Covid-19: an epidemic revealing an ecological and societal crisis

Tribune. The year 2020 will have been marked by the first epidemic translation of the planetary ecological crisis. If we are not careful, other epidemics will follow because the same causes will produce the same effects. We know the impetus, namely the extremely rapid transmission of a coronavirus, a virus that has crossed the species barrier and whose emergence is linked, in particular, to human influence over natural spaces, to the loss of biodiversity and wildlife trade. The wildlife trade has increased fivefold over the past fifteen years, despite the warning from the 2002-2003 Sars epidemic in Asia.

Throughout the past twelve months, the Covid-19 has acted (and continues to act) like a huge black hole absorbing all the informational material to leave room in France only for the daily count of the number of deaths, places available in intensive care, hydroxychloroquine or vaccine. No more Hezbollah, conflicts in Yemen, Syria or Libya, refugee camps, migrants on their frail boats, global warming, Iranian nuclear power, pension reform, but a planetary reality engulfed in the gravitational field of the Covid-19. Until saturating our mental and spiritual universe. No more sport, no more culture, no more bistros, no more restaurants. Nothing else. That the confusion and the fear, the excitement and the shift in a terribly anxiety-provoking and indeterminate reality until the arrival of a vaccine.

No space for reflection and critical distance

As if the event we are experiencing had escaped our radar and our familiar reading grids, while bringing us closer to the planetary catastrophe so dear to “collapsologists”. Who could have imagined, at the start of 2020, the planetary runaway of which we were going to be the main dazed protagonists? Who could have guessed that entire territories would be confined, cities deserted, activities of all kinds interrupted, elections postponed, political and health officials, sick or confused, improvising, day after day, responses that are too often incoherent or inappropriate?

Read also “The coronavirus crisis is an ecological crisis”

Something seems to have gone wrong, there, suddenly, in this beautiful mechanism of globalized flows, free trade treaties and the international division of labor, mass tourism and travel. low cost. At the heart of an era already marked by so many localized upheavals, repeated crises, and other climatic, stock market, technological, media or political booms …

But with this first planetary ecological crisis, it is as if the runaway had shaken our little blue planet on a scale and with an intensity never seen before. From the runaway of continuous news channels to that of immune defenses (cytokine storm); from the proliferation of articles published in scientific journals around the Covid (up to 292 per day!) to the surge in public and private debt; the runaway political decision concerning the marketing of drugs (such as remdisivir, paid at a high price to the Gilead laboratory, and which will prove ineffective) or vaccines (such as Pfizer / BioNTech, first arrived on the market market) to the agitation of social networks around hydroxychloroquine or Raoult, everything seems to converge and accelerate to leave no space for reflection and critical distance.

Pauperization of our public health system

We have known since Paul Virilio or Hartmut Rosa (1) that our world is accelerating, from crisis to crisis, from rupture to rupture, from degradation to degradation. But with Covid-19, we have entered the era of global and planetary systemic phenomena, the immediacy and immediacy of real time, on a world scale, plunging us into a generalized state of emergency: emergency health, safety, economic, social and climatic. All it took was a virus for our planetary megamachine to jam, for growth to collapse, for stock market prices to panic, for poverty and precariousness to explode, for geopolitical balances to be profoundly altered and that we were discovering, what we didn’t want to know, the vulnerability of our world-system, and the fragility of our Western societies.

Read also Hartmut Rosa: “We are not living the utopia of deceleration”

What provisional lessons can we draw from this observation? First, there cannot be lasting solutions without calling into question the ideology of the “Zero stock and just-in-time”, of time management and piloting by the indicators which have largely fueled the life of our institutions (private or public) since the 1980s. With the health result, the impoverishment of our public health system, which has been defective in the face of the repeated attacks of the pandemic in its preventive and curative aspects.

«One Health»

However, in France, we continue to eliminate beds, while the health crisis has shown the importance of well-endowed staff and services! The second message is ecological and should make us reconsider our place among the living. Because we have to admit it, our system has never ceased to degrade living conditions on Earth, without regard for man as for animal, mineral or plant.

