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Climate crisis: Scientists spot warning signs of Gulf Stream collapse
Increasingly scientists are concerned about the tipping points, thresholds in the climate system, which can lead to large and often irreversible changes in the state of the system that can impact both ecosystems and human systems.
Climate scientists have detected warning signs of the collapse of the Gulf Stream, one of the main tipping points. “The research found an almost complete loss of stability over the last century of the currents that researchers call the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). The currents are already at their slowest point in at least 1,600 years, but the new analysis shows they may be nearing a shutdown.” This is due to the melting of freshwater from Greenland’s ice sheet, which is slowing the sinking of the salty seawater into the Arctic ocean, which drives the AMOC.
An event like this one could have a significant impact on the world as it could disrupt rainfall patterns in India, South America and West Africa, and affect local food supplies. In addition, Europe could suffer from changes in temperature and North America could experience higher sea levels.
Although there is much uncertainty as to what levels of global temperature increase or CO2 could cause the collapse of AMOC, it is clear that the risk of it is greater with each additional gram of CO2 we release into the atmosphere.
Finance firms plan to close coal plants in Asia
An initiative developed by Prudential, the Asian Development Bank and other major banks, such as HSBC and Citi, aims to accelerate the closure of coal-fired power plants in Asia to tackle the biggest anthropogenic source of carbon emissions, which accounts for ⅕ of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Through this public-private partnership, the goal is to reduce the operating lifespan of plants by buying plants that have for example 50 years of operational life ahead and shutting them down within 15 years to significantly reduce cumulative emissions. The Asian Development Bank hopes to launch a pilot programme in a developing South East Asian country in time for COP26.
Although the plan aims to cut emissions, the details of the plan have yet to be finalized as there remain challenges ahead to reach a fossil-fuel free world, especially in Asian developing countries.
Biden sets electric vehicle target in drive to cut emissions
Since Biden’s administration has taken office, the US is getting back on track on its climate change policies. Biden has signed a new executive order that calls for all new vehicles sold in the US to be electric by 2030. “The US president announced the target as he said federal agencies laid plans to reverse former president Donald Trump’s gutting of aggressive Obama-era rules on fuel efficiency and vehicle emissions.”
Although the US Legislative Director for the Environmental Law & Policy Center has stated that the “the new targets will not compensate for the weakening the Trump administration did,” the goal of this executive order is to push carmakers towards electrification. Not only to tackle the emissions from the transport sector, which account for the largest source of emissions in the US with 29%, but also to push American carmakers to manufacture electric vehicles in the US. In addition, the US Congress is considering a legislation to allocate $7.5bn to build out the US’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure.