, so if you can, please give $5 or $10 monthly. And if you’re planning to shop at Amazon, the linky below gives Yr Wonkette a small cut

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New Jersey Schools Get Climate Education In Your Peanut Butter, Or At Least In Kids’ Hydroponic Lettuce

It’s entirely understandable that thinking about climate change can be incredibly depressing. There’s so much that should have been done sooner, and the crisis has gotten so much worse than it would have been if the world had taken action 30 or 40 years ago. We’re finally doing some of what’s going to be needed to prevent the absolute worst of the worst case scenarios from happening, probably, as David Wallace-Wells wrote last fall (New York Times gift link), but the job is so much more urgent and we’re long past the point where everything could have been just fine. But nearly every time I write about climate, I’m also impressed that there are so many extremely smart people doing extremely cool things that will genuinely help the world transition to clean energy and keep the planet more or less habitable for big dumb mammals like humans and even writers of Twilight fan fiction.

Now, if you’re teaching about climate science to elementary school kids, you don’t want to bum them out and make them lose hope, in part because that’s what middle school is for, but mostly because it’s not going to get them enthusiastic about learning. Which is why we were so delighted by this New York Times article (another gift link) about creative things teachers in New Jersey are doing to fulfill the state’s mandate that climate education be included in every grade. The goal is to get kids thinking about problem-solving and understanding that what humans do affects the world around them — in good ways, too:

Tammy Murphy, the wife of Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, was the driving force behind the new standards. She said climate change education was vital to help students attune to the planet’s health, prepare for a new economy based on green energy and adapt to climate shifts that promise to intensify as this generation of children reaches adulthood.

But the state’s method of teaching its youngest learners about climate change arguably does something more profound: Instead of focusing on the doom and gloom, the standards are designed to help children connect with what’s going on in the natural world around them, and, crucially, learn how to solve problems.

In a lovely introduction, we see a class of first-graders brainstorming ideas about what might be done to help penguins in Antarctica adapt to a warming continent. The kids are very into it, suggesting things like helping the penguins migrate someplace colder, or giving them floaties, or maybe offering to let some penguins live in the kids’ refrigerator. And by golly, the kids really do give it serious thought, like the little science fiends small humans can be:

One boy said the birds could cool off in the water, but reconsidered after remembering all the hungry orcas awaiting them there.

Now, obviously, none of these measures is going to be adopted by the UN’s Ministry for the Future, especially since it’s as fictional as the penguin-filled Frigidaire. But the goal is to promote inventive thinking and to get kids engaged in science. In another more real demonstration, the first graders’ teacher, Michelle Liwacz, is growing hydroponic lettuce and spinach in the classroom, which the kids will have for a nice green salad. Here’s a tweet from the school’s principal, Jeanne Muzi, who also gets a mention in the Times story.

Currently, the Times reports, New Jersey requires that climate be taught in

seven out of nine subject areas, including social studies and world languages. The board is expected to vote this summer on whether to require that climate change be expanded to the two remaining subject areas, English language arts and math.

And that’s all to the good, considering that climate change is going to be a part of all our lives going forward. Yes, some grumpy climate denialists are unhappy about the idea, because learning anything at all is “indoctrination,” but the heck with them, they’re not simply wrong, they’re also not representative of New Jerseyans in general, 70 percent of whom said in a recent poll that they support climate education. National polling also shows overwhelming support for climate education.

The really important thing, says elementary science education professor Lauren Madden of the College of New Jersey, is to help kids learn about climate change in a way that’s empowering for them, which means not putting it off until they’re older:

“When we shield them from so much, they’re not ready to unpack it when they learn about it, and it becomes more scary than when they understand they’re in a position where they can actively think about solutions,” Dr. Madden said. “When you take kids seriously that way, and trust them with that information, you can allow them to feel empowered to make locally relevant solutions.”

The curriculum even includes very simple lessons for kindergarteners, who learn that everything is connected, like pollinating insects and the food we eat, or even, in a lesson the first graders clearly loved, how to think about cause and effect: Sharks seem scary, but if they disappeared, one little girl exclaimed, other fish would go hungry because many fish eat shark poop!

And by Crom, if learning about fish that eat shark poop gets kids thinking about the world and their place in it, we should all be excited that kids are learning about shark poop.

It’s such a good story. Go read the whole thing!

And don’t forget to join us this afternoon for the fifth installment of our Wonkette Book Club; we’re about three quarters of the way through Kim Stanley Robinson’s epic 2020 climate novel The Ministry for the Future, and — not really a spoiler — the War for Planet Earth is finally going in some cautiously optimistic directions. We’ll be back with that in a bit, so be ready to join the conversation, yes even if you haven’t done the reading, because damn it, the news is grim but there’s also a lot to be hopeful about.

