Tens of thousands of climate activists around the world are marching, chanting and protesting Friday to call for an end to the burning of planet-warming fossil fuels as the globe suffers dramatic weather extremes and record-breaking heat.
Dozens Of Countries Hundreds Of Cities
An AP report said:
The strike — driven by several mostly youth-led, local and global climate groups and organizations, including Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement — are taking place in dozens of countries and in hundreds of cities worldwide and continue through the weekend.
A week before the planned protest, the United Nations warned that countries are way off track to curb warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, as agreed in Paris in 2015. The world has warmed at least 1.1 degrees since then. Over the past few months, Earth broke its daily average heat record several times according to one metric, July was the hottest month ever on record, and the Northern Hemisphere summer was declared the hottest on record. Dozens of extreme weather events — from Hurricane Idalia in the southeastern United States to torrential flooding in Delhi in India — are believed to have been made worse by human-caused climate change.
Another major strike is planned to take place Sunday in New York, to coincide with the city’s Climate Week and the U.N. climate summit.
Climate activists have organized similar worldwide strikes in recent years, where protesters from different nations join together on a single day.
Outside Safe Space
Human actions have pushed the world into the danger zone on several key indicators of planetary health, threatening to trigger dramatic changes in conditions on Earth, according to a new analysis from 29 scientists in eight countries.
A CNN report (Conditions on Earth may be moving outside the ‘safe operating space’ for humanity, according to dozens of scientists, Wed September 13, 2023) said:
The scientists analyzed nine interlinked “planetary boundaries,” which they define as thresholds the world needs to stay within to ensure a stable, livable planet. These include climate change, biodiversity, freshwater and land use, and the impact of synthetic chemicals and aerosols.
Human activities have breached safe levels for six of these boundaries and are pushing the world outside a “safe operating space” for humanity, according to the report, published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.
The nine boundaries, first set out in a 2009 paper, aim to establish a set of defined “limits” on changes humans are making to the planet – from pumping out planet-heating pollution to clearing forests for farming. Beyond these limits, the theory goes, the risk of destabilizing conditions on Earth increases dramatically.
The limits are designed to be conservative, to enable society to solve the problems before reaching a “very high risk zone,” said Katherine Richardson, a professor in biological oceanography at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author on the report.
She pointed to the unprecedented summer of extreme weather the world has just experienced at 1.2 degrees Celsius of global warming. “We didn’t think it was going to be like this at 1 degree [Celsius]” she said. “No human has experienced the conditions that we’re experiencing right now,” she added.
Of the three boundaries that scientists found are still within a safe space, two of them – ocean acidification and the amount of aerosols in the atmosphere – are moving in the wrong direction.
There is some good news, however. The ozone layer was on the wrong side of the boundary in the 1990s, Richardson said. But thanks to international cooperation to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals, it is on track to recover completely.
The CNN report said:
Crossing planetary boundaries does not mean the world has reached a disastrous tipping point. Hitting one does not mean “falling off a cliff,” Richardson said. But it is a clear warning signal.
She used the analogy of a bank account, where the currency is not money, but rather the Earth’s resources which humans, like all living organisms, use to survive. As humanity crosses planetary boundaries, our “bank balance” is going down, she said.
“We can party, even though our money in the bank is getting less – we just can’t party forever. That’s the situation that we have brought ourselves into,” she said.
The significance of the planetary boundaries model is that it doesn’t analyze climate and biodiversity in isolation, the report authors said. Instead, it looks at the interaction of both, as well as a host of other ways humans are affecting the planet. Breaching one boundary is likely to have knock-on effects for others.
Razing the world’s forests, for example, has huge climate impacts. “We most likely cannot achieve the climate goals that the international community has adopted without, at the same time, respecting a limit for deforestation,” Richardson said.
Simon Lewis, a professor of global change science at University College London in the UK, who was not involved in the research, said the report provides “a strikingly gloomy update on an already alarming picture.”