Care must become the object of a general policy and the principle of all future action. The approach «One Health», which considers human, animal and environmental health together is a step in the right direction. We cannot ignore our dependence on the Earth and the geophysical conditions of all existence. The lesson is valid for today and for tomorrow. If we were to forget it, once again, in too much of a hurry to close the Covid-19 parenthesis, then the pandemics of the future, associated with the loss of biodiversity and global warming, could be much more dramatic with an even greater impact. on our human societies.

(1) Speed ​​and Politics And of Paul Virilio Acceleration d’Hartmut Rosa.

Alain Coulombel is the author of Chronicle of a planetary runaway, to be published mid-January, at Libre & Solidaire. Eric Caumes is the author ofHealth emergency, Robert Laffont, 2020.

Alain Coulombel national spokesperson for EE-LV


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Eric Caumes professor of infectious and tropical diseases

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Nuclear reactors, the race for small models

Small nuclear reactors (less than 300 MW) installed almost everywhere on the outskirts of cities, near industrial zones or in very isolated places to supply electricity and steam: a disaster scenario for some; the only way to fight against global warming for others.

A floating nuclear power plant in Russia

In any case, this is no longer science fiction. An SMR, according to the English acronym for small modular reactor, has been operating in the East Siberian Sea since May 2020. Two 35 MW reactors have been installed by the Russian Rosatom on a barge 30 meters wide and 144 meters long, near the port city of Pevek. TheAkademik-Lomonosov, the world’s first floating nuclear power station, is intended to replace an old oil-fired power station.

→ DEBATE. Does the proliferation of small models of nuclear reactors pose a safety problem?

The Chinese have also embarked on projects for 60 MW reactors to supply their military bases in the South China Sea. In Canada, several provinces are working on the installation of SMR in mining towns. In Finland, small reactors could be used for district heating, which still comes half from fossil fuels.

About fifty SMR projects around the world

On the industrial side, it’s a fair for projects, at least on paper. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) already lists about fifty. The big traditional operators are in the running, like the Russian Rosatom, the Chinese CGN, or the American Westinghouse, but also start-ups financed by private funds, which is rather new in the sector. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, thus invested in Terrapower, which works on a reactor consuming its waste.

According to the OECD, at least 10% of new nuclear capacities put into service by 2035 could be occupied by SMRs. “They would make it possible to replace coal and gas power stations, to meet needs where there is no network, but also to desalinate seawater and produce carbon-free hydrogen for industrial use” , explains Jean-Michel Ruggieri, responsible for the SMR program at the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA).

Nuclear reactors, the race for small models

But these arguments are not unanimous. “Except for a few special cases, SMRs will arrive on the market too late, while the price of renewables continues to drop”, Judge physicist Bernard Laponche, member of the Global Chance association.

Green light from the American safety authority

Most of these projects are still in the concept stage. A few are more advanced. This is the case for the American NuScale, which obtained, at the end of August, the approval of the American Safety Authority (NRC) for the design of its small 60 MW reactor, the last step before its construction.

→ DEBATE. Will CO2 emissions finally drop?

The company, financed by the engineering group Fluor, expects the commissioning in 2028, in Idaho, of a first power station composed of 12 reactors, placed end to end, on behalf of Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, a public structure that supplies electricity to some 40 municipalities in six states in the American West.

Nuward, a small French reactor intended for export

France is not left out. The government’s stimulus plan provides for a budget of 170 million euros for the development of Nuward, a 170 MW reactor, which would be built in pairs.

Several dozen engineers are already working on this project led by EDF, CEA, Naval Group and TechnicAtome. A first demonstrator is planned for 2030. “We are mainly targeting exports, in particular for the replacement of thermal power stations”, says Renaud Crassous, in charge of the Nuward project, at EDF. The French consortium is in discussions with Westinghouse for technical and commercial cooperation, which would notably make it possible to go faster in obtaining operating licenses in North America.

Mass production

Like the floating barge from Rosatom, NuScale or Nuward, the first SMRs to emerge are based on systems already proven in large reactors. “There is no such thing as a technological breakthrough. The innovations are especially in the compactness of the installations which is inspired in particular by what we know how to do in naval nuclear propulsion ”, says Benoît Desforges, director of development and strategy at TechnicAtome, a company that has long been used by the French navy.

Nuclear reactors, the race for small models

The Nuward tank would thus be only 4 meters in diameter and 13.50 m in height, inside a metal enclosure, itself housed in a swimming pool. Equipped with a passive safety system, the core would be cooled without any external intervention or back-up mechanism, as for current reactors.