Oh, and be sure to let the penguins out of the fridge now and then. They need the exercise.

[New York Times (gift link) / NYT (also gift link) / Photo: Ted Eytan, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Plucky Kids Sue Montana Over Climate Policies, THIS WHOLE COURT’S OUT OF ORDER!

In Montana, the Big Sky (when there’s not a wildfire) State, a group of 16 young people ranging in age from five to 22 are getting their day — or two weeks, more like — in court, in a first of its kind lawsuit against the state, claiming that Montana policies favoring fossil fuels have failed to provide the state constitution’s guarantee of a healthy environment “for present and future generations.” The trial in the case of Held v. State of Montanagot underway Monday, with expert testimony on the reality of climate change, as well as testimony from two of the plaintiffs on how the climate crisis has directly affected them and their families.

A lot of climate-related lawsuits have sought damages and injunctive relief against fossil fuel companies that knew damn well their products contributed to global warming; in the US, many such suits have so far been thrown out or are still working their way through early procedural stages. Happy news: An April US Supreme Court decision allowing such suits in state courts may help move a number of cases forward. Held v. Montana, filed in 2020, wasn’t affected either way, since the defendant is the state itself.

The lawsuit argues that the state’s energy policy violates the state constitution by promoting fossil fuel development and use. It also seeks to strike down a provision of the Montana Environmental Policy Act that flatly forbids the state from considering climate change when approving energy projects. Despite last minute attempts to get the state Supreme Court to throw out the case, it’s going forward this week in Lewis and Clark District Court, under Judge Kathy Seeley.

In opening arguments Monday, the Guardian reports,

Roger Sullivan, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, explained that climate change is fueling drought, wildfires, extreme heat and other environmental disasters throughout Montana, taking a major toll on the young plaintiffs’ health and wellbeing. There is a “scientific consensus”, he noted, that these changes can be traced back to the burning of fossil fuels.

He described how some plaintiffs have asthma that has been worsened by abundant wildfire smoke in recent years. Some love to hunt and fish but have seen stocks deteriorate. One plaintiff works as a ski instructor – a job threatened by warm winter temperatures and decreasing snowfall. And others are members of Indigenous tribes whose cultural practices are threatened by climate crisis-linked shifts in weather patterns, he said.

Montana is responsible for more planet-heating pollution than some countries, said Sullivan. Without urgent action, these climate consequences will only get worse.

Plaintiffs. Pic by the editrix’s dear best friend Susan Evans

The state, represented by assistant Attorney General Michael D. Russell, argued that since climate change is a global problem, nothing Montana does on its own can be proven to have made any difference one way or the other, aw shucks. He also claimed that the state no longer promotes fossil fuels since the state this year repealed its 30-year-old energy policy, so there’s nothing to sue over.

“This case as it currently exists is far more boring than the plaintiffs would make it out to be,” Russell told the court. “It’s simply a challenge to a discreet provision to a purely procedural statute.”

While it’s true that one bill passed this spring repealed the old climate policy, a bunch of others very specifically promote fossil fuels, like the measure prohibiting climate considerations in permitting, and other measures that will

loosen coal-mining regulations, prohibit local governments from adopting regulations to steer their communities toward cleaner energy sources, and make it harder and more expensive for environmental groups to delay or stop projects with litigation.

One bill even prohibits local building codes from “requiring solar panels, solar panel-ready wiring or electric vehicle charger-ready wiring in new construction,” and another forbids bans on methane gas hookups, because George Washington fought to secure a future for gas stoves. What we’re saying is, that guy’s a fucking liar.

Testimony began with Mae Nan Ellingson, who was a delegate to Montana’s constitutional convention in 1972, where she had advocated for the provision guaranteeing Montanans the right to a “clean and healthful environment.” This paragraph from the Montana Free Press sure makes us like her. When she moved to Missoula to attend the University of Montana in the ’60s, Ellingson testified, air pollution was

so bad that she couldn’t see Mount Sentinel, the iconic prominence that looms over the campus. She began phoning in reports to the local radio station and joined the group Gals Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), signaling her entrée to environmental activism.

No two ways about it: The Left has way more fun with acronyms.

The court also heard from Nikki Held, the lead plaintiff in the case, who grew up on a ranch in southeast Montana and in middle school helped gather data for a

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research project surveying cross sections of Montana’s Powder River, one of the longest undammed waterways in the West, which happens to pass through her family property. That research experience, along with learning about climate change in school, led Held to study environmental science at Colorado College, where she graduated with her bachelor’s degree just a few weeks ago.

