The BBC’s flagship news show blows open the real truth about Covid 19


Covid 19 is not a great leveller. Covid 19 does not hit the poor and rich alike. There will of course be exceptions but the rich can largely escape Covid 19. Ordinary people have to face Covid 19 daily. Ordinary working people. People who work as your carers, your postal workers, your delivery people, your store clerks, your construction workers, your electricians, your frontline medical staff. They did not sign up to go to war. They are not trained to fight a war. They are not paid to be brave.

You do not survive the Trump plague by being strong or brave or by “fortitude and strength of character” as Downing Street is telling the world.  You survive it by a combination of luck and good medical care. Being young and fit is not a guarantee of survival.

The consequences of the Trump plague are not the same for rich or poor. If you are in a tiny flat with two children and an aggressive partner your life is not the same as someone with an acre of land that they can go out to walk on, not worrying about the need for social isolation.

Emily Maitilis brutal exposure of the Covid 19 myths really did hit home.

Those who have been on the front line right now, bus drivers, shelf stackers, nurses, care home workers, hospital staff and shopkeepers are disproportionately the lower paid members of our workforce. They are more likely to catch the disease because they are more exposed.

Those who live in tower blocks and small flats will find the lockdown tougher. Those in manual jobs will be unable to work from home. This is a health issue with huge ramifications for social welfare, and it’s a welfare issue with huge ramifications for public health.

Watch the video:

Decades of Science Denial Related to Climate Change Has Led to Denial of the Coronavirus Pandemic

After the fossil fuel industry spent hundreds of millions of dollars undermining climate science, it’s easy to see how epidemiology came next.

Doctors test hospital staff with flu-like symptoms for Covid-19 in set-up tents before they enter the main emergency department area at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx on March 24. Credit: Misha Friedman/Getty Images

American science denialism, deployed for years against climate change and, most recently, the coronavirus, can be traced back to the early 1950s during the fight over smog in Los Angeles.

When a Cal-Tech biochemist fingered nitrogen oxide emissions and uncombusted hydrocarbons from automobiles and refineries as the cause of the thick smog that often blanketed the city, the American Petroleum Institute counter-attacked by highlighting the alleged uncertainty of his science. The tactic was a test run for the fossil fuel industry’s assault 40 years later on climate science.

Decades of climate denial now appear to have paved the way for denial of Covid-19 by many on the right, according to experts on climate politics. After the fossil fuel industry spent hundreds of millions of dollars attacking climate scientists and accentuating the supposed uncertainty of climate science, it isn’t hard to understand how that happened.

President Trump, who denies climate change, has brushed off Covid-19’s seriousness until recently by relying on many of the same arguments he uses to dismiss global warming, such as ignoring government scientists or blaming China. 

Climate deniers have long attacked climate scientists, and Covid-19 deniers recently launched a smear campaign against Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in part because he corrected the President’s inaccurate statements about the pandemic.

The radio host and staunch Trump supporter Bill Mitchell offered a glimpse of how some conservatives see the pandemic as part of a continuum of dubious science when he tweeted that the novel coronavirus is “a minor infection” and the worries about it were  “climate change 2.0.”

“It’s this sense of deja vu. This is what climate denialism looked like,” said Jerry Taylor, president of the bipartisan, pro-climate action think tank Niskanen Center and himself a former skeptic of climate science. “The peril here is the reality of what’s about to follow. You can’t gaslight it. You’re not going to be able to deny the reality of the deaths. That will be the wages of dismissing what the technocratic and scientific elites have been telling us for months.”

An Echo Chamber of Denial

After he was hired by the City of Los Angeles, Arie Haagen-Smit, a Cal-Tech scientist specializing in airborne microscopic chemicals, quickly figured out that the city’s smog came from burning oil. Industry executives immediately hired their own scientists to attack his work. When those scientists came back and said Haagen-Smit was right, the industry hired new ones to sow doubt and home in on small uncertainties that remained.

By 1956, when Haagen-Smit’s conclusion had been confirmed by others, oil industry executives pivoted and employed a new tactic: they blamed the auto industry for tailpipe emissions.

Cal-Tech scientist Arie Haagen-Smit’s findings about the connection between smog and burning oil were attacked by industry leaders aiming to discredit him. Credit: California Institute of Technology Archives

Throughout the fight, the oil industry’s use of science denial provided a preview of what was to come in the 1980s, as the fight to deny climate change began. “Through it all,” Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Law, told InsideClimate News in a 2016 interview, “you see the creation of an echo chamber of doubt that takes the small unknowns and uncertainties and magnifies it until all we have is unknowns, when in fact the actual science isn’t that way at all.”