→ READ. France wants to acquire small nuclear reactors

The objective is also to limit costs by manufacturing as many parts as possible.. “Until now, the nuclear industry has been in a race for power so that the additional megawatts obtained will lower the price of electricity. With SMR, the logic is different. The savings are made as early as possible by series effects ”, explains Nuward’s boss.

The climate argument

This standardization process with modules manufactured in the factory and assembled directly on site is one of the key elements for the success of these small nuclear reactors. It is also a gamble for manufacturers, who are unable to control the costs of their current large models.

Another argument in their favor is increasingly appearing in the debate. “Global warming and the States’ difficulty in respecting the Paris Agreement are changing the situation. Everyone realizes that we must act quickly and that we will not be able to do without nuclear power anytime soon ”, believes Christian Jeanneau, vice-president of the engineering group Assystem. He cites countries like Australia or Indonesia that could replace their old coal-fired units with SMRs.

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For the director of the Green Fund, the year 2021 will be decisive

Launched in 2010 in Cancun, during COP-16, the Green Climate Fund is the main instrument for North-South cooperation in climate matters. In ten years of existence, it has failed to attract the 100 billion dollars initially hoped for in 2020. But it has overcome several crises, such as the one caused by the withdrawal of the United States in 2017, which deprived of the 2 billion promised and has proved its usefulness: channeling the effort of the rich countries to finance the fight against global warming among the poorest.

“The Green Fund is today the biggest donor for the climate. It can do things that no UN agency can do, like working with private partners or providing any kind of funding, from grants to loans or capital investments ”, explains Yannick Glemarec, its executive director, who spoke at a seminar organized at the École des Mines on December 15.

Three billion projects per year

The Green Fund was first capitalized in 2014 by $ 7.2 billion, then a second time at the end of 2019 to the tune of 10 billion. “Currently, we approve project funding to the tune of one billion at each board meeting, three times a year, so that at the current rate, we have enough funds until 2022”, explains the director.

→ EXPLANATION. The Green Climate Fund is waiting for its new financing

The headquarters of the Green Fund are in Incheon, South Korea. This United Nations agency works with 103 accredited partners from all over the world. For France, there are BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole and the French Development Agency. The Fund’s rules stipulate that it must finance, for half of its credits, adaptation to climate change and for the other half their transition to sustainable growth models. It must dedicate a quarter of its resources to Africa and island states.

Greening the recovery plans

Long uncertain about its future, the Green Fund is now reinforced by the coming to power of Joe Biden in the United States. It is also counting on recovery plans: “We are at a turning point, Yannick Glemarec analysis. There are currently $ 12 trillion in stimulus in the works as part of the various post-Covid recovery plans around the world. If they are invested as in 2008 to restart the old economy, we will no longer have any chance of staying on track with the Paris Agreement. On the other hand, if we manage to green these plans, that can make it possible to arrive there “.

→ ANALYSIS. Global CO2 emissions have fallen by 7%

According to him, we must also ensure that “Developing countries have access to financing on acceptable terms to launch their own development plans”. With the health crisis, they saw their tax revenues drop and suffered a flight of capital.

From Chile to Senegal

For example, the Fund is co-financing the creation in Chile of a water reservoir by the sea, a project whose total cost is one billion dollars. Wind turbines will produce energy to pump water into the reservoir, located above sea level. Then a dam will use this water to produce electricity which will thus be available at all times, and not not just when it’s windy.

Another emblematic project, the Green Fund finances the electrification of 1,000 villages in Senegal with photovoltaics. “In Africa, we need renewable energies off the grid, because it is anyway too expensive to build power lines”, says Yannick Glemarec. And he insists on the need for “Lift the brakes” to these kinds of projects. Because in developing countries, projects of this type are often slowed down by the administration, or by the lack of technical and financial capacities.

“Projects become easier when a State is frankly committed to a policy of sustainable development”, considers the director. And to encourage them to take this turn, knowing that they will be widely supported, via the Fund, is a powerful lever.

