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TOPIC: environment

Green

Good COP, Bad COP? How Sharm El-Sheik Failed On The Planet's Big Question

The week-long climate summit in Egypt managed to a backsliding that looked possible at some point, it still failed to deliver on significant change to reverse the effects of global warming.

For 30 years, developing nations have fought to establish an international fund to pay for the “loss and damage” they suffer as a result of climate change. As the COP27 climate summit in Egypt wrapped up over the weekend, they finally succeeded.

While it’s a historic moment, the agreement of loss and damage financing left many details yet to be sorted out. What’s more, many critics have lamented the overall outcome of COP27, saying it falls well short of a sufficient response to the climate crisis. As Alok Sharma, president of COP26 in Glasgow, noted:

"Friends, I said in Glasgow that the pulse of 1.5 °C was weak. Unfortunately it remains on life support."

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Deny Evidence, Downplay Science: Big Oil Is Following Big Pharma's Legal Playbook

Opioid and oil companies alike have a history of obfuscating science as a litigation tactic. How does this harm victims?

Opioids and fossil fuels might seem like vastly different products. But both were marketed as panaceas for a more comfortable existence. Both have some legitimate uses, though we now know that safer alternatives exist for treating chronic pain and powering our economy. And in both instances, we could have known about the harms caused by these products decades sooner, had they not been deliberately concealed from the public for corporate profits.

As those harms have come to light, litigation has become the primary mechanism for attempting to protect the public. Here, too, the parallels continue.

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Sharm El-Sheikh, What's Lurking Behind COP27 Shine

The Egyptian coastal resort has been reinvented (again) to host world leaders for the COP27, as it aims to cast a climate-financing-hungry Egypt in a favorable light. But the cosmetic changes hide years of harm to the region's ecosystem.

SHARM EL-SHEIKH — Amgad* arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh about 40 years ago, driven by curiosity like many other Egyptian youths at the time to explore this corner of Sinai, newly returned to Egypt in the wake of the 1973 war after a 15 years of Israeli occupation.

What Amgad found was a small Bedouin village sheltered within an immaculate landscape: to the east, the Gulf of Aqaba, teeming with marine creatures and jeweled with coral reefs; to the south, two Egyptian islands — now transferred to Saudi Arabia — that separated Sinai from Saudi Arabia; to the west, valleys and mountains, part of the Great Rift Valley, traversed by the Bedouin tribes who have settled in the area for centuries.

The coastline is home to 200 unique species of coral, 500 species of marine vegetation and various species of fish and marine animals, part of the Egyptian barrier reefs that marine ecology professor Mahmoud Hassan Hanafy tells Mada Masr are among the last sanctuaries for this type of marine life in the world, having demonstrated unique resilience to climate change. Onshore ecosystems also serve to protect marine life, he notes.

If, however, you’re among the thousands converging on the city this month to attend COP27, four decades separate you from the site of natural beauty that Amgad first laid eyes on.

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COP Out! How Germany Went From Energy Policy Ideal To Moral Failure

Germany was once a leading light in the green energy transition, but no longer. The country arrives at the COP27 climate conference empty-handed and lacking in moral authority.

-OpEd-

BERLIN — The international climate change conference (COP27) that begins in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on Sunday will see Germany unveiling a new joint climate and foreign policy. For the first time ever, it will not be Germany’s environment ministry leading the negotiations around protecting the planet but its foreign office.

The move to send experienced diplomats to the conference is designed to increase Germany’s influence over global efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, but it will likely have the opposite effect.

Head negotiator Germany's Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock and her State Secretary for International Climate Action Jennifer Morgan will not only arrive at the Egyptian seaside resort empty-handed but also lacking in moral authority. Germany has lost its reputation as a leading light in the move towards renewable energy. No coal-dependent developing country will be put to shame by Germany's energy and environmental policy now.

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Society
Irene Caselli

Switching Off Street Lights? Not The Brightest Solution To Our Energy Crisis

Keeping the lights out at night may be a good measure both for the environment and in the context of an energy crisis – but it may have repercussions on people's sense of security, in particular for women.

As the leaves fall and an energy crisis looms, countries across Europe are preparing for a winter that will be dark, figuratively and literally.

After deciding to switch to cold showers in public buildings, Germany is now turning off street lights at night. Since Sept. 1, the Energy Saving Ordinance has officially prohibited the illumination of public buildings, including landmarks, from the outside.

Others are following suit: In Paris, the Eiffel Tower will see its lights dimmed an hour earlier than usual starting this week, while some 12,000 towns around the country have fully or partially switched off public lighting at night. Spain requires shops and monuments to dim the lights and shut down at 10 p.m. sharp.

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Society
*Saumya Kalia

India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

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Ideas
William Ospina

On Our Planet's Future, And The "Art Of The Necessary"

States and technology have failed to stop the destruction of the natural world, but a deceptively simple rethinking of our habits could turn the tide.