Held testified that she had seen firsthand the effects of a changing climate on her family’s ranch, including “wildfires, drought, flooding, more extreme weather events such as windstorm and hail, changes in wildlife behavior,” and pointed out that her family ranch has seen drought and declining snowfall threaten its water supply. She started to discuss how the climate crisis has left her stressed out, but the state objected since that was “speculative,” and Judge Seeley sustained the objection since Held isn’t a climate expert or a psychologist.

The court also heard from expert witness Steven Running, a professor emeritus of ecosystem and conservation science at U of M, who explained the scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by greenhouse gases, resulting in worldwide effects that include Montana, like, even if Republicans say it’s not allowed to.

“I think Montana and really everywhere else needs to, as rapidly as possible, quit burning fossil fuels,” said Running, who was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for which he won the Nobel Peace prize in 2007. “It’s quite straightforward.”

Weirdly, as Running answered questions about a report this year from the IPCC, Mark Stermitz, an attorney for the state, objected that the IPCC report was “hearsay” somehow, a complaint Seeley denied. When he cross-examined Running, Stermitz asked whether Montana can stop climate change all on its own, aha, gotcha! Running agreed that a single state can’t do that, but that Montana could indeed lead wider action:

“What has been shown in history over and over and over again is that when a significant social movement is needed, it’s often been started by one or two or three people,” Running said.

The Guardian did not note whether the state’s attorneys mocked Running by singing “Kumbaya” in falsetto, but you just know they wanted to.

The trial continues today and the rest of the week; you can even watch it online here when court is in session. Not like anything else of interest is going on.

Susan Evans

Also, don’t forget our Wonkette Book Club continues; We’re reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2020 climate epic The Ministry for the Future, which is about, among other things, building a legal case for keeping the planet habitable for young people, even the non-plucky ones.

[Guardian/ Montana Free Press / Guardian / Our Children’s Trust / Photo by Nikki Held, provided to Montana Free Press]

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California To Do Socialism On Electric Bills To Spur Clean Power Transition. ‘Yes! YES!’ Say Sickos.

California electric bills are some of the highest in the USA, but in the next few years, as part of the state’s efforts to decarbonize the power sector, California will start charging high-income residents a higher basic rate for electricity while reducing basic charges for lower-income customers. At the same time, the state’s three big for-profit utilities would reduce the metered cost of electricity use, making it more affordable for people to switch from gas heat and stoves to electric, and rewarding energy efficiency and the adoption of rooftop solar.

Rich people aren’t happy, of course, because why should they pay more so non-rich people can have more affordable power? Well, because you can, and spreading out the costs of decarbonization benefits everyone. You’ll benefit (really, you and all future generations on the planet will benefit) from everyone pumping less carbon into the atmosphere. The sooner, the better, for all of us.

A short ‘splainer, via the Guardian:

Electricity bills are made up of fixed costs as well as fees that vary based on the amount of electricity residents use. Last year, the state passed a law giving the California public utilities commission a 1 July 2024 deadline to determine a fixed charge for household electric bills based on people’s income.

The new income-based electricity bills could hit residents’ mailboxes as soon as 2025. Based on proposals currently under consideration, residents who make more than $180,000 a year could pay about $500 more annually on their electricity bills, while Californians who make less than $28,000 annually could save up to $300 a year. The law is part of the state’s answer of how to equitably transition away from carbon as an energy source.

One of the reasons California electricity is so expensive is that utilities have higher costs for paying off damage done by wildfires that were caused by their crappy maintenance. (And climate change.) Those costs have been passed on to all utility customers in the form of higher electricity prices based on use, which has made methane gas (you know it as “natural”) stoves, heaters, and water heaters more attractive, especially to lower income ratepayers. High electricity costs may also be a disincentive to adoption of electric vehicles, although even California’s higher electric rates are a huge savings over gassing up an internal combustion vehicle.

(Yes, yes, even better to seize the costs of wildfires directly from PG&E shareholders, at gunpoint maybe, but piracy remains illegal unless you’re a pirate with a PAC.)

As the Washington Post (gift link) explains

That’s where the new law, which passed last summer as part of a larger energy bill, comes in. First proposed by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the nonprofit Next 10, the plan would split utility costs into two buckets: Fixed charges, which everyone has to pay just to be connected to the grid, and variable charges, which depend on how much electricity you use. Proponents say that the creation of fixed charges would cover things like wildfire preparedness and grid updates — and would also lower electricity costs based on usage. In theory, that would make it easier to convince Californians to electrify.

