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Paris Agreement Commitments Not Likely to Stop Two-Degree Warming

A key goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit a global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, but the provisions of the agreement may not be strong enough to achieve that. The planet’s average temperature is set to rise by approximately 3.2 degrees by that time — and that’s if all countries fulfill their respective climate pledges (without conditions). Some of the biggest emitters, such as the U.S. and the EU, aren’t on track to do that (in the graphic above, cells are sized according to each country’s emissions).

UN Environment noted this and other troubling trends in its 2018 Emissions Gap Report. The next few years are crucial: The UN estimates that “to keep global warming well below two degrees Celsius, global greenhouse gas emissions will have to peak by 2020 and decline rapidly thereafter.” Still, there are some encouraging developments. For example, “the total energy from solar panels installed around the world has soared in the last few years.” Further, “488 companies from 38 countries adopted emission reduction pathways in line with the Paris Agreement.”

New Models Show Dramatic Impact of Proper Safety Protocols on COVID-19 Death Rate

Source: Goldenson Center at the University of Connecticut

Wearing a mask, along with other basic precautions, results in a significant drop in the number of coronavirus cases and number of deaths, according to a new simulator from the Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research. The simulation shows how individuals’ actions can directly impact how long the pandemic will last and comes at a time when the U.S. is reaching a record high in case numbers.

The graphic above show a hypothetical model of events after 100 people out of 1,000 become infected with the virus. When only 10% of the population wears masks, observes social distancing and sanitizes, there is a dramatic increase in case numbers and deaths.

The other hypothetical model below shows case results when 80% of the population follows safety protocols. In the second instance, after two months, almost zero percent are infected. It also shows that if a state follows proper safety measures for at least three months after reopening, COVID-19 could be eliminated from the area. 

Over Half of Europeans View the US Less Favorably Than Before COVID-19

Source: European Council on Foreign Relations

The U.S. is viewed more negatively now compared to before the coronavirus crisis in the eyes of nearly 60% of Europeans. Over 70% of Danes and Portuguese respondents and 65% of Germans say their views of the U.S. have worsened — with views on China showing similar trends, according to a poll conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) in June 2020.

The ECFR surveyed over 11,000 citizens in nine countries across Europe. The respondents said if cases continue to rise in the U.S., “many Europeans could come to see the U.S. as a broken hegemon that cannot be entrusted with the defense of the Western world.”

The EU is currently seeing an overall decline in COVID-19 cases, while this trend is only being recorded in two states in the U.S. The EU is preparing to open its borders, but most American travelers are expected to be banned, along with those from Brazil and Russia.

Africa Is Polio-Free, After Nigeria Reports No New Cases

Source: The World Health Organization

The WHO has declared Nigeria to be polio-free after the country reached its three-year mark of reporting no new cases. Just eight years ago, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all cases worldwide. This means that Africa is reportedly finally free of the wild poliovirus, although the continent awaits official certification from the Africa Regional Certification Commission, which is expected in August

Although the region is free of endemic transmission of the virus, it continues to struggle with some transmission via vaccine, with Niger recently reporting a vaccine-derived outbreak. The WHO warns that immunization and surveillance activities must continue to prevent the risk of the virus re-emerging.

As the region struggles with coronavirus, “mass immunizations … have been postponed,” according to the WHO, but countries in the region are “planning the resumption of immunization and outbreak response in compliance with the guidance to stop COVID-19 transmission.”

Now, only Pakistan and Afghanistan are left in the fight to end endemic transmission of polio.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions Plummet, but COVID Hurts Clean Energy in Long Term

Source: International Energy Agency

Global carbon dioxide emissions for 2020 are forecast to be more than six times lower than they were in 2010 — the last time emissions dropped significantly. This amounts to an 8% decrease from 2019, according to a report from the International Energy Agency, following COVID-related lockdown measures that have put social and economic activity on hold. 

Despite the circumstances by which the emissions drop came about, many of its consequences — cleaner air, emerging wildlife and better water quality — have been celebrated across the world. However, with a global economic recession playing out, investments in energy systems have been deprioritized, “slow[ing] the expansion of key clean energy technologies” the report’s authors note. They predict a 10%-15% decrease in investment in efficiency and end-use applications in 2020.

Many are looking to “build back better” and urging governments to incorporate renewable energy investments into recovery plans to “stimulate job creation and economic development,” the report says, “while reducing emissions and fostering further innovation.”

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