“Humans are destroying biodiversity, changing the climate and polluting our home to such an extent that we’ve pushed our planet out of the stable conditions that enabled human civilizations to emerge,” he told CNN. “It couldn’t be a more stark warning,” he added.
Andrew Fanning, a visiting research fellow at the University of Leeds in the UK, also not involved in the report, said the planetary boundaries model provides “strong evidence-based support” to policymakers and others to help transform economies and societies to tackle the climate crisis.
But there are criticisms of the model.
Raymond Pierrehumbert, a physics professor at Oxford University, said planetary boundaries is useful where there is a clear basis for choosing a boundary, like carbon pollution.
But for other factors, such as land use change, “it can be a distraction to argue over where to put the boundary and whether or not it has been ‘exceeded,’” he told CNN.
“It is a heroic attempt to simplify the world, but it is probably too simplified to be of use in practically managing our many environmental problems,” Lewis said.
Stuart Pimm, the Doris Duke chair of conservation ecology at Duke University, who co-authored a critical paper about planetary boundaries in 2018, went further.
“The measures they use make no sense and they cannot estimate them,” he told CNN.
The challenge of data and monitoring is something Richardson recognizes. “We need more comprehensive data collection and collation in order to be able to monitor the effects of humans on the ecosystem,” she said.
This report is the third update on the planetary boundaries framework. The previous was published in 2015.
“What scares me is that transgression is increasing for all of the boundaries that were found to be transgressed in 2015,” said Richardson, who added, “this isn’t getting better.”
Death Toll In Derna Soars To 11,300
Media reports said:
The death toll in Libya’s coastal city of Derna has soared to 11,300 as search efforts continue following a massive flood fed by the breaching of two dams in heavy rains, the Libyan Red Crescent said Thursday
Marie el-Drese, secretary-general of aid group, told The Associated Press by phone that a further 10,100 are reported missing in the Mediterranean city. Health authorities previously had put the death toll in Derna at 5,500.
The flooding swept away entire families on Sunday night and exposed vulnerabilities in the oil-rich country that has been mired in conflict since a 2011 uprising that toppled long-ruling dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Cause Of The Flooding
An NPR report said:
Daniel, an unusually strong Mediterranean storm, caused deadly flooding in towns across eastern Libya, but the worst-hit was Derna. As the storm pounded the coast Sunday night, residents said they heard loud explosions when two dams outside the city collapsed. Floodwaters gushed down Wadi Derna, a valley that cuts through the city, crashing through buildings and washing people out to sea.
A U.N. official said Thursday that most casualties could have been avoided.
“If there would have been a normal operating meteorological service, they could have issued the warnings,” World Meteorological Organization head Petteri Taalas told reporters in Geneva. “The emergency management authorities would have been able to carry out the evacuation.”
The WMO said earlier this week that the National Meteorological Center had issued warnings 72 hours before the flooding, notifying all governmental authorities by email and through media.
Officials in eastern Libya warned the public about the coming storm and on Saturday had ordered residents to evacuate areas along the coast, fearing a surge from the sea. But there was no warning about the dams collapsing.
How Does The Conflict In Libya Affect The Disaster?
The startling devastation reflected the storm’s intensity, but also Libya’s vulnerability. Oil-rich Libya has been divided between rival governments for most of the past decade — one in the east, the other in the capital, Tripoli — and one result has been widespread neglect of infrastructure.
The two dams that collapsed outside Derna were built in the 1970s. A report by a state-run audit agency in 2021 said the dams had not been maintained despite the allocation of more than 2 million euros for that purpose in 2012 and 2013.
Libya’s Tripoli-based Prime Minister Abdul-Hamid Dbeibah acknowledged the maintenance issues in a Cabinet meeting Thursday and called on the Public Prosecutor to open an urgent investigation into the dams’ collapse.
The disaster brought a rare moment of unity, as government agencies across the country rushed to help the affected areas.