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Climate change with Vision Net-Zero: This is where optimism blossoms

VFive years ago, climate optimism was en vogue overnight, and in Paris the global course for climate policy was redesigned. Today, however, it looks like from another time: “Staying below two degrees seems much more plausible today than it was a few years ago.” Zeke Hausfather, climate modeler at the renowned Breakthrough Institute on the American west coast, posted these lines on Twitter a few days ago posted, and he didn’t receive much opposition. Not even from “Fridays for Future”, although the climate reality has long been on the side of the activists. In the overheated atmosphere, which is now on average 1.2 degrees above pre-industrial levels globally, no corner of the earth is left unscathed by climate change.

Joachim Müller-Jung

Editor in the features section, responsible for the “Nature and Science” section.

The warmest decade ever recorded, the warmest November in history, the highest mean temperatures in the oceans – it can be felt everywhere that the heating is accelerating further. As has long been forecast and warned by climate research, it should be added here. Hausfather is also a warning. And yet the Californian researcher has now made the latest report of the “Climate Action Tracker” public with a downright irritating tone of relief.

“Cautious optimism” is certainly appropriate. It suits him, perhaps also because he is looking for energetic ways out of the climate crisis in his institute and because many politically active climate researchers like him have long been looking for a vision – they call it a “positive narrative”. A few months ago, Hausfather had recalculated the climate sensitivity using new models. This means a physical property of the atmosphere: How many degrees of warming causes a doubling of the carbon dioxide content? It is a very decisive value in a world that has been registering new record levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide almost every year for more than a century.

Of course, the value has always been fraught with uncertainties and probabilities, in the most recent assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change it was shown as plus 1.5 to 4.5 degrees. Hausfather has eliminated some uncertainties based on new empirical findings and published a new range in “Science”: 2.6 to 4.1 degrees. The upper value is decisive here. Apparently the climate reacts violently to the carbon dioxide accumulation in the air, but perhaps in the long run not as radically as long thought. That was Hausfather’s interpretation. For other climate researchers, however, it was by no means the all-clear. In terms of climate history, the rise in greenhouse gases is unprecedented in the history of modern humans.

The “Climate Action Tracker” now seems to be taking up Hausfathers line. Since 2009, climate researchers have been offering updated analyzes independently of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which take into account both scientific findings and developments in climate policy. In addition to the “Climate Analytics” institute, which has its headquarters in Berlin, the “New Climate Institute” is part of the consortium. It became known for its temperature forecasts, which are recalculated according to the national commitments made at climate summits. The new analysis based on modeling results on the anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement states: “Global warming by 2100 could be limited to 2.1 degrees.” That would be very close to the original two-degree target of the climate negotiations, even if not the now internationally favored maximum 1.5 degrees warming (measured against the pre-industrial annual mean).

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Afghans in climate turmoil

“Everything is capout”, Khan Agha blows, three months after the flooding of his mud house in the province of Charikar, north of Kabul. At least 150 people were killed in the flash floods caused by summer rains on August 26. “I have to borrow money again to fix everything”, the villager is in despair. Two years ago, this former carpet seller, long unemployed, had already had to call on his relatives to be able to rebuild part of his house destroyed by flooding.

→ ANALYSIS. Soil preservation, essential to feed the planet

Floods but also droughts, both caused by snowmelt or irregular rainfall, are repeated endlessly in Afghanistan. They pose the greatest climate risks to the livelihoods of Afghans, a study by the UN and the Afghan Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) confirmed.

“Drought will likely be seen as the norm by 2030, rather than a temporary or cyclical event”, thus warned the Stockholm Environment Institute in 2009. The forecasts are alarming for the country where 80% of the population derives its income from rainfed crops and livestock.

A population set to triple in fifty years

And the country has severe handicaps. A war that continues to rage, an acute economic crisis with an unemployment rate of around 40%, more than half of households living below the poverty line. And a population set to triple in fifty years: 21 million inhabitants in 2000, 39 million in 2020 … 65 in 2050.

→ MAINTENANCE. Hervé Le Bras: “The demographic explosion is behind us”

It is this demographic surge that is constantly fragmenting farms and putting the livelihoods of many families at risk. In this already fragile context, global warming is having a dramatic impact on populations. Afghanistan is, in fact, considered to be exceptionally exposed and vulnerable to climate change. The country was classified as such in 173e ranked out of 181 countries by the Global Adaptation Initiative, led by the American University of Notre Dame.

Thus, temperatures are expected to rise by 3 ° C by 2050, while precipitation is expected to drop, according to UN experts. Desertification and the loss of arable land will accelerate, warned the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). However, the authorities remain inactive, despite the posting of a priority by the government according to Aman Sakoot, of the Afghan NGO Green Universe Environmental Organization. “None of the recommendations are applied on the ground, no project materializes”, he storms.

Muhammad Taqi, 51, was forced to leave his village of Shahi Sorkhjoi in central Afghanistan two years ago. “The earth was dry, there was no water, nothing was growing, says this former farmer. There were also floods which destroyed our land and all our crops. “ With his wife and their five children, he moved to the town of Bamiyan, where he became a street vendor for € 1 a day. “We survive very painfully”, he blurted out.

Abdul Askar has also left the drained lands of his village of Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan for the capital. He first turned to the opium fields, like many farmers, and admits to having been a drug addict. “Neighbors were selling their daughters aged 4 or 5 for a little money or a few sacks of wheat because they did not have enough to feed them”, he reports. He ended up in the capital where he found a job in a school in Kabul for a monthly salary of 12,000 Afghanis (€ 130).

“Every good year is followed by two years of drought”

In the west of the country, the situation is just as gloomy. “For fifteen years, each good year has been followed by two years of drought, notes Sakhi Dar, a former farmer and Taliban fighter. There is not as much snow as before which falls in winter and spring arrives earlier. “ Sakhi Dar knows nothing about climate change other than the fact that nothing was growing on his piece of land in the village of Bala Morghab. “God punishes us, he concludes. If the blood of the innocent continues to be shed, then torment will continue to befall us. ”

With his wife and their ten children, they occupy one of the white tents of the Shamal Darya IDP camp in Qala-e-Naw, the provincial capital of Badghis in the north-west of the country. And for the past three years, Sakhi Dar has spent his days behind his cart reselling the potatoes he buys at the market and the plastic that his children collect. For the equivalent of 50 cents to € 1.50 per day.

Greenhouse gases: the Dutch force the state to act

The drought that particularly hit Badghis province in 2018 is considered the worst in decades. It has displaced 250,000 in the country and affected two thirds of the population, according to the UNDP. “A third of the displaced have not been able to return to their homes and remain subject to the same precariousness”, says Eileen McCarthy, from the NGO Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) which operates in Afghanistan.

Millions of Afghans have thus been forced into exile in Kabul for security, economic or climatic reasons. In fact, the Afghan capital has exploded over the past twenty years and is experiencing one of the strongest urban growths on the planet. Some Kabulians do not have access to water, and in recent years, it has always been necessary to dig deeper into the ground to supply the wells.

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Population displacements

♦ 1900 disasters caused 24.9 million new displacements in 140 countries and territories in 2019 according to the 2020 report of the Observatory of Internal Displacement Situations (IDMC) created by the Norwegian Refugee Council. Bangladesh, China, India and the Philippines have each recorded more than 4 million displacements due to disasters.

♦ 20 millions people are forced to leave their homes each year due to disasters caused by climate change, the NGO Oxfam has calculated over the past decade.

♦ 3 times more more displacement is caused by disasters than by conflict and violence, estimates IDMC. And people in low- and middle-income countries are four times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather disasters than those in high-income countries, adds Oxfam.

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A “climathon” for a greener and more innovative Venice

Being a student in Venice while remaining on the sidelines of the issues of such a special city is impossible today, where young people feel particularly affected by climate change. And Venice is not spared.

Almost a year ago, an acqua alta, a phenomenon quite usual at this time of year, took place with a rare intensity to the point of causing considerable damage by flooding most parts of the city. In addition, the proximity of the industrial and port area of ​​Marghera has always been not without posing problems of industrial pollution.

In May 2018, a group of around thirty young citizens of Venice decided to set up a social platform, Venice Calls, to promote a new vision of the city and its citizens on the themes of sustainability. , waste collection, fight against climate change, and reduce the use of plastic in everyday life. A small revolution so much the city has eyes only for tourism without worrying most often of the devastating damage caused by its intensive exploitation.

