COP26 is history, fake climate news takes hold on Facebook, and COVID waste piles up

Real news to know in our bi-weekly digest

A mural of Greta Thunberg in Bristol, England, by artist Jody. Duncan C, Flickr
19 November 2021
19 November 2021

Earlier this month, world leaders descended on Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit. What did they ultimately achieve?

In this Landscape News bi-weekly digest, we’ll go over what the COP’s resulting Glasgow Climate Pact means for the future of our planet, plus carbon-negative buildings and the wisdom of great apes.

LANDSCAPE NEWS

USAID administrator Samantha Power speaks at the Global Landscapes Forum in Glasgow alongside COP26. Global Landscapes Forum
USAID administrator Samantha Power speaks at the Global Landscapes Forum in Glasgow alongside COP26. Global Landscapes Forum

During COP26, we at the Global Landscapes Forum gathered almost 5,000 people from over 140 countries at the GLF Climate conference to demand more ambitious climate actions on protecting forests, transforming food systems and boosting finance.

At the main climate summit, we saw countries and financiers pledge to stop funding new fossil fuel projects by the end of 2022, as well as slash methane emissions and reverse forest loss by 2030.

Nature has been high up on the agenda, too. We caught up with World Agroforestry head Tony Simons and World Health Organization expert Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum to learn how the discussions could impact human and planetary health.

Also spotted in Glasgow were renowned ecologist Thomas Crowther, the architect of a new digital tool to assess land restoration potential, and Maasai pastoralist and disability rights activist Jacinta Silakan.

But as political leaders watered down their commitments, millions of people have already been forced from their homes due to the climate crisis. Here are some of their stories.

POLICY

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi at COP26, where he pledged his country to be net zero by 2070. Karwai Tang, UK Government
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi at COP26, where he pledged his country to be net zero by 2070. Karwai Tang, UK Government

Scientists and climate activists have been disappointed by the agreement struck in Glasgow, which Greta Thunberg describes as both vague and plagued with loopholes.

Rich nations have been quick to pin the blame on India and China, but India argues it needs more time to wean itself off coal without jeopardizing its own development.

Instead, a new report points the finger at the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Norway and Australia for continuing to pump billions of dollars into new fossil fuel projects.

CLIMATE

Satellite imagery of flooding in Washington State. European Space Agency, Flickr
Satellite imagery of flooding in Washington State. European Space Agency, Flickr

Floods and landslides have devastated western Canada and the northwestern U.S. after a ‘river in the sky’ caused a month’s worth of rainfall in just two days.

The latest climate models are predicting even more climate disasters in the future, especially as the planet is on track for 2.4 degrees Celsius of warming this century.

Worryingly, over 1 billion people could be exposed to deadly heat if – or when – warming reaches just 2 degrees, which could happen by 2054 unless greenhouse gas emissions are quickly reduced.

PEOPLE

An Indigenous protestor against fossil fuels and carbon pricing in California, 2018. Peg Hunter, Flickr
An Indigenous protestor against fossil fuels and carbon pricing in California, 2018. Peg Hunter, Flickr

The COP26 deal is creating a global boom in carbon trading, which could also expose many Indigenous and rural communities to land grabs and other human rights violations.

India’s capital New Delhi could be placed on lockdown again. This time, though, it’s not because of COVID-19 but air pollution.

Still, New Delhi doesn’t have the world’s most toxic air: that dubious honor goes to the city of Lahore in neighboring Pakistan.

Back in September, El Salvador adopted Bitcoin as legal tender. It’s now mining the cryptocurrency using volcanic geothermal energy – and leaving rural communities to foot the bill.

PLANET

A recent study has found that the human footprint, which includes population density, infrastructure and development, light pollution and roads, directly impacts the presence of great apes. Ryan Summers, Flickr
A recent study has found that the human footprint, which includes population density, infrastructure and development, light pollution and roads, directly impacts the presence of great apes. Ryan Summers, Flickr

Over 25,000 tons of plastic waste from COVID-19 are now littered across the ocean. To date, humanity has produced over 8 million tons of single-use plastics due to the pandemic.

Great apes are staying well away from humans. That’s because our mere presence poses a greater threat to them than habitat loss.

Also under threat are the Great Plains of North America, which are rapidly being turned into farmland, with dire implications for carbon storage.

BUSINESS

A protest against disinformation on Facebook outside Mark Zuckerberg’s home in San Francisco last year. Don Feria, Associated Press
A protest against disinformation on Facebook outside Mark Zuckerberg’s home in San Francisco last year. Don Feria, Associated Press

Climate disinformation on Facebook has increased by 77 percent this year. The average post now gets between 800,000 and 1.3 million views per day.

Is gas the new coal? A new report suggests we need to cut natural gas use by a third by 2030 to stand any chance of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees.

Here’s an incentive to do just that: half of the world’s fossil fuel assets could become worthless by 2036 if the world transitions to a net-zero economy.

Speaking of net zero, could these carbon-sequestering buildings turn future cities into carbon sinks?


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