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According to the study, new EU climate targets for 2030 can only be achieved with great difficulty

The tightening of the EU climate targets would lead to a drastic change in energy and transport, according to a new study. But it could be implemented.

According to a study, the considered tightening of the EU climate target for 2030 means a drastic change in energy and transport. In ten years’ time, 60 to 88 percent of all new cars would have to drive without climate-damaging emissions if the European Union wanted to reduce its greenhouse gases by 55 percent compared to 1990, according to the study commissioned by the European Climate Foundation.

With a climate target of minus 65 percent, it would be 93 percent climate-friendly new cars. Great efforts would also be required in buildings, factories, power plants and agriculture for both scenarios.

So far, the EU has set itself the goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 40 percent in 2030 compared to 1990. The value is to be tightened this year. The EU Commission is aiming for a new target of minus 50 to 55 percent. In the EU Parliament, up to 65 percent are up for debate in order to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The study published on Monday systematically examines the feasibility of a 55 and a 65 percent target and comes to the conclusion: Both would be feasible. There are two variants of the 55 percent target – one that relies on the very rapid use of new technologies, and one that expects a considerable change in behavior on the part of citizens. A 65 percent target would have to combine both.

In both cases, major changes are due. Examples: The generation of electricity from coal would have to be reduced from the last 470 terawatt hours at the 55 percent target to a maximum of 50 terawatt hours by 2030, and only to 25 for the 65 percent target. Every year, 2.3 to 3.5 percent would have to be reduced the residential buildings are modernized so extensively that around 80 percent less energy is then required. Meat consumption should decrease by eleven to 30 percent.

The EU Commission is working on its own impact analysis, which should be available in September. This is followed by a proposal for the new climate target, on which the EU states and the EU Parliament would have to agree.

Record increase in greenhouse gas concentration

The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has never risen as quickly as it did last year. The reasons: human activity, the El Niño weather phenomenon and droughts in the tropics.

GenevaAccording to measurements by climatologists, the greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere has never risen as quickly as it did last year. In addition to the activities of the people, this was also due to the El Niño weather phenomenon with its increased ocean temperatures and droughts in the tropics, as the World Weather Organization (WMO) reported in Geneva on Monday. As a result, oceans and forests, for example, could not absorb as much climate-damaging carbon dioxide (CO2) as in other years.

The new WMO greenhouse gas bulletin, together with the report of the UN Environment Program (UNEP) planned for Tuesday on progress in reducing greenhouse gases, will serve as the basis for the climate conference in Bonn from November 6th. Unep’s “Emissions Gap Report” shows what the world’s population still has to do to limit global warming to below two degrees by the end of the century, as laid down in the Paris World Climate Agreement.

WMO General Secretary Petteri Taalas sounded the alarm: “Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous increases in temperature by the end of the century that are well above the goals of the Paris Agreement. Future generations will inherit a much more inhospitable planet. “

According to the WMO, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was 403.3 parts per million particles (ppm), compared to 400 ppm in the previous year. The most recent growth record of well below 2 ppm came from 2013. In 1996 the concentration was only 362 ppm. The US climate agency NOAA reported a CO2 concentration of 402.9 ppm for the past year. The WMO would take measurements from twice as many stations as the NOAA, said WMO climate researcher Oksana Tarasova.

Until the beginning of industrialization around 1750, the concentration remained below 280 ppm for at least 800,000 years, the report says. This is proven by ice drilling, in which correspondingly old air bubbles were discovered, which made it possible to measure the concentration at that time. After analyzing fossils, researchers estimate that there was a CO2 concentration as high as it was three to five million years ago. It was two to three degrees warmer. The ice in Greenland and West Antarctica has melted and the sea level has been 10 to 20 meters higher.

If the CO2 level continues to rise rapidly, this can trigger unprecedented climate changes, with “serious ecological and economic disruptions,” warns the WMO. In addition to population growth, more intensive agriculture and deforestation, industrialization and the associated use of fossil fuels contribute to high greenhouse gas concentrations.

CO2 is the most important long-lived greenhouse gas: the combustion of coal, oil and gas, cement production and other industrial processes cause around 70 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. According to the report, the CO2 concentration was 145 percent compared to the pre-industrial level in 2016, the second most important greenhouse gas methane was 257 percent and the third most important, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), 122 percent.

