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Climate Change

Biden to attend COP27 climate summit in Egypt, says White House

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(Last Updated On: October 29, 2022)

US President Joe Biden will attend next month’s COP27 United Nations climate summit in Egypt, the White House said Friday, vowing he would “highlight the need for the world to act.”

The COP27 conference will once more seek to boost global efforts to slow the climate crisis that is intensifying natural disasters, from wildfires to severe storms.

Biden will “advance the global climate fight and help the most vulnerable build resilience to climate impacts, and he will highlight the need for the world to act in this decisive decade,” the White House said in a statement.

Egypt is to host the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Biden will be at the summit on November 11, before heading to Cambodia for the annual US-ASEAN summit and then on to Indonesia for a G20 summit, Reuters reported.

“He will work with G20 partners to address key challenges such as climate change, the global impact of (President Vladimir) Putin’s war on Ukraine, including on energy and food security and affordability, and a range of other priorities,” the White House said.

US officials have said Biden has no intention to meet Putin at the G20 summit, even if Putin attends.

COP26 last year ended with a pledge to keep global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels — a goal the world is set to miss on current emission trends.

Climate Change

Over 160 die in Afghanistan as extreme cold sweeps across the country

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(Last Updated On: January 29, 2023)

A cold snap in Afghanistan has killed over 160 people and more than 200,000 livestock in what officials say is its coldest winter in 15 years.

Temperatures in some parts of the country have plummeted to -33 degrees Celsius and heavy snowfalls have been recorded across the nation – which is grappling with a severe humanitarian crisis.

The country’s disaster management agency said on Saturday that the death toll had risen by 88 over the past week and now stood at 166, based on data from 24 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Ministry official Abdul Rahman Zahid said in a video statement that the deaths were caused by floods, fires and leaks from gas heaters, while about 100 homes have been destroyed.

“The Afghan winter … as everybody in Afghanistan knows, is the big messenger of doom for so many families in Afghanistan as we go through these many years of humanitarian need … we see some of the consequences in loss of life,” UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said this week 17 people had died in a single village in northeastern Badakhshan province due to an outbreak of “acute respiratory infection.”

“Harsh weather prevents help from reaching the area,” the WHO said.

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Climate Change

New Zealand’s Auckland starts clean-up after deadly flash floods

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(Last Updated On: January 28, 2023)

The authorities in New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, began clean up operations on Saturday after torrential rains brought flash flooding and evacuations, with at least three people confirmed dead and one still missing.

A state of emergency remained in place in the city of 1.6 million people on New Zealand’s north island as the rains eased after Friday’s flooding in the north, north-west and west, the Straits Times reported.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who has been in office for less than a week, flew over Auckland in a helicopter before vitising flood-hit homes.

“The level of devastation in some areas is considerable,” Hipkins told reporters, describing the event as “unprecedented” in recent memory.

Auckland Emergency Management issued a statement saying: “Auckland was clobbered on Friday – Auckland’s wettest day on record – and today we start the clean-up.”

The local weather forecaster meanwhile warned of possible downpours again on Sunday.

Showers were “dotted around Auckland” with some heavy rain west of the city, Auckland Emergency Management tweeted, while warning residents to “stay safe” amid the emergency.

“We’re not out of this yet. Heavy rain returns tomorrow,” the agency wrote on the social media platform.

Two men were found dead, New Zealand Police said. A search was under way for a man believed swept away, while another person was unaccounted for after a landslide hit a house in an inner Auckland suburb, police said.

More than 2,000 calls for assistance and 70 evacuations were made around the city, the New Zealand Herald reported.

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Climate Change

Giant iceberg size of London breaks free of Antarctica

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(Last Updated On: January 26, 2023)

A giant iceberg — the size of greater London — broke free from Antarctica, researchers said Tuesday.

“A huge iceberg (1550 km²), almost the size of Greater London, has broken off the 150m (meter) thick Brunt Ice Shelf,” the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the UK’s national polar research institute, said on its website.

“It calved after cracks that have been developing naturally over the last few years extended across the entire ice shelf, causing the new iceberg to break free,” it added.

The iceberg broke free on Sunday.

“The iceberg calved when the crack known as Chasm-1 fully extended through the ice shelf,” it added.

The break-off occurred a decade after the BAS scientists first noticed the expansion of sizable cracks in the ice, the statement said, adding that it is the second significant calving from this area in the past two years.

Quoting BAS Director Dame Jane Francis, the statement said: “Our glaciologists and operations teams have been anticipating this event.”

The scientists measured the ice shelf multiple times and “how the ice shelf is deforming and moving, and are compared to satellite images from ESA, NASA and the German satellite TerraSAR-X,” Francis added.

“All data are sent back to Cambridge for analysis,” he said. “So we know what is happening even in the Antarctic winter – when there is no staff on the station, it is dark for 24 hours and the temperature falls below minus 50 degrees C (or -58F).”

‘Calving event has been expected’

For his part, a BAS glaciologist Dominic Hodgson said: “This calving event has been expected and is part of the natural behavior of the Brunt Ice Shelf. It is not linked to climate change.”

“Our science and operational teams continue to monitor the ice shelf in real-time to ensure it is safe, and to maintain the delivery of the science we undertake at Halley,” Hodgson added.

The BAS Halley Research Station is situated on Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf. The area of the ice shelf where the research station is located, according to BAS glaciologists who have been observing the ice shelf’s behavior, is now “unaffected” by the recent calving occurrences.

According to the statement, the Brunt Ice Shelf’s glaciological structure is complex, and the effects of calving episodes are unpredictable. After Chasm-1 started to expand in 2016, BAS scientists moved the station 23 kilometers (14 miles) inland as a precaution.

Since 2017, employees have been deployed to the station only during the Antarctic summer between November to March.

There are currently 21 employees working on the station to maintain the power supplies and facilities that allow scientific studies to continue remotely throughout the winter.

According to satellite monitoring, in 2012 a chasm (Chasm-1) that had been dormant for at least 35 years began to show the first indications of alteration.

Since 2015, Chasm-1 has been expanding, and by December 2022, it has spread across the entire ice shelf, signaling the start of the calving event.

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