Adjusting the monthly fixed charges based on income helps overcome the regressive nature of having all ratepayers pay the same fixed charge, said UC Berkeley economist Meredith Fowlie, one of the proposal’s co-authors. “If you can mimic an income tax, it’s less regressive,” she said.

This is where we make you watch this video from Tabs this morning, which explains why it’s pretty bogus when for-profit utilities claim that home solar increases electricity costs for the poor. That’s only a problem when utilities react to customers adopting solar by imposing the same higher monthly user fees on everyone to “make up” for the revenue they don’t reap from selling power to people who are making their own with home solar.

As video host Matt Ferrell explains, higher monthly fees with lower rates for use can actually leave lower income people paying a proportionally higher amount for electricity while more well-off customers pay less for electricity even if they don’t reduce their usage. While Ferrell doesn’t discuss California’s plan for income-based monthly user fees in the video, it stands to reason that progressive user fees based on income would cover the utility’s fixed costs more equitably, while still helping home solar pay off through reduced use of power. Maybe a little piracy?

UC Berkeley prof Severin Borenstein, another co-author of the Next 10 report, didn’t use the words socialism or redistribution in explaining it to the Guardian, but that was the gist of the plan for shifting costs from rates to progressive user fees.

Everybody can’t put in solar if we’re paying for all of these other costs through per-kilowatt-hour charges. That just gets you into a death spiral where prices go higher and higher. And we know who will be the last people that have solar. It will be poor people.

So hell yes, this sounds like a good idea: Rich people pay a little more, less-wealthy people pay a little less (and can afford an ebike or a down payment on home solar) and while we’re at it let’s do a second climate bill that subsidizes ebikes, funds wider energy efficiency upgrades in low-income housing, and more community solar for low income neighborhoods, too.

Here comes the part where I remind you to stop by Friday for Part 4 of our Wonkette Book Club, where we’re reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2020 climate novel The Ministry for the Future. More on the book club and this week’s reading (Chapters 51 through 69, nice) here!

[Guardian / Designing Electricity Rates for an Equitable Transition (Next 10) / WaPo (gift link) / Newser / Undecided with Matt Ferrell on YouTube]

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End Global Warming With This One Weird Trick! Tabs, Friday, June 2, 2023

I’m about a third of the way through listening to the Audm audio version of this new York Times story (gift linky) on Vienna’s “social housing” system, which since 1919 has provided public housing not only to low-income folks, but also to middle-income Wieners as well — for about 3.5 percent of “the average semiskilled worker’s income.”

In Vienna, a whopping 80 percent of residents qualify for public housing, and once you have a contract, it never expires, even if you get richer. Housing experts believe that this approach leads to greater economic diversity within public housing — and better outcomes for the people living in it.

Vienna’s wide availability of public housing even keeps the costs of private housing low. Amazing stuff. America’s worship of the mythical “free market” is why we can’t have nice things. [New York Times gift link]

Joe Biden tripped over a sandbag onstage at the Air Force Academy commencement ceremony and got up again, and it’s as if Gerald Ford never even existed. Funny, though, for being on death’s door, he still out-negotiated that youngster McCarthy. [Reuters]

Chuck Schumer says the Senate will stay in session until it passes the bill to raise the debt ceiling. [Guardian]

Oh, yay, it passed, and will now go to Joe Biden for his signature. Huzzay. [NBC News]

No, Skynet isn’t here. But in an Air Force simulation, an AI drone went a little funny and “killed” the human operator who was supposed to give final approval for the drone’s attacks. This all happened in a computer, so nobody was actually harmed, although we can’t guarantee that the AI didn’t also sent a little CGI flag to a grieving spouse in The Sims. Also, nerds were pretty they recognized that plot line. [Vice] Update: an Air Force spokesperson later denied that any such simulation had actually been run, and that the colonel who told the story at an aviation conference had been speaking “anecdotally,” which we assume means “pulling a good story out of his butt.” [Guardian]

This is not to say that idiot businesspeople won’t make extremely stupid decisions about AI, using their own stupid organic brains, like the operators of an eating disorders helpline who reacted to the threat of workers unionizing by laying off their human workers and planning to shut down the phone line, which would be replaced by a chatbot. Before the chatbot was out of beta testing, the nonprofit reversed course because the chatbot gave advice that could have encouraged disordered eating. [Vice again]

That said, one of my favorite Rogue AI science fiction stories is a My Little Pony fanfic set in our own world, in which Hasbro develops an AI toy that takes its mission of building an immersive online My Little Pony MMOentirely too seriously, with world-changing consequences. Enjoy “Friendship Is Optimal.”