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — From Hurricane Ian to Pakistan's catastrophic floods, we have new reminders all the time that the risk of irreparably changing living conditions on the planet is real — and more alarming in scope than we had envisaged.

Yet the solutions so far have been ineffective because it is living beings, not things, which are destroying the world.

We could blame methane from cows, or plastic or the carbon dioxide of fossil fuels, but the culprits are our diets, our use of plastic or our high-tech traveling. Industry may be responsible, but we individuals are the ones who sustain it.

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Green
Uranchimeg Tsogkhuu*

As More Land Turns to Desert, Fights Over Water Erupt In Mongolia

There are too many animals for the available water supply in the Gobi desert region. The situation worsens each year.

DALANZADGAD — The scorching sun glares at them from directly above, and everything under their feet is parched, dusty and barren. The sheep and goats squeal and squeak, their nostrils sunken, their eyes glazed. Batbaatar Tsedevsuren, a herder with more than two decades of experience, knows this is how his animals behave when extremely thirsty.

He has walked with his 700 animals for several days in Mongolia’s Gobi desert in search of water and green pastures, when suddenly Batbaatar sees a well, and a fellow herder sitting on its edge. He comes closer with a smile, he later recalls, but the herder doesn’t reciprocate. “There is no water in the well,” the other herder quickly says. Batbaatar knows that isn’t true, and that the herder is just acting stingy. But he can’t afford a fight.

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Society
Sophia Constantino

Whispers In The Abbey: How Long Can King Charles III Hold On To The Crown?

It's passed down by bloodline, and Charles has publicly vowed to a life of service. But is a rather un-beloved old white man with a complicated past the right royal for this moment? Even if a monarchy is undemocratic by design, popular opinion matters today more than ever. Just look at the Spanish monarchy.

-Analysis-

Grappling with the loss of its Queen, Britain is simultaneously embarking on a rapid process of transition — and that begins with a face and few key words. Postage stamps, speeches, national anthems: all of it will change visage and verbiage from Queen to King, Her Majesty to His Majesty, as Elizabeth’s son Charles III takes power.

But these differences are just scratching the surface of potentially far deeper changes afoot, and a looming sense of trepidation only being whispered about, as the nation joins together to try to assure a smooth transition of royal power.

Yet there are questions that will only grow louder: Will the aging son pale in comparison to his mother’s lifelong standard? How far has society evolved since Elizabeth took the crown in 1952? Will Charles' past as prince come back to haunt him?

Put a tad more bluntly: How long will his reign last?

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Ideas
Héctor Abad Faciolince

The Noble Absurdity Of Granting Constitutional Rights To Nature

Giving nature rights, as South American nations are keen to do these days, is well-intentioned, but far too limited in scope to make sense.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — The Webb space telescope's extraordinary ability to "see" has allowed us to observe what was previously hidden by cosmic dust.

Thanks to cameras catching infrared light, which humans cannot see, a new universe has unfolded, thousands of millions of light years away: with unknown galaxies, stars that are born and collapse, cosmic precipices, magnificent explosions and black holes that swallow stars.

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Green Or Gone
Hans-Joachim Voth

A/C And Global Warming: A Northern Call To Embrace Air Conditioning

Misguided arguments about air conditioning's environmental impact are stopping people from installing systems in homes and offices. But in the age of solar power, there's no need to stew in your own sweat "for the sake of the planet."

-Analysis-

BERLIN — The maps on TV weather reports were a glowing swathe of red. As the summer heatwave took hold in Germany, the country experienced record temperatures, with the mercury rising to over 35 °C in many places.

Every year, this time sees a fall in unemployment rates and a rise in heat-related deaths. But why do we take it for granted that the fierce heat outside must be reflected indoors?

In winter we have no problem with turning the heating on to keep our homes warm. In summer, there is also a simple technological solution – air conditioning. It costs relatively little, can be easily installed and creates a comfortable indoor temperature at the click of a button. It comes as standard in cars, but is rare in offices and homes in Germany. Only 3% of all homes in the country have air conditioning, whereas in the U.S. it is around 90%.

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Society
Grégory Plesse

How Airbnb Created A Homeless Crisis In An Idyllic Australian Town

In the bohemian Australian seaside town of Byron Bay, rents are now higher than Sydney or Melbourne. And as Airbnb takes its toll, this small town has almost as many homeless people as Sydney.

BYRON BAY — It's a scene that is repeated almost every evening. Small groups form on the seafront, some take out a guitar around an improvised campfire among the rocks, a few acrobats hypnotize passers-by by twirling fiery bolas, and most clink glasses over a few beers, modestly covered by paper bags. They are all there to admire the sun setting behind the mountains bordering the northern tip of the beach, which stretches for about 30 kilometers, tinting the sky with shades ranging from pale pink to scarlet red.

Located at the eastern tip of Australia, an ideal geographical position where very beautiful waves are formed, Byron Bay, in New South Wales, is one of the most popular destinations for surfers. It is also home to one of the oldest surf clubs in the country, created more than a century ago, in 1907.

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