Exxon was told unambiguously in 1977 by James Black, its own senior scientist, that burning fossil fuels would warm the planet and endanger humanity. His warning was echoed publicly 11 years later, when NASA’s James Hansen sounded the alarm about climate change in landmark congressional testimony.

Exxon and the API responded by dusting off the uncertainty playbook and pivoting to a new narrative throughout the 1990s that focused on all that remained unknown about climate change. Exxon helped set up the pro-industry Global Climate Coalition and the Global Climate Science Team to sow doubt and assert that it wasn’t even clear that climate change was occurring.

The coalition disbanded, its work completed, after the administration of George W. Bush, scion of a Texas oil family, rejected the Kyoto Protocol in 2001. The industry also recommended its own contrarian scientists to review the administration’s submissions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The oil industry’s ties to the administration were revealed in 2005 when a whistleblower disclosed that Philip Cooney, a former API lobbyist working in the White House, had been rewriting government research papers to create doubt about climate change. He left the administration and went to work for ExxonMobil.

Between 2003 and 2010, 91 climate denialist groups received more than half a billion dollars. They recreated the echo chamber from the long-ago war on smog, increasing its size and upping the volume enough to shape the narrative on climate change for Congress, the media and the American public.

Under pressure from shareholders, Exxon promised to stop funding climate deniers in 2007. But by then, climate change denialism had become a force so extreme in its attacks on mainstream science that even giant oil companies had become suspect. In 2012, the Heartland Institute, one of the country’s leading climate denialist organizations, launched a billboard comparing those who believed in climate change to the Unabomber, Charles Manson and Osama bin Laden. The backlash was severe.

But by 2017, Heartland’s chief executive, Joseph Bast, was a guest at the White House when Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. “We are winning in the global warming war,” Bast said in an email to supporters.

A 2016 survey by the Pew Research Center found that fewer than 30 percent of Americans understood that the vast majority of climate scientists and peer-reviewed studies support the conclusion that climate change is a human created threat.

Polls Reveal a Partisan Divide over Climate Change and Covid-19

Today, there’s an overlap between communities that have played down the coronavirus pandemic and those that deny man-made climate change. Concern about global warming has risen in recent years in the United States, but conservatives, especially older Republicans, remain holdouts.

Similar disparities between Republicans and Democrats have emerged in recent polling on the coronavirus pandemic. A survey released March 26 by the Pew Research Center showed that while 78 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of total respondents said the pandemic was a major threat to public health, only 52 percent of Republicans said it was. Surveys earlier in March by Quinnipiac College and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago also indicated that majorities of Republicans doubted the seriousness of the pandemic. And while older Americans have been generally more worried about the virus, older Republicans weren’t for weeks, even as the pandemic spread. 

In the most recent polling, partisan differences remain: The Associated Press-NORC Center survey released this week showed that 35 percent of Republicans are extremely worried or very worried about being infected by the coronavirus, compared to 61 percent of Democrats.

These partisan disparities also surface in the way states and territories have reacted to the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations on social distancing as the best means to limit the spread of the virus. Those that have been most diligent about implementing social distancing are largely Democratic strongholds, and those most lax have been red states, according to a Covid-19 social distancing scoreboard created by Unacast, a technology company that studies human mobility.

Alabama had been among states doing the least to establish social distancing, according to the Unacast scorecard, a resistance that continued until early April, when Gov. Kay Ivey announced a stay-at-home order to take effect on April 4. The virus has now spread throughout the state, with 2,229 cases and 48 deaths reported by the state Department of Public Health on Wednesday.

Ashley Lucier is a 30-year-old middle school English teacher who lives with her husband and two young boys in Prattville, Alabama. Lucier’s small family and close friends have taken the pandemic seriously and are staying home, she said. But some co-workers think, “‘This is a hoax,’ and that people are trying to make Trump look bad. They think this will all blow over and we’ll be back to work soon,” Lucier said.

Lucier’s parents, both Republicans, live about 10 minutes away in Montgomery. As Lucier began to lock down in her own home, her mother, Cheryl, 59, was still going out to eat with friends and to church, until the restaurants and churches closed. She was taken aback when her daughter refused to send the grandchildren over to visit, Lucier said. Now, her mother’s views on the pandemic have started to shift toward greater worry and caution. But Lucier’s father, Anthony, 62, remains less concerned about the pandemic and less convinced of the recommendations of public health. He asked that his family’s surname be withheld because he said he feared retaliation over his climate views.

