Arctic forever changed by rapidly warming climate – UN weather agency
20 December 2017 The Arctic continued in 2017 to warm at double the rate of the global temperature increase, resulting in the second warmest air temperatures, above average ocean temperatures, loss of sea ice, and a range of human, ocean and ecosystem effects, according to the United Nations weather agency.
“While 2017 saw fewer records shattered than in 2016, the Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region it was decades ago,” said the Arctic Report Card, a peer-reviewed study that brings together the work of 85 scientists from 12 nations.
The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Tuesday that the Arctic Report Card shows that the warming trend is continuing to drive dramatic transformation in the Arctic region.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that the first 11 months of the year were the third warmest on record, behind 2016 and 2015, with much-warmer-than-average conditions engulfing much of the world’s land and ocean surfaces.
This means that the 2017 global land and ocean temperature will likely end among the three warmest years on record, and is expected to be the warmest year without a warming El Niño.
“What is more important than the ranking of an individual year is the overall, long-term trend of warming since the late 1970s, and especially this century,” said WMO senior scientist Omar Baddour.
“Along with rising temperatures, we are seeing more extreme weather with huge socio-economic impacts,” he said.
A separate report, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), said that last year’s record global average temperatures, extreme heat over Asia, and unusually warm waters in the Bering Sea would not have been possible without human-caused climate change.
“This report marks a fundamental change,” says Jeff Rosenfeld, editor-in-chief of BAMS. “For years scientists have known humans are changing the risk of some extremes. But finding multiple extreme events that weren’t even possible without human influence makes clear that we’re experiencing new weather, because we’ve made a new climate.”
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Electronic waste poses ‘growing risk’ to environment, human health, UN report warns
13 December 2017 The growing volume of electronic waste, including discarded products with a battery or plug, such as mobile phones, laptops, televisions, refrigerators and electrical toys, poses a major threat to the environment and human health, the United Nations warned on Wednesday.
“Environmental protection is one of the three pillars of sustainable development […] E-waste management is an urgent issue in today’s digitally dependent world, where use of electronic devices is ever increasing,” said Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
The Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, released by ITU, the UN University (UNU) and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), highlights increasing levels of e-waste and its improper and unsafe treatment and disposal through burning or at dumpsites.
In 2016, 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated, an increase of 3.3 million metric tonnes, or 8 per cent, from 2014. Experts foresee e-waste increasing a further 17 per cent to 52.2 million metric tonnes by 2021.
E-waste contains $55 billion worth of recoverable materials
In 2016, only about 20 per cent, or 8.9 million metric tonnes, of all e-waste was recycled.
“The Global E-waste Monitor serves as a valuable resource for governments developing their necessary management strategies, standards and policies to reduce the adverse health and environmental effects of e-waste,” said Mr. Zhao.
With 53.6 per cent of global households now having Internet access, national e-waste policies and legislation play an important role governing the actions of stakeholders who are associated with e-waste.
Currently 66 per cent of the world population, living in 67 countries, is covered by national e-waste management laws, a significant increase from 44 per cent in 2014.
Low recycling rates can have a negative economic impact. In 2016, it was estimated that e-waste contained rich deposits of gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium and other high value recoverable materials, whose total value is estimated at $55 billion, a figure exceeding the gross domestic product of most countries in the world.
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Time running out for construction sector to cut energy use, meet climate goals – UN
12 December 2017 The clock is ticking on efforts to reform the buildings and construction sector’s energy performance and keep the Paris Agreement on track, new United Nations-backed research revealed on Tuesday.
The Global Status Report 2017, from the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction – first launched by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and France at the 21st Climate Change Conference – finds that the sector continues to grow, with the energy intensity per square meter of buildings needing to improve 30 per cent by 2030.
“Over the next 40 years, the world is expected to build 230 billion square metres in new construction – adding the equivalent of Paris to the planet every single week,” said Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), at a side event of the One Planet Summit in Paris.
“This rapid growth is not without consequences,” he warned.
In 2016, an estimated 235 billion square metres (m2) of total floor area was reached. Over the next 40 years, an additional 230 billion m2 buildings will be constructed – the equivalent of adding the floor area of Japan to the planet every year to 2060.
When upstream power generation is included, buildings and construction account for 39 per cent of energy-related CO2 emissions.
According to the IAEA-prepared, UNEP-coordinated report, the clock is ticking in part because more than half of building constructions expected by 2060 will be done in the next 20 years – two-thirds in countries that lack mandatory building energy codes.
However, the report highlights many opportunities to deploy energy-efficient and low-carbon solutions, and points to a number of global examples showing how the goals can be met with clear and concerted efforts.
To date, Paris Agreement pledges have fallen short – with CO2 emissions from buildings and construction having risen by nearly one per cent annually between 2010 and 2016, releasing 76 gigatonnes of Carbon Dioxide in cumulative emissions.
“Ambitious action is needed without delay to avoid locking in long-lived, inefficient buildings assets for decades to come,” he stressed.
Buildings with near-zero energy, zero-emissions need to become the global construction standard within the next decade for two per cent energy performance improvements to 2030, according to the report.
The rate of building energy renovations also needs to improve three per cent in the coming decade, particularly important in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, where roughly 65 per cent of the total expected 2060 buildings stock is already built today.
“Similar to many areas linked to the Paris Agreement, the building sector is seeing some progress in cutting its emissions, but it is too little, too slowly,” underscored Erik Solheim, UNEP Executive Director.
An energy savings potential from improved building envelope performance can be huge. Globally, high-performance construction and deep energy renovations of existing building envelopes represent a savings potential of more than all the final energy consumed by the G20 countries in 2015.
“Realizing the potential of the buildings and construction sector needs all hands-on deck – in particular to address rapid growth in inefficient and carbon-intensive building investments,” said Mr. Solheim.
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