An intrepid reporter figured out that a small plane circling over West Baltimore for weeks was — ta da! — an FBI surveillance plane. What exactly it was looking at/for is still a mystery. A nice journalistic whodunnit, or whoflewit maybe. [Baltimore Banner]

Far Right Twitter hatemonger Tim Pool is just the latest rightwing idiot astonished to learn that Rage Against the Machine is not fond of Nazis. [Uproxx]

By complete coincidence, just hours later, horrorporncomedy novelist Chuck Tingle (Author of Space Raptor Butt Invasion and Pounded In The Butt By My Own Butt) released a new ebook with the distinctly Chuck Tingly title CONSERVATIVE POUNDED BY THE REALIZATION THAT THE PROTEST MUSIC HE GREW UP ON DOES NOT ACTUALLY SUPPORT HIS CURRENT HATEFUL IDEOLOGY. It is about a Senator Porp Gringle, who’s bent on keeping everyone from having nice things — even healthcare for unicorns! He sadly realizes that his once-favorite band, Anger Against The System, is actually Angry at him. Then there’s a lot of fucking, as you’d expect. [Chuck Tingle on Twitter / Amazon (Wonkette-gets-a-cut link)

A US Housing and Urban Development program will provide $837.5 million to retrofit older public housing units to make them energy efficient and more resilient to climate change, installing heat pumps, solar panels, and improved roofing. It’s terrific, but because Joe Biden’s initial plan for $15 billion for the work got whittled down to less than a billion in the Inflation Reduction Act, HUD will only be able to upgrade a few hundred of the nearly 24,000 properties that could be eligible. Mark that one down on the list for second term goals, please, along with restoring the expanded Child Tax Credit. You wouldn’t catch Vienna cheaping out like certain senators from a coal state did. [Grist]

Speaking of climate — and are we ever not? — a report from Arizona’s Department of Water Resources this week found that there’s not enough groundwater under the Phoenix metro area to meet expected demand in the next century, which could finally put the brakes on developments in the outlying suburbs. And yet again the ghost of Edward Abbey is giving us the finger and saying “I said that more than 50 years ago!” [Washington Post gift link]

Speaking even more of climate, don’t forget that this afternoon we’ll be posting the third installment of our Wonkette Book Club discussion of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2020 climate novel The Ministry for the Future (as ever, that Amazon link gives Wonkette a tiny cut of sales). Today, we’ll talk about chapters 31 through 50, but even if you haven’t done the reading, join us for the discussion of climate anyway. It’s not a class and you won’t be graded. I’m genuinely delighted by the quality of our discussions so far! Also, check out our previous two chats about the book! Part 1Part 2

Finally here are your traditional pics of Thornton, who went right back to sleep after I clumsily bumped the chair where his little basket bed sits. oh! oh! jail for father! jail for father for One Thousand Years!

Happy Friday!

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Climate change is hurting the Earth. It will hurt your wallet, too

By Gary Yohe, Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Emeritus, Wesleyan University

Climate change will endanger financial security, our personal health, and the planet we love living on. Real solutions will only come from governments that require equal participation and collaboration between all, Prof Gary Yohe writes.

A recent study by a group of scientists and economists reveals that climate change is more than an environmental problem. It’s an economic crisis too. 

The Illinois professors claim that decreasing pollution by 90% and suppressing global warming to 1.5C by 2100 will avoid slow economic growth. 

The dropping cost of solar panels, lithium-ion batteries, and turbines supports the notion that adopting this bold transition wouldn’t overburden federal and private budgets either. 

If financial and environmental ministries were unified towards ending climate change, the planet’s health and wealth would drastically multiply with the guarantee that’s protected for centuries.

Failed commitments to effective climate change policies will greatly harm humanity and require enormous changes and social-economic systems. 

This is no surprise. Society is accustomed to the “we should be doing more” narrative of climate change, and although I believe doing so would significantly help the Earth, I can understand why some don’t connect with that idea.

Perspective matters

Most people live in cities and can’t envision how losing the world’s largest rainforest actually affects them.

One example of how climate change can severely impact our lives is through food. Rising CO2 levels cause increased fungal diseases in wheat, which can jeopardise our food sources and the production sectors that gain profit from it. 

This crisis might further cause the destruction of a domestic market because who will make money if no one has access to clean food?

Although climate change isn’t entirely responsible for decades of violent conflict within places like Syria, food insecurity can definitely influence these crises. 