“If Trump doesn’t worry about it,” Lucier said, “then my parents don’t worry about it.”

Ashley Lucier and her father, Anthony. Photo courtesy of Ashley Lucier

Affable and with an easy laugh, Anthony calls himself a conservative Republican and jokingly describes his liberal daughter, and only child, as a “leftist guerilla jungle fighter.” A Fox News fan, he refers to Covid-19 as “the flu,” echoing the president. The novel coronavirus is not like the seasonal flu, and its mortality rate is 10 times higher. Anthony also thinks global warming is a hoax and considers the urgent narrative about the pandemic as “climate change 2.0.”

“It does feel like that because so many things are thrown in people’s faces that are absolutely not true, that you think the next thing down the line is a hoax,” Anthony said. “There’s so much that’s based on nothing, that when the wolf does come along to your door, everyone is surprised.”

Anthony acknowledges that the virus could be a real threat, a “wolf.” But his small manufacturing firm is open, and he still goes to work. Anthony thinks that people can do little to avoid catching such a contagious illness, so the social distancing and the lengthy lockdowns he has heard of but not seen yet in Alabama feel like overkill.

“We can do this for a certain amount of time before it becomes more of a problem than the flu itself and does serious economic damage,” Anthony said, repeating objections Trump voiced last week to widespread social distancing. “People gotta keep on working, they gotta keep on making things, gotta keep on living.”

Like Anthony, a plurality of Republicans in the recent Pew poll—nearly 4 in 10—said they felt the country was overreacting to the pandemic. Pluralities of Democrats and others said they thought Americans were not taking the threat seriously enough.

“My father still shrugs most of it off as a media bias or an overreaction of the public, even when I tell him the information is from reputable sources,” Lucier said. “I don’t know if it will really hit him unless someone close to us gets seriously sick.”

That person who could get seriously sick is Lucier herself. Always outdoorsy and healthy, Lucier developed a blood clot in her lungs as a complication of donating a kidney in July 2018. She is on an inhaler and blood thinner for the clots. Her lung function is greatly reduced, and when she had the flu last year, Lucier landed in the hospital. Her parents say they understand she’s at risk now, Lucier said, but given how they lead their lives still, she isn’t convinced.

Continuing ambivalence about social distancing will only prolong the crisis, said Gretchen Goldman, research director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy. “When you have a big segment of the population that’s dismissive about social distancing, you will have spread and you’ll keep overloading the hospital system,” Goldman said. “The longer there are mixed messages, the longer people don’t take it seriously, the worse it will get.”

Will Covid-19 Deaths Lead Skeptics to Rethink Views on Climate Change?

Why don’t many Americans like Lucier’s parents take the pandemic seriously, even when it poses a risk to loved ones? Beyond the nearly 30 years of climate denial that have given conservatives the arguments and social acceptance to dismiss scientific expertise, some of the resistance is driven by “solution aversion,” said Taylor of the Niskanen Center. If people think the remedies to a problem will be painful or require sacrifice, they’re more reluctant to accept the reality of the threat. With both climate change and Covid-19, skeptics think they will have to surrender economic prosperity, so they dismiss the looming risks.

Conservatives have also been encouraged to doubt the objectivity of scientists, Taylor said. Ideological champions on the right such as Rush Limbaugh have described scientists as part of a liberal cabal to deceive the American people on issues like climate change. 

In 2009, thousands of hacked emails from climate scientists were leaked, in a scandal known as Climategate. Climate deniers seized upon excerpts from the emails to cast doubt on the scientific consensus about global warming before international negotiations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Multiple reviews of the scientists’ emails exonerated them of tampering with data, but to deniers, Climategate remains proof of the dishonesty of climate researchers.

“There’s a hostility toward the messengers,” Taylor said. “Technocratic elites and scientists are for the most part Democrats, and that’s one thing the Republican base knows really well. They’re not trustworthy. They’re not part of the tribe. And Republicans have been hearing for 30 years that they have an agenda they want to advance.”

Michael Nelson, a professor of environmental ethics and philosophy at Oregon State University, said that feeling part of a bigger community, such as a political party or movement, can become “more important than accepting the truth.”

Opening people’s eyes to that truth isn’t a matter of pointing more often to science because that’s already an impediment, he said. A more useful approach to changing minds might be to acknowledge that the resistance people offer is reasonable to them, if not completely sound to others, Nelson said.