A whole art of living

The idea is to do everything to save their city that they have appropriated. Most of them are students and unlike the locals, they realize how lucky they are to be studying in such an unusual environment. Live in the lagoon city where “The streets are rivers”, wrote Guy de Maupassant, is a whole art of living. “It is impossible to reside here and do nothing », Agrees to say the small group gathered to discuss the projects on the campo Santa Margherita, a place very frequented by the students because of its many bars and the proximity of the universities, Ca’Foscari, of the university institute of Venice Architecture (Iuav) and bookstores.

→ LARGE-FORMAT. Venice, save your soul

The city already has a large number of associations, but most of them are in the denunciation like No grandi Navi, against the cruise ships which cross the Giudecca canal or those which fight against the creation of an incinerator. ” We are in another approach, in our opinion more constructive, continues Ludovico, one of the members of Venice Calls. It is not enough to denounce, we must offer an alternative. We are at the start of our process, but we want to do something for the city, to bring together the Venetians. Without expressing it, the students of Venice Call practice participatory democracy.

In September 2018, they launched their first operation, which is to clean the city’s canals and shallows, and then in December of the same year, they set about collecting plastic. “For us, it is important to encourage the participation of the inhabitants in the discussions and in the actions that we undertake. We identify the problems and share our ideas. For the collection of plastic, we worked with the company Veritas, which collects garbage in Venice. Due to the currents, the plastic stagnates in places where the company’s barges cannot go. So they give us the material, we collect the plastic and then they come to pick it up where we stored it. », Explain Ludovico.

On the front line for helping residents

On November 12, 2019, when the city was submerged by water and deprived of electricity, Venice Calls was on the front line to organize aid to residents. A coordination center is created to connect thousands of volunteers and residents to help them clear and clean homes and visit isolated people. Two and a half months later, the city must close its doors to tourists due to the coronavirus pandemic. The students mobilize according to the same approach: identification of problems and sharing of ideas with the aim of helping the social cohesion of the city.

→ READ. The highest tide for 50 years submerges Venice

« During the health crisis, online conferences were held with doctors to talk about the virus and the precautions to be taken. At the same time, we asked the town hall to distribute masks and we took care of bringing food to those who could not get out of their homes. », Ludovico continues.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Venice demonstrated the advantages of living in a connected space – it is one of the first Italian cities to have been equipped with fiber – and well protected, the interest to be on an island. “ An exceptional place to live in confinement ”, According to Sebastiano Cognolato, president of Venice Calls and student of political science and human rights.

The theme of the circular economy

Hoping that the city will not be once again confined due to the resumption of the Covid pandemic, the group of students is actively preparing another event, the Climathon, on November 14 and 15. “ We adapt to sanitary conditions, explains Sebastiano in charge with Ludovico of the organization of these two days. For this 5e edition of the Climathon in Venice, there will be a mixture of on-line and face-to-face conferences. Last year, we chose to work on mobility, this year, the theme is the circular economy adapted to a city like Venice. »

In other words, how to move to a model focused on no waste and an increase in the intensity of the use of resources, while reducing the environmental impacts in a city of only 56,000 inhabitants which can receive up to 30 million? tourists per year, with all that this means in terms of waste recycling and environmental impact. A real challenge.

Businesses and start-ups (young shoots), as well as the city’s universities, have already joined Venice Calls for these two days. Its organizers cherish the idea that some of these companies then find an interest in moving to Venice and at the same time creating jobs. Everything has to be done in this area. The health situation, which has reduced tourism to the minimum since last February, makes the need to review the economic model of La Sérénissima more and more urgent.

Attract start-ups

Making the city a hub of innovation and attracting start-ups is an idea that makes sense for these students. This is in line with the projects of several local officials, convinced that it is urgent to think about another form of economy more only based on tourism and culture. The obstacle, however, remains that of the town hall and its mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, who does not seem to have anticipated the changes facing the City of the Doges.

→ MAINTENANCE. Venice risks dying from a “lack of vision”

When the Contemporary Art Biennale which takes place every two years, alternating with that of architecture, stops, the city dies, deplore the organizers of the Climathon. “Nothing is happening and all the spaces of the Giardini de l’Arsenal, used for only four months, are empty. The rest of the time, they could host small businesses or start-ups, for example, or be used for other projects by and for the Venetians, this is not a utopia ”, wants to believe Sebastiano. And Venice Calls intends to storm the town hall to convince the councilor that everyone would benefit from taking a close interest in their project.