The Foreign Policy Research Institute has mirrored this argument when speaking about Africa’s struggle to stay economically valuable. 

The continent’s fluctuating rainfall disrupts agricultural yields and keeps populations perpetually malnourished. 

These problems are concerning for the “tree huggers” that have always cared about the environment and human suffering, but why should Europeans, Americans, or any other person living in a developed country really care? And what would it look like if those in power did?

We should find the right incentives

Climate policy can be designed to promote a lower carbon economy by giving companies financial incentives for complying. 

In this scenario, utilising green practices would become important to shareholders, and businesses would seek those rewards. The benefits are being added frequently — PwC already has a tracker for green tax incentives in 88 countries.

Once common practice, the billions of dollars and euros spent annually because of climate change would plummet. 

Think of all the disasters that would no longer dent federal spending: rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid in 2017 after Hurricane Maria was one example that cost around $17 billion (€15.7bn).

Despite the clear toll on the environment and federal spending, people in power have perhaps the most significant role in what happens to our world. 

This is why the dialogue around this issue needs to change. The information presented at COP meetings and within government walls should highlight why transitioning will bring a net profit to everyone’s bottom line.

Who is liable for climate change?

Progress is being made in governmental bodies as well, but it will take a long time to come to fruition.

Last month, the International Court of Justice responded to the United Nations General Assembly’s advisory opinion request surrounding climate change liability. 

In simple terms, this means that the UNGA is asking the ICJ to determine whether current laws are sufficient and who should pay for damages. 

No new policies will be constructed at this stage because the ICJ can only advise how they can be improved.

Instead of relying on lengthy judicial processes to bring effective climate policies, we should expand current government protocols to include climate risks as they were to preserve financial stability for businesses and individuals. 

Financial and environmental bureaus often operate like fans of rivalling sports teams when really, they’re both on the same side. 

Those with the markets in mind want growth and healthy margins, while nature lovers want a world their kids can survive in. The priorities both hinge on well-being, whether that’s material or spiritual.

We must fight for the planet we love living on

The truth is, climate-driven conflict is simply not an African problem. Hotspots have erupted around the world, and peace-threatening risks will only increase in intensity and frequency as the environment worsens. 

Climate change will endanger financial security, our personal health, and the planet we love living on.

Real solutions will only come from governments that require equal participation and collaboration between all. 

This united effort would bring prosperity and safety and have a lasting impact on the world. 

Cross-boundary conflicts and the humanitarian crises that have resulted because of them would be properly addressed, and peace would become an international standard that’s actually met. 

Our strength is in numbers, and we must fight for a planet that will accommodate us for many decades to come while simultaneously uplifting the success of our financial ventures. 

In the long run, either we all win or we all lose. There is no compromise.

Gary Yohe is the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, Emeritus at Wesleyan University and convening lead author for multiple chapters and the Synthesis Report for the IPCC from 1990 through 2014. He also served as the vice-chair of the Third US National Climate Assessment.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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EPA Gonna Punch That Climate Emergency Right In The Snoot!

The Biden administration rolled out yet another piece of its climate plan today, as the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new regulations to limit the greenhouse gases emitted by electric power plants fueled by coal and methane (so-called “natural” gas). As the New York Times puts it in an admirably simple and accurate sentence,

The nation’s 3,400 coal- and gas-fired power plants currently generate about 25 percent of greenhouse gases produced by the United States, pollution that is dangerously heating the planet.

Instead of mandating any particular technology, the rules set caps on rates of carbon dioxide pollution that plants can release, leaving it up to energy producers to find ways to meet the goal of eliminating CO2 emissions by 2040. If industry can find ways to capture all CO2 from smokestacks — technology that doesn’t exist yet — then great. But it’s more likely that utilities would have to switch to green energy, or for gas plants, to burning green hydrogen (the kind produced without fossil fuels), which emits no carbon.

And while the EPA doesn’t say it, we’re happy to: The faster the US and the world adopt solar and wind electricity, the cheaper that electricity will be per megawatt hour. According to an Oxford University study published in September, a rapid transition away from fossil fuels to wind and solar could save the world $12 trillion by 2050, which would help offset other costs of the transition like grid upgrades and developing reliable storage/backup/distribution of clean energy. Going slow, on the other hand, will cost more and result in greater climate caused damage.

The EPA press release says the regulations will

avoid up to 617 million metric tons of total carbon dioxide (CO2) through 2042, which is equivalent to reducing the annual emissions of 137 million passenger vehicles, roughly half the cars in the United States. Through 2042, EPA estimates the net climate and health benefits of the standards on new gas and existing coal-fired power plants are up to $85 billion.