Goldman of the Union of Concerned Scientists agreed. “One of the things we’ve learned from communicating climate science is that if you communicate something that triggers someone’s worldview, it makes them more resistant to the science,” she said. “We saw the same triggering of political worldviews with the coronavirus because the primary messengers like the president and his allies were denying it. And you didn’t see as many scientific experts who should have been leading the messaging at the beginning of the pandemic.”

As the death toll from the pandemic climbs, conservatives are likely to set aside their continued skepticism of science, including the facts underpinning climate change, Taylor said. “The distrust of expertise and the medical profession will wither away,” he said, “because we’ll see the consequences of that distrust.”

But Goldman is less optimistic that the impact of Covid-19 can lead doubters to reconsider anything other than Covid-19.

“I’m skeptical that this situation is enough to change people’s minds on climate change,” she said. “There will never be an event that you can point to and say that it’s climate. You won’t have a ‘gotcha moment’ as you would with this virus because you have a more definite link to deaths when you have a virus. If coronavirus changes people’s science denial ways here, I wouldn’t put money on it changing their views on other scientific issues.” SOURCE


How to avert the worst development crisis of this century

Sévaré, Mopti region, Mali, February 2020. The Sahel and West Africa face a looming food emergency, with some 14.4 million people already expected to face crisis or worse in less than six months from now. Without immediate action, the COVID-19 crisis will fuel these and other emergencies. Women will be among the hardest hit. Photo: UNDP/Aurélia Rusek

The first COVID-19 deaths last month in Niger, a landlocked country that ranks 189th on the Human Development Index, marked a new milestone in the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis. A pandemic that spread in a matter of weeks across some of the world’s major advanced and emerging economies, bringing untold human suffering, is now hitting some of the world’s poorest and most fragile, and it could hit them hard.

The 2007-08 global economic and financial crisis showed that no country is immune from the impact of a global shock. Today’s crisis is unfolding against a backdrop of already-strained global trade, stagnating foreign aid budgets, tumbling commodity prices, protracted conflicts, and constrained fiscal space in developing countries. Large groups of people with precarious jobs will fall back into poverty in countries today classified as “middle-income,” reminding us once again how misleading it is to classify countries by income instead of resilience. Women will be among the hardest hit. Small island developing states whose economies depend largely on tourism risk freefalling into economic collapse. And just as this disease knows no borders, in war-torn countries, it won’t pick sides. Last month saw the first reported COVID-19 death in Syria, whose health system is already ravaged by a decade of war.

Evaluating the impact
It will take time to evaluate the impact of the damage to our economies and societies,and to rebuild them to be more sustainable and resilient. But only five years into the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, we cannot wait to take the collective action that could make a difference. As Ethiopian Prime Minister and Nobel laureate Abi Ahmed aptly reminds us, left undefeated in Africa, COVID-19 will bounce back elsewhere.
Here are six things that we urge governments and business leaders to act on now.

1. Governments need to boost foreign aid spending now, and sustain it
The US$2 billion COVID-19 humanitarian appeal sets out the immediate needs of the countries most vulnerable to a surge of disease that has already crippled advanced health systems. Aid efforts will need to be sustained over time. We cannot afford to see a repeat of the “Ebola surges” experienced by some countries, where an influx of humanitarian aid dried up quickly with little or no resources to support communities, or entire economies, to get back on track. We must not lose sight of the role of foreign aid in building global resilience, including pandemic threats.

2. Scarce medical supplies must be directed to where they will have the most impact, rather than to the highest bidder
Media coverage in recent days has cast light on how, even within some of the world’s advanced economies, governments are competing with one another for ventilators and protective equipment. Left unchecked, the same may happen for any vaccination or cure when it emerges. If this is happening in countries with good health systems and strong bargaining power, imagine how such competition will affect those that have neither.

3. Borders must be kept open to goods and services
Even where temporary restrictions on the movement of people become necessary to contain the spread of disease, we need to ensure that this does not hamper trade. In many regions, cross-border trade in agricultural goods is the lifeblood of entire economies. The Sahel and West Africa face a looming food emergency, with some 14.4 million people already expected to face crisis or worse in less than six months from now. Without immediate action, the COVID-19 crisis will fuel these and other emergencies.

4. Business leaders have a unique opportunity to slash the cost of remittances to developing countries
One billion people worldwide benefit from remittances–funds sent by migrant workers and family members abroad. In times of crisis, these can be a lifeline, especially in countries with limited social safety nets. Yet sending money home costs around seven percent of the amount being sent. This is too high. If ever there was a time for the financial sector to rise to the challenge and slash transfer fees for the world’s most vulnerable people, it is now.