Global CO2 emissions have remained practically at the same level over the past three years. But the concentration in the atmosphere increases even if the emissions remain high. Around a quarter of the CO2 emitted is currently absorbed by the oceans, which become more acidic. Another quarter stores the biosphere, for example trees and soil. The rest ends up in the atmosphere. The radiative forcing, which measures the climate-relevant effects of greenhouse gases, has increased by 40 percent since 1990, of which by 2.5 percent in 2016 alone, according to the report. CO2 is responsible for 80 percent of the increase since 1990.

Climate change is already affecting health

The CO2 concentration is increasing at record speed. Emissions must be reduced more massively than planned in order to avert a climate catastrophe – and the heat is already affecting many people’s health today.

Shortly before the world climate conference in Bonn, UN organizations, doctors and economists sound the alarm. The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased faster than ever before. Climate change is already damaging the health of many people. In addition, the countries would have to do a lot more than previously planned to avert a climate collapse. These are the facts for the World Climate Conference in Bonn, which begins next Monday.

Even if all the climate protection commitments made so far by the countries are adhered to, the temperature of the earth will increase by at least three degrees compared to the time before industrialization, according to the UN Environment Program (UNEP). The program presented this admonishing interim report on Tuesday in Geneva. In the Paris Agreement, the states agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees if possible, but in any case to well below 2 degrees.

According to the World Weather Organization (WMO), it is already 1.2 degrees warmer on earth. The two-degree target is considered the ultimate limit to avert catastrophic climate impacts. Many researchers warn of barely tolerable consequences for mankind even at plus 1.5 degrees: melting of the ice caps, rising sea levels, more extreme weather conditions. “There is an urgent need to accelerate the short-term measures and to make the long-term goals more ambitious,” says the Unep report. The states’ climate targets would only result in a third of the emission reductions that would be necessary by 2030 to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.

What effects climate change is already having

Although the set climate targets will not be enough by 2030, there is a ray of hope: The global emissions of the most important greenhouse gas CO2 of 35.8 Gt have remained relatively stable over the past three years. Part of the stabilization comes from the expansion of renewable energies, especially in China and India. However, if coal-fired power plants were built, emissions could quickly rise again.

The Unep report also shows specific ways in which countries can save CO2 at low cost. Renewable energies, more energy efficiency, afforestation and avoidance of forest destruction could be implemented at low costs or even bring profits.

Climate protection is displacing nature conservation

By fixating on climate protection and phasing out coal, politicians and ecologists are neglecting specific nature conservation. Saving the world has priority.

Now finally some of the big players came to Bonn for the World Climate Conference on Wednesday: Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. In the past few days, it was mainly non-governmental organizations that had dominated the reporting: with rankings such as the “Climate Protection Index” from Germanwatch and, above all, with campaigns against open-cast lignite mining in the Garzweiler district, not too far from Bonn, that can be easily photographed.

After Merkel’s speech, the activists can feel like winners: The Chancellor made it clear that she wants to significantly reduce the use of coal to generate electricity in Germany. After all, it is a “question of fate for humanity”.

The annual world climate conferences are no longer just a scientific and political forum for the formulation of international agreements. They have become a public stage on which the rulers can propagate their will to solve global problems and the booming industry of NGOs can market itself.

There is no question about it: the evidence for anthropogenic – that is, caused by human production and consumption – climate change is convincing. Unfortunately, as Donald Trump and many of the new populist parties in Europe suggest, the change in the global climate is not a conspiratorial invention.

Nevertheless, the increasing fixation of activists and politicians on the coal phase-out and climate protection must be viewed critically. Because climate protection alone does not replace nature conservation. The preservation of biological diversity, natural habitats and landscapes, forests and wild animals has gotten out of the focus of public attention and thus also of politics due to the fixation on the climate. Climate change plays a rather subordinate role in the loss of nature or the extinction of species. On the IUCN ranking of the causes of species extinction, warming comes in seventh place. Land grabbing through the expansion of settlement and economic areas, industrialized agriculture and the use of pesticides has much more devastating effects.