The EPA emphasizes the public health benefits of not burning all that stuff, which doesn’t just contribute to global warming but releases nasties like particulates, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides into the air Americans breathe, especially in communities nearest to power plants, which tend to be home to poor and minority people because America. In addition to helping to keep the planet more habitable for large mammals like gazelles and the NCAA Final Four champion men’s and women’s teams, the proposed standards would mean huge health gains. In 2030 alone, the EPA says, cleaner air resulting from the new standards would prevent

• approximately 1,300 premature deaths;

• more than 800 hospital and emergency room visits;

• more than 300,000 cases of asthma attacks;

• 38,000 school absence days; [and]

• 66,000 lost workdays.

Under the new rules, virtually all coal and methane gas plants would be required to either reduce or capture 90 percent of their carbon emissions by 2038, or shut down. Currently, roughly a quarter of American coal plants are already scheduled to be retired by 2029, per the US Energy Information Agency.

Needless to say, industry groups and Republican state officials are at this very moment working on the first drafts of legal challenges to the policy, written as is traditional with the congealed blood of seals and dolphins killed by oil spills. The Times reports that West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) is already declaring the EPA plan DOA in the courts, whining that “It is not going to be upheld, and it just seems designed to scare more coal-fired power plants into retirement — the goal of the Biden administration.” Stupid not-wanting-climate-catastrophe Biden!

Sen. Joe Manchin (“D”-West Virginia), whose family fortune is built on selling some of the filthiest coal available — a mining waste slurry called “gob” coal that’s particularly carbon intensive — also threatened today that he will oppose any new Biden appointees to the EPA unless the plan is dropped. Manchin griped that the administration is

“determined to advance its radical climate agenda and has made it clear they are hellbent on doing everything in their power to regulate coal- and gas-fueled power plants out of existence, no matter the cost to energy security and reliability.”

Also, fuck the future, the man has money at stake, and he hasn’t spent a career lining his own nest with filthy feathers from crows with black lung disease just to watch it all go away because people in the tropical regions think they “deserve” to live.

So yeah, kids, this is going to be a fight between the wealthy bastards who want to keep pumping the atmosphere full of planet-heating pollutants, and the first president ever whose administration is actually taking the action needed to get close to meeting the US’s commitments to decarbonization by midcentury, which all nations need to do in order to hold warming to non-catastrophic levels.


When you combine the anticipated greenhouse gas reductions from the EPA’s recent vehicle emissions standards, its methane reduction standards, and the power plant emissions standards announced today, the Times reports, the total emissions that would be eliminated would be around 15 billion tons of CO2 by 2055, or

roughly the amount of pollution generated by the entire United States economy over three years. Several analyses have projected that the Inflation Reduction Act will cut emissions by at least another billion tons by 2030.

That could put the nation on track to meet Mr. Biden’s pledge that the United States would cut its greenhouse gases in half by 2030 and stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere altogether by 2050, although analysts point out that more policies will need to be enacted to reach the latter target.

And that, children, puts the world within what I’ll call realistic hoping distance of actually meeting the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting warming since the start of the industrial age to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). It would require all countries doing the same as or better than the Biden plan is close to accomplishing, so yeah, that’s freaking difficult. But doable, genuinely doable, according to the climate boffins. The Times again:

“Each of these several regulations from the E.P.A. are contributing to the whole picture that is necessary to steer this ocean liner away from the worst climate disaster,” said Dallas Burtraw, an economist with Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan research organization that focuses on energy and environmental policy.

Also I just remembered that we were going to do some kind of Wonkette Book Club on Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2020 climate novel The Ministry for the Future (Wonkette-gets-a-cut link), so I guess I’d better actually make a plan and write it up for tomorrow, damn my eyes.

Let’s choose hope. But back it up with action.


[EPA / NYT / Oxford University / AP / NBC News / Photo: American Wind Energy Association, used by permission]

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By not tackling Ukraine war’s effects, we’re risking further disaster

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

A year since the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine, the conflict continues to take a devastating toll on people inside the country and those forced to flee. 

However, its ripple effects are also being felt far beyond Europe’s borders. Across the globe, populations continue to be deeply impacted by the disruption of global supply chains, skyrocketing energy prices, and soaring levels of inflation.

This dangerous brew is compounding the effects of conflict, climate change and economic turmoil, which have already tipped vast parts of the globe into a humanitarian crisis. 

And, as ever, the world’s most vulnerable are being hit hardest. 