5. Rising debt needs to be addressed urgently
Many countries are showing signs of debt distress that could be compounded by this crisis. Addressing it may be harder now than 15 or 20 years ago. A growing share lies with private debt and non-Paris club lenders, and declining commodity prices make the problem worse. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have called for a suspension of debt repayments for the poorest countries. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has gone further, urging leaders to consider a “highly indebted poor countries initiative on steroids”. Lenders need to address this together.

6. Tackling one crisis must not come at the expense of others

Our efforts to support countries ravaged by COVID-19 cannot be allowed to divert resources from existing crises, such addressing the needs of refugees, tackling the global climate emergency, ending violence against women and girls, and ending discrimination in all its forms. How stimulus plans are implemented today matters. In many countries, inequalities were already at record high levels. The global recovery needs to be fair, it needs to be green, and above all, it must be inclusive.

The nature of COVID-19 and its profound impact on livelihoods across the world may be new. Our approach to overcoming it, however, need not be. This year, the United Nations will celebrate its 75th anniversary. OECD will mark its 60th. We may not be young, but with age comes the benefit of accumulated experience. Our organizations were born from the ashes of two world wars and the recognition that international cooperation is the only way to overcome truly global challenges.

It is our hope that at this crucial moment, we can show that working together in international solidarity the service of the most vulnerable remains the only solution to the challenges of today and tomorrow.


Will we learn lessons for tackling climate change from our current crisis?

Ban Ki-moon served as the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations and Patrick Verkooijen is CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation, a group that seeks to facilitate climate adaptation by working with the public and private sectors. The opinions in this commentary are their own. View more opinion at CNN.

Crises tend to bring out some of the best and the worst in us. We have watched in awe and admiration as health care professionals have responded with superhuman dedication to the Covid-19 pandemic. We have heard neighbors serenading each other across balconies. Car manufacturers are retooling to produce respirators and face masks that are so desperately needed by hospitals right now. Around the world, 1.7 billion people are staying at home to slow down the spread of the virus, according to The Guardian. Never, it seems, have there been so many visible acts of collective solidarity, and of such magnitude.

Ban Ki-moon

But there have also been acts of craven selfishness. Cyberattacks on Spanish hospitals, where thousands are in intensive care. Profiteering and hoarding of life-saving medical supplies. World leaders who put their citizens in danger by denying the gravity of the situation.
Patrick VerkooijenWhat this shows is that as individuals and as communities, we have a choice in how to respond to global threats. For the greater good we can accept restrictions on how we live, even at a cost to incomes and livelihoods — as 20% of the global population is doing right now, as The Guardian wrote — or we can respond selfishly, seeking only what is right for us, rather than the collective good of humanity.
These choices will continue to be important once Covid-19 is tamed. Because what should be clear is that other threats, most notably our ongoing climate emergency, have not gone away during the pandemic.
Many experts see a link between the two. Inger Andersen, head of the United Nations Environment Programme, says Covid-19 is a “clear warning shot” given that 75% of all infectious diseases come from wildlife, and climate change and the destruction of natural habitats are putting humans into ever-closer proximity to animals.
“Nature is sending us a message,” she says, as The Guardian reported. Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at New York University, tweeted that the virus is “climate change on warp speed.”
Pope Francis, meanwhile, praying in a deserted St. Peter’s Square on March 28, said: “nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick.”
If nature is sending us a message, what is it saying?
It is telling us that we need to heal the planet if we want to heal ourselves. That we must be respectful of the boundaries between humans and other species; that we need to adapt and alter our behavior. And while we make these changes, we need to build our societies’ resilience to emergencies of all kinds, because our current planning and preparation for viruses, for rising seas and other effects of climate change, are not enough.
Whether you are dealing with a deadly virus or extreme weather, prevention is always better than cure. It makes economic sense to build greater resilience against climate change now, in the same way that we must strengthen our health care systems before the next pathogen strikes.
The Global Commission on Adaptation estimates that investing just $1.8 trillion in building resilience against climate change over the next decade could generate $7.1 trillion in total net benefits. Investment in green technology and resilient infrastructure could help put our coronavirus-shattered world back together again. Renewable energy instead of coal; natural drainage systems instead of more concrete to soak up water and avert floods; reforestation instead of land clearances.
Around the world, governments are launching gigantic stimulus packages to prop up their economies. But these are being targeted exclusively within national borders; more attention must be paid to helping those around the world who need it most.
It is also clear to us that to avert disaster, countries will need to help each other. World governments urgently need to mobilize a global fund to help the world’s poorest countries cope with Covid-19. The precedent is there: In the aftermath of the Ebola epidemic, the United Nations established a trust fund and led the international community to support recovery priorities. We believe the whole UN system, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and all regional development banks should come together again to address the aftershocks of the pandemic, including the global economic fallout.
If the virus is a shared global challenge, so too should be the need to build resilience against future shocks. Emerging and developing countries are the least prepared for the arrival of Covid-19, just as they are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
To avoid a protracted global recession, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Secretary-General Angel Gurría has called for a response “akin to the last century’s Marshall Plan and New Deal — combined.” If it does come about, we hope it will not forget those in the developing world. For how these vast sums are invested will determine our future.
Governments could opt for business as usual, perpetuating our old way of life, or they could heed nature’s Covid-19 warning and kick-start the transition to a low-carbon future. This means investing in life-supporting systems such as a stable climate, fresh air and clean water, and the preservation of natural habitats.
The lifesaving benefits of building climate resilience are already evident in countries that have invested in early-warning systems against cyclones and hurricanes. Tropical cyclones killed hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh, a low-lying delta country, throughout the 20th century, but thanks to investment in warning systems, evacuation drills and strong shelters, millions of people can now shelter in safety before cyclones strike.
This pandemic is far from over, but it has already brought certain truths (which should have been evident) into stark relief: that viruses do not respect borders; that without solidarity, we will not defeat this pandemic, because we are only as safe as our most vulnerable people; that scientific knowledge and advice matter; and that delay is deadly. The same lessons hold true for our climate emergency.
If we are wise, we will start acting on these lessons now. SOURCE