Ironically, the expansion of so-called renewable energies in the service of climate protection, not least the particularly space-intensive expansion of wind and solar power plants, counteracts the goals of the national biodiversity strategy in Germany. Because during the energy transition it was neglected to set load limits for species, forests and landscapes. These pressures affect not only animals, but also people: In Germany, you can hardly go for a walk in the forest

Too much meat consumption, too much clearing – Climate Council presents report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will publish a special report on Thursday. In focus: climate change and land use. But the report could also contain a sharp warning to the world’s population.

GenevaAround 820 million people worldwide are undernourished. On the other hand, there is very high meat consumption that uses up a lot of land and a lot of food is simply thrown away. Providing the growing world population with adequate food in an equitable manner is a daunting challenge – and it is getting worse with climate change. Agriculture needs land, but at the same time many forests are necessary because they store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. “Food security and the protection of forests should be non-negotiable,” says Charlotte Streck, co-founder of the think tank Climate Focus. A contradiction?

No, says Streck, the either-or game bothers them. Both are possible. From their point of view the most important levers: reduce meat consumption and accelerate the phase-out from fossil fuels. “Beef is particularly resource-intensive. It takes 20 times as much land and produces 20 times as many greenhouse gases per gram of edible protein than vegetable proteins, for example from beans, peas or lentils, ”explains Streck. And land is a limited resource. In addition, according to the World Food and Agriculture Organization FAO, a third of all food is thrown away worldwide.

In all likelihood, these facts will also be made clear in the special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which will be published in Geneva on Thursday and which will primarily deal with land use and climate change.

In Germany, shortly before the publication of the special report, there is a discussion about whether meat should be taxed higher in future. The Greens expert Friedrich Ostendorff spoke out in favor of an increase in VAT from 7 to 19 percent, criticism came from farmers and consumer advocates. The federal government reacted cautiously. The German Animal Welfare Association brought up the topic. As the Federal Statistical Office announced on Wednesday, slaughterhouses in Germany produced 2.6 percent less meat in the first half of the current year. According to the statistics bureau, 29.4 million pigs, cattle, sheep, goats and horses were slaughtered in the first six months of the year.

Despite this small success for climate protectors in Germany: The IPCC special report could contain a sharp warning to the world population, politics and the economy. “At a time when we can least afford it, we are losing fertile soil and biological diversity at an alarming rate,” said the managing director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Inger Andersen, on Friday at the opening of the multi-day event IPCC meeting. “We have to adapt the use of our land to climate change so that we can secure food production for present and future generations.”

A large international team of researchers has carried out a very extensive analysis of the current global level of knowledge on these topics for the IPCC in recent years. Since Friday, delegates from the IPCC member countries have been meeting in Geneva to discuss the summary of the analysis. The IPCC plans to present the resulting report on Thursday. The one-week procedure is intended to ensure that the IPCC special report is also recognized by the member countries.

Expert Streck already sees the fact that the role of forests and agriculture is being discussed as a great success. “The topic affects us directly, we see burning forests, a lot of pest infestation. The forest quality is also going downhill for us, ”says Streck, who believes that there is a lot of potential for phasing out fossil fuels.

“The climate models are getting wilder and wilder if we stick to fossil fuels and have to designate more and more reforestation areas as compensation.” An end to fossil fuels would therefore take a lot of pressure off the debate about possible land conflicts. According to the latest IPCC report on the 1.5 degree target, global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would have to fall by 45 percent between 2010 and 2030 and reach zero in 2050.

In addition to sustainable land management, topics such as droughts, desertification, heat waves and floods will play a role in the report. The chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Hoesung Lee, emphasized last Friday above all the symbolic effect on the public that the report could send. “I hope that we can raise people’s awareness of the dangers and challenges that climate change poses for the land we live on and that feed us.”

More : Norway wants to press carbon dioxide into old oil and gas fields and thus fight climate change. However, the technology used is controversial.

Higher CO2 prices for green economic miracle

The EU wants to impose a sustainability scheme on asset managers. The money industry is already preparing. Stanislaus von Thurn und Taxis for the benefit of the climate protests and setting the course for politics.

Stanislaus Prinz von Thurn und Taxis (32) recently became Head of Sustainability Research (ESG) at asset manager Flossbach von Storch AG in Cologne. He started there in 2017 as an equity analyst after working for a London hedge fund and the German private bank Berenberg. The economist studied in Maastricht, Prague and London.