Everyone everywhere is paying the price of war in Europe

As the full-scale war in Ukraine enters its second year, it is critical that the international community acknowledges the sheer scale of this humanitarian emergency — they have a moral imperative to do so, as well as a geopolitical interest. 

Populations across the globe are paying a heavy price for this war in Europe, while the complex and often protracted crises in their own countries are too often forgotten.

Today, the World Bank says a startling 94% of low-income countries globally are facing soaring levels of inflation, fueled in part by the impact of the war in Ukraine on food and fuel prices. 

According to the IRC’s Emergency Watchlist, which highlights the 20 countries most at risk of worsening humanitarian crises in 2023, food prices have increased by almost 40% over the past year. 

Even when food is available in markets, people can often not afford to put food on the table for their families.

This inflation is fueling a global food crisis of unprecedented proportions. Today a record 349 million people across 79 countries are estimated to be experiencing acute food insecurity, according to the World Food Programme, as famine looms across parts of East Africa.

Poorer countries hit the hardest

Meanwhile, the shockwaves across global energy markets are being felt most acutely by lower and middle-income countries — many of which are yet to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the International Energy Agency, some 70 million people worldwide who recently gained access to electricity can no longer afford it, with many returning to coal and firewood to heat their homes.

The ripple effects of the war in Ukraine are shining the spotlight on the fragilities of the international community’s systems to prevent humanitarian crises from spiralling out of control. 

However, they also provide us with some examples of how we can begin to strengthen them. 

For example, the Black Sea Grain Initiative was a much-needed step towards restarting shipments of Ukrainian grain to people in hunger-affected countries.

However, a closer analysis of this mechanism shows that — so far — just 10% of the grain exported through this initiative has been delivered to just five low-income countries: Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. 

In fact, Spain has received twice as much as these five countries put together. 

At this juncture, it is vital that the Black Sea Grain Initiative is maintained and adapted to ensure that grain reaches the people who need it most, including the countries most at risk of famine.

We have to break the vicious cycle of global crises

Similarly, the initial response from Europe and the broader international community to protect and support people forced to flee Ukraine has been impressive. 

It proves that they are able to welcome people with dignity and respect when there is the political will to do so. 

They must now continue to support people forced from Ukraine for as long as necessary while applying a similar approach rooted in solidarity and responsibility-sharing to the millions of others displaced from similarly harrowing situations across the globe.

These swift responses can provide a blueprint for what can and must be done to break the vicious cycle of global crises we’re witnessing today. 

First and foremost, global leaders must step up to fix the international community’s response to the hunger crisis. 

While food insecurity is undoubtedly a complex challenge, mass deaths caused by famine and untreated malnutrition are preventable. Solutions exist, but the international community is not using them effectively. 

Urgent steps must be taken to reboot the global response to extreme hunger by both re-energising the Secretary-General’s High-Level Task Force on Preventing Famine and by adopting a simplified protocol to ensure that malnutrition treatment is available to all those who need it.

Civilians in dire need of protection

Secondly, climate change is rapidly accelerating humanitarian emergencies. It’s destroying agriculture and livelihoods, worsening cyclical drought, and eroding coping mechanisms. 

In order to mitigate these crises, it will be vital to better map climate risks in humanitarian settings, as well as identify innovative solutions such as climate-resilient agriculture to ensure rural communities are prepared to face future recurring shocks.

Thirdly, the international community must scale up its commitments to protect civilians in conflict. The war in Ukraine is a stark illustration of the high price paid by civilians when International Humanitarian Law is violated with impunity. 

The most severe abuse of civilians requires actions that transcend politics and polarisation. 

Just as France has been demanding, the permanent members of the UN Security Council should suspend their veto power in cases of mass atrocities.

Lastly, humanitarian aid must be delivered through a people-first strategy, in coordination with NGOs and local civil society, to ensure that it can swiftly and effectively reach people in hard-to-reach areas such as on the frontlines of conflict.

We can’t just stand by and watch

The international community cannot stand witness as the world’s most severe humanitarian crises spiral further out of control. 

Even at a time when a great deal of focus and means are rightly directed at supporting Ukraine, the international community must prioritise concrete action to break the vicious cycle of drought, hunger and famine in other parts of the world. 

If it fails to do so, we will be faced with the same dismal outlook — or worse — a year from now. 

There will be an even greater divide between the West and the Global South, with the most vulnerable bearing the brunt.

_Harlem Désir is the International Rescue Committee’s Senior Vice-President, Europe. Previously, he was the founder and president of SOS Racisme, a Member of the European Parliament, the French Secretary of State for European Affairs and OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.

_At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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