14 ways to turn your coronavirus cabin fever into climate action

In these times of unprecedented uncertainty, my to-do list helps me stay sane.

It doesn’t matter that I have no places to go or people to see. With COVID-19 tossing normal life down the drain the world over, the shred of normalcy helps me stave off apathy, paralysis, and my sudden aversion to wearing proper pants.

I’m not the only one desperate for a little structure in my life in the age of social distancing and sheltering in place. Many of us who are fortunate enough to stay home during this crisis have been busy establishing work-life boundaries, maintaining an exercise routine, and staying in touch with loved ones. While these are all great ways to break up the monotony of sheltering in place, it’s also possible to pencil climate action into your newfound daily routine.

Children’s story book released to help children and young people cope with COVID-19

News release of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee

A new story book that aims to help children understand and come to terms with COVID-19 has been produced by a collaboration of more than 50 organizations working in the humanitarian sector, including the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Save the Children.

With the help of a fantasy creature, Ario, “My Hero is You, How kids can fight COVID-19!” explains how children can protect themselves, their families and friends from coronavirus and how to manage difficult emotions when confronted with a new and rapidly changing reality.

The book – aimed primarily at children aged 6-11 years old – is a project of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, a unique collaboration of United Nations agencies, national and international nongovernmental organizations and international agencies providing mental health and psychosocial support in emergency settings.

During the early stages of the project, more than 1700 children, parents, caregivers and teachers from around the world shared how they were coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. The input was invaluable to script writer and illustrator Helen Patuck and the project team in making sure that the story and its messages resonated with children from different backgrounds and continents.

In order to reach as many children as possible, the book will be widely translated, with six language versions released today and more than 30 others in the pipeline. It is being released as both an online product and audio book.

Download the book here

Simple method for ceramic-based flexible electrolyte sheets for lithium metal batteries

In the near future, lithium metal batteries with a flexible LLZO electrolyte sheet may be used in state-of-the-art electric vehicles (EVs). Credit: Tokyo Metropolitan University


Researchers at Tokyo Metropolitan University have developed a new method to make ceramic-based flexible electrolyte sheets for lithium metal batteries. They combined a garnet-type ceramic, a polymer binder and an ionic liquid, producing a quasi-solid-state sheet electrolyte. The synthesis is carried out at room temperature, requiring significantly less energy than existing high-temperature (> 1000°C) processes. It functions over a wide range of temperatures, making it a promising electrolyte for batteries e.g., in electric vehicles.