WirtschaftsWoche: Prinz von Thurn und Taxis, do your fund manager colleagues at Flossbach von Storch have to change a lot in the depots in order to take greater account of the risk of climate change?
Von Thurn und Taxis: Sustainability is not new to us, it has always been part of our investment process. Therefore, the topic is already reflected in our portfolios. A company can only be sustainably successful if it serves its customers properly, motivates its employees, treats its business partners fairly, invests adequately, pays taxes and does not cause any environmental damage. In addition to good corporate governance, ecological and social issues are prerequisites for long-term economic success. One cannot be done without the other.

According to the will of the EU, companies with more than 500 employees should in future indicate to what extent their activities fit into one of three categories for sustainable investments: “green”, “enabling” and “transition” are available. Does this help fund managers?
The primary concern should be to ensure that the sustainability data is also reliable. The form in which this is implemented is of secondary importance to us. The fact that transparency is to be increased is definitely a step in the right direction. But I would at least question whether one is doing oneself a favor with terms such as “green”, “enabling” and “transition”, that is, an express assessment. Not a single ton of CO2 should be saved just because something falls into the “transition” pot. That would require a consensus in society as a whole.

Aren’t money managers too narrowed down when politicians give them strict requirements for a sustainability scheme? Do you expect a loss of return?
No, neither one nor the other. Since the taxonomy should expressly not prescribe where one can invest and where not, we reserve the right to deviate from the static classification if our analysis comes to a different conclusion. Our hope is that the taxonomy will at least lead to companies issuing more and better information on sustainability and thus making it easier for us to analyze the respective companies – and that it will put a stop to “greenwashing” in the fund industry. This would protect investors from sham packaging that says “sustainable” on it, but does not contain any of it.

Has your stance on the topic of climate change and sustainability changed much with the protests of climate protection activist Greta Thunberg and the “Fridays for Future” movement?
Greta Thunberg’s protest is important, but the right conclusions should be drawn from it. Politicians should have the courage to use intelligent incentive systems to promote climate-friendly economic activity and consumption and, conversely, to punish pollution of the environment. A higher CO2 pricing, for example, would be more productive than a pure ban policy, as it stimulates innovations and the development of new technologies without patronizing the citizens. It could even contribute to a green economic miracle, a kind of “Green New Deal”, if it were done right and steered the energy of scientists, entrepreneurs and engineers in the right direction.

You have received a lot of awards for your funds, but a sustainability seal is not one of them. Will that change?
We are basically not interested in awards or seals. We will remain true to our investment strategy, which explicitly includes ESG factors in the analysis process.

ESG stands for environment, social and good corporate governance, or in English: environment, social and governance. Why are these factors important?
We are convinced that this strategy not only delivers added value for our investors, but also benefits all stakeholders in the companies in which we are involved. In the end, that should also be recognized – with or without a seal.

Can you rely on the data provided by companies on sustainability and the climate?
No, not yet. For a proper company analysis that also integrates sustainability factors, we not only need more, but above all better data than the one previously provided. The fact that there has not yet been a reporting standard that prescribes what and how it is published appropriately has led to a confusing jumble of data that is sometimes hardly comparable. The template-like ESG ratings derived from this therefore only help us to a limited extent. You can point out one or the other critical point, but nothing more. As an investor, you cannot avoid your own analysis.

Environmentalists concerned: will Africa become a new dumping ground for plastic waste?

The world’s strictest ban on plastic bags applies in Kenya. But environmentalists fear that this could change – but that would also have consequences for other countries.

Kenya is a role model in the fight against plastic waste that pollutes Africa . The world’s strictest ban on the use, manufacture and import of plastic bags has been in effect here for three years . But maybe not for much longer: environmentalists fear that Kenya is under pressure to relax its regulations and, even more, to become a key station for the transit of this type of rubbish to other African countries.

Accordingly, the oil industry has asked the US to move Kenya to change its determined stance. The advance of the American Chemistry Council, whose members include larger oil companies, took place by letter to the agency of the US Trade Representative – against the background of negotiations between the US and Kenya on a trade agreement, the first bilateral pact of its kind between the US and Kenya an African country south of the Sahara. It should also serve as a model for other agreements with states in Africa.

