Our planet
Environment, natural resources, geopolitics

14 January 2021

Free to breathe
A man has been spared deportation from France on the novel ground that being forced to return to his native Bangladesh would endanger his health because of the poor air quality there. A Bordeaux court let the unnamed 40 year-old man stay in France because of a respiratory condition for which drugs aren’t readily available in Bangladesh and for which the breathing apparatus he needs at night is only available in hospital. Bangladesh ranks 179 out of 180 countries for air quality in the Environmental Performance Index published by Yale and Columbia universities, but there are plenty more places in the world where the air is only fit to choke on. If the Bordeaux decision serves as precedent, this could be big. The Guardian has the story

13 January 2021

Build the wall!
An astonishing plan to plant an 8000km Great Green Wall of trees and grasses from Senegal to Djibouti got a boost this week when donors including the African Development Bank, World Bank and French government pledged $14 billion to support it. The project aims to create a transitional zone 15km wide between the encroaching Sahara and humid savannas to the south. In Senegal, 12 million trees have already been planted. In Ethiopia, 15 million hectares of degraded land has been restored. If successful, the Wall could see 100 million hectares of degraded land restored, 250 million tonnes of carbon sequestered and 10 million rural jobs created by 2030. Yet after 13 years it’s still only 4 per cent complete and this latest cash boost provides less than a third of the $33 billion needed. Elon? Bill? Jeff?

12 January 2021

Green King
Prince Charles is pushing businesses to sign up to a new project: “Terra Carta”. The name is intended to invoke the history of Magna Carta (‘the Great Charter’). This is interesting for two reasons. First, the commitments themselves include supporting international agreements on climate, biodiversity and desertification.  Second, the future King of the United Kingdom (or whatever’s left of it by then) continues to press the edges of politics. But it is a sign of the times: large parts of his environmentalism, particularly around climate change, have become mainstream enough that these sorts of interventions are not considered to be improper.

11 January 2021

Turtles arise
The European pond turtle looks sufficiently like a tortoise to justify this item on branding grounds alone. It’s cute, widespread in Europe and much less so in Britain, but being given a gentle reintroduction by two A-level students who, deprived of exams, have set up what they hope will become the country’s biggest outdoor breeding facility for reptiles and amphibians. That means newts, frogs, toads and lizards as well as turtles, but apparently no actual tortoises. Ah well. Meet Harvey Tweats and Tom Whitehurst, childhood friends from Staffordshire, whose story was inspired by George Monbiot’s Feral and is told in today’s Guardian. Do they have time for girlfriends? “No, we don’t…. We’d rather crack on with this.”

8 January 2021

Yet more warming
At the end of the week when a Democratic US Senate majority made progressive American climate policies more likely it may seem perverse to highlight a weird warming effect of the pandemic, but Sensemaker follows the evidence. A new paper in Geophysical Research Letters says a steep fall in aerosol emissions as the world went into lockdown led to a reduction in “aerosol cooling” and a modest net warming effect last spring. That aerosol cooling is apparently caused by, among other things, black carbon, which seems odd considering dark surfaces absorb light rather than reflect it. Explanations welcome. In related news, last year was, overall, the hottest ever recorded.