Fossil fuels account for most of the world’s energy needs, including electricity. But  are running out, and burning them also leads to the direct emission of carbon dioxide and other pollutants like toxic nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. There is a global demand to shift to cleaner renewable energy sources. But major sources of renewable energy like wind and  are often intermittent—the wind does not blow all the time and the sun does not shine at night. Advanced energy storage systems are thus required to use renewable, intermittent sources more effectively. Lithium ion batteries have had a profound impact on modern society, powering a wide range of portable electronics and appliances like cordless vacuum cleaners since their commercialization by Sony in 1991. But using these batteries in electric vehicles (EVs) still requires a substantial improvement in the capacity and safety of state-of-the-art Li-ion technology.

This has led to a renaissance of research interest in  metal batteries: Lithium metal anodes have a much higher theoretical capacity than the graphite anodes in commercial use now. There are still technological hurdles associated with lithium metal anodes. In liquid-based batteries, for example, lithium dendrites (or arms) can grow which might short-circuit the battery and even lead to fires and explosions. That’s where solid-state inorganic electrolytes have come in: they are significantly safer, and a garnet-type (type of structure) ceramic Li7La3Zr2O12, better known as LLZO, is now widely regarded as a promising solid-state  material for its high ionic conductivity and compatibility with Li metal. However, producing high-density LLZO electrolytes requires very high sintering temperatures, as high as 1200 °C. This is both energy inefficient and time-consuming, making large-scale production of LLZO electrolytes difficult. In addition, the poor physical contact between brittle LLZO electrolytes and the electrode materials usually results in high interfacial resistance, greatly limiting their application in all-solid-state Li-metal batteries.

…Though challenges remain, the team say that the mechanical robustness and operability of the flexible composite sheet at a wide range of temperatures makes it a promising electrolyte for Li-metal batteries. The simplicity of this new synthesis method may mean that we will see high capacity  on the market sooner than we think.



Cameco halts Canadian uranium plant

Canadian uranium miner Cameco (TSX:CCO) (NYSE:CCJ) is placing its plant at the Port Hope conversion facility in Ontario on a temporary safe shutdown for four weeks.

The move comes as the company faces the increasing challenge of maintaining an adequate workforce as a result of screening protocols and other measures to combat the covid-19 pandemic.

Since the majority of the UO3 produced at the Blind River refinery is used to produce UF6 at the conversion facility, the refinery’s production would also be temporarily suspended and, where possible, summer maintenance work started.

“The UF6 plant is designed for continuous operation, and we need to prevent unplanned interruptions arising from personnel shortages,” Cameco’s chief executive, Tim Gitzel, said on Wednesday.


While production at the refinery is temporarily suspended, the operation will remain open to receive uranium concentrate deliveries, Cameco said.

The news come a day after uranium giant Kazatomprom said it expected to produce about 4,000 tonnes, or 17.5% less this year as measures designed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus has hit operations.

The Kazakhstan-based producer’s guidance for 2020 was 22,750 to 22,800 tonnes, on a 100% basis.

Kazatomprom said it would provide updated production revenue, capital expenditure and costs targets on May 4. Last year, Kazakhstan accounted for more than 42% of the world’s uranium output.

Cameco had said on Tuesday the Kazatomprom cuts would also weigh on its 40% ownership in the Inkai Joint Venture, an in-situ recovery uranium mine in Kazakhstan. The mine is expected to produce about 12% fewer pounds this year, translating to about 600,000lb less uranium oxide for the miner’s account.

Last week, Cameco announced the closure for a month of Cigar Lake, which produces about 13% of global uranium mine supply. This was followed by a 21-day lockdown of mines in another important uranium supplier, Namibia.

Before the announced output cuts, Cameco expected to buy 4.9 million pounds of uranium on the spot market this year.

Price revival

Uranium prices have been on the rise in the past two weeks as investors worried about ongoing disruption to supply, which is divided between a handful of major companies.

On Wednesday, prices hit $28.70 per pound, more than 20% higher than in March. Such a increase since a recent low is the common definition of a bull market. The last time the metal traded above $30 was in February 2019. Year to date, however, prices have dropped more than 15%.

Prior to Kazatomprom’s announcement, BMO Capital Markets was forecasting a deficit in uranium supply/demand balance of about 30 million pounds. The experts now figure that number will climb to 40 million pounds.

“The additional 10 million removed from the market will only accelerate the depletion of above-ground inventories and potentially result in more utilities reclassifying excess inventories as strategic,” BMO analyst Alexander Pearce said in a note.

With construction of nuclear power plants at a 10-year low, however, uranium demand remains weak.  SOURCE

Coronavirus: Walking is our only respite

Erling Kagge: Time slows down and the world changes when we walk. Because the world expects us to be available at all times, grounding yourself in nature can be hard.