This importance also played a role in bringing about the visit of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta to the White House last February. US President Donald Trump has seldom met an African head of state there.

The letter from the American Chemistry Council, which the AP news agency saw, was dated April 28th. In it, the panel’s director of international trade, Ed Brzytwa, called on the US and Kenya to ban restrictions on “the production or use of chemicals and plastics” both domestically and in their cross-border trade.

“We expect Kenya in the future to become a hub for the supply of other markets in Africa with US-made chemicals and plastics,” the letter continues, which was first made known by the Unearthed group, a branch of the environmental organization Greenpeace . In June, the Chemistry Council also repeated the request in a hearing where the public could comment.

Environmentally friendly waste management

China banned most plastic waste imports in 2018, forcing companies to find new dump locations. But more and more other countries – including in Africa – also refuse to pick up the garbage. Plastic waste intended for recycling is piled up on heaps in Kenyan cities.

Oil companies, meanwhile, are under increasing pressure as more countries like Kenya work towards moving away from fossil fuels for their energy supply.

In a statement to the AP news agency, the Chemicals Council stressed that it is well aware that “a bilateral trade agreement between the US and Kenya does not override Kenya’s domestic approach to plastic waste or its international obligations under the Basel Agreement is undermined “.

The committee was referring to a global agreement on environmentally friendly waste management, which is intended to make it significantly more difficult to transport plastic waste to poorer countries. Almost 190 states have joined, but not the US.

AP requests to the US Trade Representative’s office for comment went unanswered, and Kenya did not respond. In a US review of the negotiating goals in May, one point cited was the creation of rules “to ensure that Kenya does not waive or deviate from protective measures under environmental laws in order to promote trade or investment”.

Limitations of plastic

Kenya banned plastic bags in 2017, inspiring other African countries with roads, waterways and even trees full of tattered bags to take similar measures. The thought that the state could weaken or lift its ban under pressure from the US or the oil industry has upset the vibrant community of environmentalists in the country – all the more since further progress has now been made: Kenya has this year too Banned other single-use plastic products such as bottles from beaches, national parks, and other protected areas.

“They want Kenya to lift its strict restrictions on plastic, including the plastic bag ban from 2017! NO! ”Tweeted James Wakibia, who at the time had fought hard for the ban on bags and is now committed to ensuring that all East African countries ban“ all unnecessary single-use plastic ”. Any attempts to soften Kenya’s laws would be “outrageous and irresponsible”, says Inger Andersen from the UN environmental program Unep, based in Kenya.

According to a 2018 study by the organization, there was some sort of regulation regarding plastic bags in 127 countries at the time. 37 of these states were in Africa, which made this region a world leader, as the UN says. She particularly points out the sentences of up to four years imprisonment and fines of the equivalent of up to 32,000 euros, which threaten in Kenya in the event of violations.

The state put the negotiations with the USA on hold in the spring because of the corona pandemic, and they finally started in July. The Chemicals Council says it doesn’t know whether the US Trade Representative’s office has considered its recommendations.

In any case, Griffins Ochieng, director of the Center for Environmental Justice and Development in Kenya, strongly warns that any attempt to change plastic laws would be dangerous. “Africa looks like a new garbage dump,” he says. “We won’t allow that.”

CO₂ levels in the atmosphere are breaking records

The concentration of greenhouse gas will soon be higher than it has ever been in the past millions of years. But what does that mean for the future?

The way to the secrets of the earth’s history often leads to the sea floor. There are fossils from bygone times in the rock layers – a treasure for geologists like Gavin Foster from the University of Southampton. He and his team examined fossilized zooplankton from the Caribbean sea floor, about the size of a pinhead, in order to draw conclusions about the CO₂ content in the atmosphere millions of years ago – and to compare it with today’s values.

Because the acidification of the oceans is closely related to the CO₂ in the air. Because carbon dioxide reacts with water to form carbonic acid, the oceans absorb a large part of the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. Foster and his colleagues used this relationship between the pH value and CO₂ in the atmosphere in their studies of fossilized plankton. The boron content in its shells told them how high the pH was in the water when the tiny organisms drifted through the oceans. Based on the acidity, the scientists were then able to infer the CO₂ content in the air at that time.