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What are the Climathons?

The Climathons are organized every year to raise public awareness of environmental issues. The event takes place in parallel in more than a hundred cities around the world. During a twenty-four hour period, the participants must imagine solutions to challenges proposed by cities, linked to climate change and sustainable development.

75% of EU citizens live in urban areas, and 70% of greenhouse gases responsible for climate change are emitted by cities. The climate emergency is no longer a myth, the IPCC report of October 8 on the consequences of a 1.5 ° C warming in global temperatures confirms it.

During the Climathon, each city defines its own issue according to its local issues, on which experts, entrepreneurs, elected officials and citizens work collectively to co-construct new adaptation strategies to climate change.

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“Detective work” on glaciers: Greenland ice loss much greater than expected

The rise in sea level – during the 20th century it averaged 17 centimeters – threatens many coasts around the world. One reason for this: melting glaciers. Researchers have now examined three such ice giants more closely – with terrifying results.

New calculations on Greenlandic glaciers indicate a significantly greater loss of ice as global warming progresses than previously thought. Previous predictions based on a worst-case scenario for the climate are likely to have underestimated these effects, writes an international team of researchers in the journal “Nature Communications”.

The rise in sea levels is threatening coastal regions around the globe. According to experts, it averaged 17 centimeters during the 20th century. One of the main reasons for this is the melting of glaciers. Many experts assume that sea levels could rise by over a meter in the course of the 21st century if humanity continues to emit as much greenhouse gas as before.

Development of three glaciers on Greenland in the 20th century

Jakobshavn Isbræ: The glacier front in the background flows into the Kangia Fjord. The traces visible on the mountains show the glacier position around 1875. The retreat of the glacier has left a landscape full of lakes.

(Photo: Shfaqat Abbas Khan, DTU Space Denmark)

Shfaqat Khan from the Technical University of Denmark and his team took a closer look at the development of three large glaciers in Greenland over the course of the 20th century: Helheim and Kangerlussuaq glaciers and Jakobshavn Isbræ. During this period, the average air temperature there has risen by around 1.5 degrees.

Based on complex model calculations, which also include geological features on site, the researchers estimate that Jakobshavn Isbræ lost around 1.5 trillion tons of ice between 1880 and 2012. At the Kangerlussuaq glacier it was around 1.4 trillion tons between 1900 and 2012, and at the Helheim glacier significantly less. Overall, the sea level has risen by around 8.1 millimeters as a result.

“Elaborate and exciting detective work”

“It was a complex and exciting detective work,” said Khan, according to a statement from his university. Current satellite data and older aerial photographs have been evaluated. “And everything else we could find.” This also included historical photos from early expeditions.

According to the researchers, the calculations by Khan and his team point to a darker future than expected. Previous models came to the conclusion that the three glaciers could contribute to a sea level rise of 9.1 to 14.9 millimeters by the year 2100 with steadily increasing greenhouse gas emissions – little more than Khan and his team for the period between 1880 and 2012 estimate.

Previous forecasts “too conservative”

The scientists working with Khan therefore consider the previous forecasts for the 21st century to be too conservative. After all, in a worst-case scenario, the average temperature increase for Greenland could be around 8.3 degrees during this period. That would be an increase more than five times higher than in the 20th century.

The researchers therefore assume that the rise in sea level caused by the three glaciers has so far been underestimated. And they even go one step further: “It seems likely that this is not just limited to these three glaciers.”

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Florida Real Estate Crisis Signs Due to Climate Change

Joana Campos Christian Garavaglia 4 min
Florida Miami United States sea level climate change
In places like Bal Harbor, concern over rising sea levels has reduced demand for high-risk coastal properties.

Rising mean sea levels may cause the U.S. coastal real estate market to plummet. The beginning of this risk may be occurring in the small town of Bal Harbor, a resplendent community on the northern tip of Miami Beach.

With single-family homes selling for an average of $ 3.6 million, Bal Harbor symbolizes a place with sophisticated beachfront properties in Florida. However, around 2013, something started to change: the annual number of home sales began to fall, and by 2018, that number had halved, a sign that fewer people were interested in buying.. Prices finally followed the trend and fell 7.6% between 2016 and 2020, according to data from Zillow, a real estate data company.