While the Tobruk-based government of east Libya is leading relief efforts, the Tripoli-based western government allocated the equivalent of $412 million for reconstruction in Derna and other eastern towns, and an armed group in Tripoli sent a convoy with humanitarian aid.
The report said:
Derna has begun burying its dead, mostly in mass graves, said eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel earlier Thursday.
More than 3,000 bodies were buried by Thursday morning, the minister said, while another 2,000 were still being processed, He said most of the dead were buried in mass graves outside Derna, while others were transferred to nearby towns and cities.
Abduljaleel said rescue teams were still searching wrecked buildings in the city center, and divers were combing the sea off Derna.
Untold numbers could be buried under drifts of mud and debris, including overturned cars and chunks of concrete that rise up to four meters (13 feet) high. Rescuers have struggled to bring in heavy equipment as the floods washed out or blocked roads leading to the area.
Number Of Dead In Other Parts Of Libya
The report said:
The storm also killed around 170 people in other parts of eastern Libya, including the towns of Bayda, Susa, Um Razaz and Marj, the health minister said.
The dead in eastern Libya included at least 84 Egyptians, who were transferred to their home country on Wednesday. More than 70 came from one village in the southern province of Beni Suef. Libyan media also said dozens of Sudanese migrants were killed in the disaster.
The floods have also displaced at least 30,000 people in Derna, according to the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration, and several thousand others were forced to leave their homes in other eastern towns, it said.
The floods damaged or destroyed many access roads to Derna, hampering the arrival of international rescue teams and humanitarian assistance. Local authorities were able to clear some routes, and over the past 48 hours humanitarian convoys have been able to enter the city.
The U.N. humanitarian office issued an emergency appeal for $71.4 million to respond to urgent needs of 250,000 Libyans most affected. The humanitarian office, known as OCHA, estimated that approximately 884,000 people in five provinces live in areas directly affected by the rain and flooding.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it has provided 6,000 body bags to local authorities, as well as medical, food and other supplies distributed to hard-hit communities.
International aid started to arrive earlier this week in Benghazi, 250 kilometers (150 miles) west of Derna. Several countries have sent aid and rescue teams, including neighboring Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia. Italy dispatched a naval vessel on Thursday carrying humanitarian aid and two navy helicopters to be used for search and rescue operations.
President Joe Biden said the United States would send money to relief organizations and coordinate with Libyan authorities and the United Nations to provide additional support.
Millions Of Cubic Meters Of Water, Weighing Millions Of Tons
Another report said:
The storm made landfall Sunday evening, with heavy rainfall causing flash flooding. The storm dropped 16 inches of rain in 24 hours, a new record for the civil war-torn North African nation, which usually receives just a tiny fraction of that all month. Two dams on the Wadi Derna River burst, leading to massive floods in the coastal city of Derna. The dams held back millions of cubic meters of water, weighing millions of tons.
“Combine that weight with moving downhill, and it can produce enormous power,” said a BBC report. “Witnesses have said that the waters were nearly three meters [9.8 feet] in places.”
“It is estimated that six inches (20cm) of fast moving flood-water is enough to knock someone off their feet, and 2ft (60cm) is enough to float a car. So it is no surprise that whole buildings were taken out in the floods.”
This Is Unusual For Libya
Another report said:
Storm Daniel caused more than 400mm — or 16 inches — of rain in just 24 hours, according to the World Meteorological Organization. That is significantly higher than the level of rainfall the region normally collects at this time of year and Libya’s National Meteorological Centre said it was a new rainfall record.
While the storm carries all the hallmarks of climate change, it is too soon to definitively link the two. But it is safe to say, as the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has, that as the planet warms we can expect to see more intense storms, which lead to more severe flooding. The disaster in Libya is one of a series of extreme flooding events which have caused death and destruction around the world in recent months, including in Greece, Brazil and Hong Kong.