The results sound worrying: By 2025 there will probably be as much CO₂ in the atmosphere as there has not been for around 3.3 million years , the scientists report in the journal Scientific Reports . In that period, the Pliocene, it was significantly warmer than today, an average of two to four degrees. Trees grew in Antarctica, gazelles jumped across Europe, and the sea level was 15 to 25 meters higher.

“There’s no blueprint for what’s happening. We’re playing with fire.”

When the CO₂ content soon leaves the maximum values ​​from the Pliocene behind it, it will move towards a new phase in geological history: the Miocene, which dates back to 23 million years. But its CO₂ maxima could also be cracked over the coming decades if humanity continues to emit as much carbon dioxide as it does at present.

Climate change deniers like to use such historical CO₂ highs as an argument that climate change is not a real threat. The earth and its inhabitants would have survived the CO₂ concentration at that time, they say. But what do such comparisons say? And if there was already as much CO₂ in the atmosphere as there is today, why did the CO₂ content decrease again?

Mojib Latif from Geomar in Kiel is one of the most renowned German climate researchers. The CO₂ record reports worry him. “However, historical maximum CO₂ values ​​can only be compared with the current situation to a limited extent,” says the chairman of the German Climate Consortium. What Latif means: Before humans started building machines and cars, the CO₂ content in the atmosphere changed much more slowly than since the beginning of industrialization. Fluctuations stretched over tens to hundreds of thousands of years. Changes in the earth’s orbit and axis alternately resulted in more and less solar radiation.

As a result, temperatures rose and fell, as did the CO₂ concentration in the atmosphere. In the current climate change, however, these factors – scientists speak of the Milanković cycles – play no role. The period in which we humans drove up the CO₂ values ​​is far too short. “There is no blueprint for what is happening,” says Latif. That is exactly what makes climate change so dangerous. “We’re playing with fire.”

Nevertheless, a lot can be learned from the past warm and cold periods, says Latif. Because even if the causes were different back then – the consequences are, at least in principle, the same today. However, it also applies here that everything is happening much faster at the moment, emphasizes Latif.

“Knowledge of CO₂ levels in the past shows us how the climate system, the ice caps at the poles and the sea level have reacted to it,” says Elwyn de la Vega, one of the researchers on Foster’s team. After the last glacial period, for example, the sea level rose over a very long period of time, but by no means continuously at a snail’s pace, but occasionally jerkily in short and violent spurts. “Using simulations, we are trying to find out exactly how that happened back then – and whether there could be similar attacks in the coming years as a result of climate change,” says Latif.

Gazelles are unlikely to be hopping across Europe anytime soon

As an ingredient for climate simulations, historical CO₂ values ​​are quite useful – but completely unsuitable for general comparisons, because back then it is about many millennia and now about a few decades. In the past, living beings had enough time to adapt to increased temperatures and higher sea levels: over the course of several generations, animals moved, and evolution brought about new species.

The current, rapid climate change, however, leaves nature and humans hardly time to react – gazelles are unlikely to be hopping through Europe anytime soon. “Our civilization today only developed significantly after the last great warm periods,” says Georg Feulner from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “In earlier warm periods, for example, there were no cities near the coast that could have been endangered by rising sea levels.”

According to estimates by the United Nations, around ten percent of humanity lived in coastal regions in 2017 that are less than ten meters above sea level – if the water levels were to rise to the Pliocene level again, these areas would be significantly below sea level. According to Gavin Foster and his colleagues, the fact that coastal cities have not yet been flooded is solely due to the fact that it will take a while for the earth to fully react to the higher CO₂ content in the atmosphere. However, the consequences of man-made climate change are already evident today. Meteorologists recently reported that the past twelve months were among the warmest on record , with an average of almost 1.3 degrees Celsius warmer than before industrialization.

More than 200 environmentalists killed last year

Environmental activists are often murdered for fighting illegal mining or deforestation, the non-governmental organization says. In some countries, their use is particularly dangerous.

Protests against mines and deforestation, hydropower plants and large farms are dangerous in many places: According to a count by the non-governmental organization Global Witness, at least 212 environmentalists were killed worldwide. That’s an average of more than four murders a week – and more than any previous report. In addition, environmentalists in many countries are repeatedly threatened, slandered and brought to justice because of their work.