Walking has become a welcome relief for people feeling cooped up in these days of social distancing. A man walks a dog in Toronto on Mar. 8, 2020. (Graeme Roy/CP)

To be quarantined, as we have been in Norway since the middle of March, reminds me about the silence on my expeditions in the Polar regions, how time slows down and the world changes when we walk. Because the world expects us to be available at all times, grounding yourself in nature can be hard.

I forget about it sometimes, and when I look around, I get the feeling that many people forget about it all the time, too. Mother Earth is more than four billion years old, so it seems arrogant to me when we don’t listen to her and instead blindly place our trust in human invention.

The last weeks have been different. In my Oslo suburban neighbourhood I have again started to listen to nature. If you listen closely, you’ll hear that the air, the birds, the earth, the wind, the sun, the trees and the horizon have their own language and consciousness. It tells us where we come from and what may lay on the road ahead.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that one can save time travelling only two hours from one point to another using modern technology like trains and planes, instead of spending eight hours walking. While this holds up mathematically, not being allowed to use public transportation reminds me that the opposite is equally true: time passes more slowly when I decrease my speed of travel by walking. Life feels long.

When you are in a car driving towards a mountain, with small pools, slopes, rocks, moss and trees zooming past on all sides, life is curtailed; it gets shorter. You don’t notice the wind, the scents, the weather, or the shifting light. Your feet don’t get sore. Everything becomes one big blur.

And it isn’t only time that grows smaller as one’s pace increases. Your sense of space does too. Suddenly you find yourself at the foot of the mountain. Even your sense of distance has been stunted. Having travelled far, you may be tempted to feel like you’ve experienced quite a bit. But I doubt that’s true.

When you have to walk along the same route, however—spending an entire day instead of a half-hour, breathing more easily, listening, feeling the ground beneath your feet, exerting yourself—the day becomes something else entirely. Little by little, the mountain looms up before you and your surroundings seem to grow larger. Becoming acquainted with these surroundings takes time. It’s like building a friendship. The mountain up ahead, which slowly changes as you draw closer, feels like an intimate friend by the time you’ve arrived. Your eyes, ears, nose, shoulders, stomach and legs speak to the mountain, and the mountain replies. Time stretches out, independent of minutes and hours.

And this is precisely the secret held by all those who go by foot: life is prolonged when you walk. Walking expands time rather than collapses it.

During these past weeks I have also revisited nature by reading some of my old expeditions journals: “At home I enjoy large helpings. Down here I’m learning to value small pleasures. The subtle shades of the snow. The light wind. Hot drinks. Cloud formations,” I wrote on day 22 while walking alone to the South Pole.  In the course of three weeks I’d not seen or heard a single sign of life—no people, no animals, no aircraft.

I’d put some 500 kilometres behind me and had more than 800 to go. When I began that journey I felt that everything around me was completely white and flat all the way to the horizon, and that above the horizon it was blue. But over time I’d started to see things differently. The snow and ice were no longer just white, but myriad shades of white, and contained glints of yellow, blue and green. I slowly began to see variations in the flatness—small formations which on closer inspection were like works of art, and different shades of colour worth focusing on.

“It’s a clear day. The hugeness of the landscape and the colours of the snow make me happy. Flatness can be beautiful too, not just mountains. I used to think that blue is the colour of poetry, white of purity, red of passion, and green of hope. But here such classifications don’t seem natural. Now all of them stand for poetry, purity, love and hope. And tomorrow blue and white might stand for storm and frost.”

While having to spend every day in Oslo and being isolated from my fellow Norwegians I have rediscovered that we can do these inner voyages of discovery everywhere. You are shaped by buildings, faces, signs, asphalt, weather and the atmosphere. Even if I walk on the same pavements and pedestrian zones where I walked the day before at the same hour, everything has changed. Some people I observe across the years and can see how they have aged through the spring in their step. Each new day that I walk, the oak trees have changed slightly, the paintings on the sides of buildings have faded a tiny bit more, and the faces that met me only 24 hours earlier have grown older. The changes are too small to notice on a daily basis. It all takes place much too slowly, but because I walk, I know that it’s happening.

Walking is a combination of movement, humility, balance, curiosity, smell, sound, light, inner silence and—if you walk far enough—longing. A feeling which reaches for something, without finding it. The Portuguese, Cape Verdeans and Brazilians have an untranslatable word for this longing: saudade. It is a word that encompasses love, pain and happiness. It can be the thought of something joyful that disturbs you, or something disturbing that brings you plenitude.

It is about finding your own South Pole. SOURCE