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Something similar happens in all of the lowlands of Florida. According to new research, the authors argue that Climate change is not only eating away at one of the most thriving real estate markets in the country, rather, it has been doing it in silence for almost a decade.

The effects of climate change

Researchers have identified a decrease in sales in low-lying coastal areas since 2013, followed by a drop in prices, compared to safer areas. In less vulnerable areas, sales and prices continued to grow.

The idea that climate change could bring down the value of coastal homes is neither new nor particularly controversial. In 2016, then-chief economist at mortgage giant Freddie Mac warned that rising sea levels “appear capable of destroying billions of dollars in property and displacing millions of people.” It is estimated that by 2045, more than 300,000 coastal homes will be at risk of flooding, concluded the organization “Union of Concerned Scientists” in 2018.

The question that has researchers worried is how long and how quickly people will respond to this risk with demands for discounts or even flee this market. Previous research has begun to address this issue and shows that Climate change, far from being a distant threat, is already beginning to affect real estate values.

Data on 1.4 million homes sold over 20 years were analyzed and two types of coastal sectors were compared: those in the most exposed areas, where more than 70% of the urbanized land is less than two meters above sea level. sea ​​and also in higher areas where less than 10% of the developed land meets these criteria. In that period, home sales in both areas increased in parallel, suggesting that buyers were not concerned about climate risk..

With increasing risk from extreme events (such as hurricanes), people began to fear and buy less in high-risk areas.

Starting in 2013, something began to change due to the increasing risk of extreme weather events. While sales in the safest areas continued to increase, sales in vulnerable areas began to decline. In 2018, the last year with available data, sales in the most vulnerable areas lagged, between 16% and 20%.

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the anthropocene, or the era of “dazzling” disturbances

Do you remember life on Earth 21,000 years ago… Are you not there? Hunter-gatherers then roamed the vast expanses of Eurasia in search of game, drawing in the process on the walls of caves. It turns out that this period was that of the last glacial maximum, in other words the coldest moment of the last glaciation.

→ READ. Climate: when the planet caught cold … and got warmer

Since then, for essentially astronomical reasons, the climate has warmed: on a planetary scale, it was at the time about 5 ° C less than today and even, in France, from 10 to 15 ° C. less. The glaciers that covered northern Europe and imprisoned the Alps melted, sea level rose 120 meters, it started to rain, and the steppes were replaced by forests – which was not without consequences for the large herds that lived there, and which either disappeared or migrated south.

Never has Homo sapiens lived on such a hot planet

However, this increase of 5 ° C is more or less what scientists are telling us. Not in 21,000 years but by the end of the century, if nothing is done to limit our greenhouse gas emissions. The density of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has already reached unprecedented levels on the scale of the last three million years: 415 parts per million (ppm). “For nearly a million years, the CO2 had only evolved in a small window of 180 ppm (in ice ages) to 280 ppm (in interglacial periods) ”, confirms climatologist Gilles Ramstein, specialist in the climatic history of the very distant past.

“On the scale of Earth’s history, such densities of CO2 are not exceptional, but to that of humanity, yes. The planet will recover; it’s annoying for life “, alert the researcher. Never Homo sapiens, nor even his distant ancestor Toumaï, has lived on a planet as hot as the one which is announced for the end of the century, whereas we have entered, since the industrial revolution, in a new geological era: l anthropocene.

Speed ​​of current disturbances

If the Earth’s climate has always known significant variations, it is speed – the scientific community even speaks of “Dazzling” – current disturbances which is exceptional, due to massive CO emissions2 generated by the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas).

It is feared that many species, both animal and plant, will not have time to adapt to these changes or to migrate quickly enough. They will in fact have to get closer to areas with an adapted climate, but such migrations are very slow processes.

“All plant species are not equal in the face of climatic variations”, says Rachid Cheddadi, of the Institute of Evolutionary Sciences of Montpellier (Isem). “Beech, for example, could be threatened in its range, but other species such as fir should have more thermal amplitude, and better resist. One thing is certain: there will be extinctions, even if they will be more gradual than brutal. ” It remains to be seen how humanity will be able to adapt to such a disruption of ecosystems.

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