Most of the murders of environmental activists, according to the report, took place in Colombia (64), the Philippines (43) and Brazil (24). Global Witness registered more than two thirds of all cases in Latin America. But also in the EU country Romania two environmental activists were killed last year who had campaigned against the illegal deforestation of Europe’s last primeval forests. The organization assumes that the actual number of environmentalists killed is significantly higher because many cases are covered up or not reported.

According to the non-governmental organization, behind the acts of violence are mostly companies, farmers and, in some cases, state actors as well as criminal gangs, paramilitary groups and rebels. “Agriculture, oil, gas and mining create violence against environmentalists – these are the very industries that fuel climate change through deforestation and emissions,” says Rachel Cox of Global Witness.

Where did all the bees go?

Farmers are already feeling the consequences of insect death. Without wild bees and other pollinators, fewer apples, cherries and blueberries end up on supermarket shelves.

“Man of work, woke up and recognize your power, all wheels stand still when your strong arm wants it,” says the founding song of the General German Workers’ Association, from which the SPD later emerged. What was true in the factories of the 19th century also seems to have significance for the modern agricultural industry: If busy bees stay away from the cultivated areas, the pollen is not distributed, fruits do not ripen, and the harvesting machines stand just as idle as the steam engines 150 years ago . However, the proletarians on the run do not go on general strike of their own free will – there are simply fewer and fewer. The death of insectsindustrial agriculture is largely responsible for it itself; Fertilizers, pesticides and the loss of natural habitats have depleted stocks worldwide.

It has long been known what serious consequences the extinction of many insects has on flora and fauna. A new study by US and Canadian researchers shows how much agriculture itself is suffering from home-made insect mortality: In the large growing areas of North America, insects no longer pollinate apple, blueberry and cherry blossoms sufficiently, which is causing harvests to shrink noticeably. The report’s 31 scientists led by biologist James Reilly in their study that this Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B has been released.

The fewer insects flew over the orchards, the fewer fruits grew on trees and bushes

The researchers systematically investigated which popular and therefore mass-grown fruits in North America suffer from a lack of bees and other pollinators. To do this, they visited 131 cultivation areas and counted honey bees, wild bees and other insects that came to flowers there. The researchers compared these figures with the crop yields of the farms they visited. In apple, cherry and blueberry farms, they found a clear connection: the fewer insects flew over the orchards, the fewer fruits grew on trees and bushes. Melons, almonds and pumpkins, however, have so far hardly been affected by insect death.

In order for the missing bees to shrink the harvests substantially, the fruits must above all be healthy. Because if diseases, pests, drought or lack of nutrients mean that fewer flowers grow anyway, the missing pollinators are of little consequence: even severely decimated swarms of bees can then cope with the comparatively few flowers.

The biologists estimate the value of the wild bee work at just under 1.3 billion euros

The researchers also found that wild bees – many species of which are threatened with extinction – and honey bees share the work fairly fairly. Even in intensively cultivated areas, the wild bees pollinated almost as many plants as honey bees bred by beekeepers. For a long time it was assumed that honey bees are more important for agricultural production than wild bees. However, a few years ago studies indicated that wild bees can do at least as much. According to the scientists, honey bees fly more frequently, but wild bees transport more pollen per flight. However, the researchers rarely observed other pollinating insects such as flies or butterflies on the plantations examined. They also play an important role elsewhere.

One thing is clear: the death of insects is causing immense economic damage. The biologists estimate the economic value of wild bee work at just under 1.3 billion euros – for the blueberry, apple, cherry, almond, melon and pumpkin cultivation in North America alone. Scientists try again and again to monetize the value of so-called eco-services such as pollination work. According to an estimate from 2008, all of humanity owes bees, bumblebees and other pollinators more than 150 billion euros for their worldwide services in fields and orchards.

First and foremost, the authors of the study recommend better protecting wild bee populations – above all by growing wild flowers. But they also mention that some farmers are now artificially pollinating their plants, be it with the help of drones or human workers. A few weeks ago, Japanese researchers even reported that they had pollinated fruit blossoms with soap bubbles containing pollen. The masterminds of the labor movement in the 19th century also foresaw that capital would replace the workers as soon as technical progress allows it. Unlike factory workers, however, there are no new jobs for wild bees – their extinction would be irreversible and the damage to nature considerable.

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