Monthly Environmental Round-up: September 2022

In an effort to raise awareness of global environmental issues, ESA will be providing a monthly issue of the previous month’s environmental headlines. 

Death toll reaches 324 from diseases like Malaria in Pakistan after intense floods hit the country

The death toll from malaria and other diseases reached 324. Stagnant floodwaters present in the country and spread over approximately one-third of the country, are estimated to take anywhere between two and six months to recede. This has already caused a widespread increase in cases of skin and eye infections, malaria, typhoid and dengue fever. 

Prime minister Shehbaz Sharif has stated “Stagnant water is giving rise to water-borne diseases” in an address to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Children and women, a majority of whom are malnourished and in poor health are particularly vulnerable. 588 cases of malaria have thus far been confirmed with a further suspected 10,604 cases in the Sindh province alone. Three other provinces also reported a significant number of patients visiting make-shift health facilities in flood-ravaged areas, exhibiting symptoms associated with typhoid, scabies and other diseases. 

Hurricane Ian causes widespread destruction after barreling through the Caribbean and Florida

Hurricane Ian is being described as one of the largest natural disasters to ever hit the state of Florida by the Red Cross, which has sent over a thousand disaster relief workers to provide shelter and food for those that have been left homeless.

The storm hit Cuba on the 27th of September and then grew to a category 4 hurricane, with wind speeds reaching 241 km/h,  as it crossed the Gulf of Mexico. This caused storm surges and left thousands of people without power. Communities in the Fort Myers area of Florida took the brunt of the storm, with people on Sanibel Island and Pine Island left stranded after roads leading to the mainland were swept away.

While climate change cannot be linked to any one event, NOAA National Hurricane Center acting director Jamie Rhome stated that ”on the cumulative, climate change may be making storms worse”. This is supported by evidence of heavier rainfall and slower storm movement.

“Treacherous” conditions are being forecast for large areas on the east coast including Washington D.C as well as the states of New York and New Jersey.

United Kingdom lifts ban on oil and gas fracking

The U.K government lifted a ban on fracking for shale gas in England, citing Russia’s war on Ukraine and the “weaponisation of energy” as justification for exploring “all avenues” in order to achieve energy security.

A moratorium on shale gas production had been present in England since 2019, amid concern about minor earthquakes being set off by the hydraulic fracturing or fracking process. The U.K’s goal of reducing emissions to net zero by 2050 had also pushed fracking further down the agenda in recent years.

New Prime Minister Liz Truss has placed a significantly stronger emphasis on energy security and has thus been pushing for the U.K to exploit more of its remaining fossil fuel reserves, with the aim of the country becoming a net energy exporter by 2040. This comes despite the warning that profits from shale-gas production could be many years off.

German government sued over toxic air pollution levels

A group of German residents are in the process of suing their government over “dangerously” high air pollution levels, claiming that their right to breathe clean and healthy air is being violated and that the government is failing to protect their health.

The group of seven claimants, which includes parents acting on behalf of their children, say their health is at risk and politicians are failing to protect them. They live in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf, four of Germany’s seven largest cities.
Germany’s air pollution levels are in line with the country’s own law, but the claimants say the law must change to reflect growing scientific consensus. Like many countries, Germany’s air pollution levels often far exceed the World Health Organization’s, Air Quality Guideline limits.

A large amount of gas flaring emissions have not been reported

Millions of tonnes of undeclared emissions from gas flaring were discovered at oil fields wherein BP, Eni, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell work. These companies stated that their reporting methods were standard industry practice. BP, Eni, ExxonMobil, and Chevron are committed to a 2015 World Bank pledge to declare and end routine flaring by 2030, whereas Shell is committed to ending flaring by 2025 The companies however said that where they are contracted with other companies to run day-to-day operations, it is the other firm’s responsibility to declare flaring emissions.

Gas flaring is the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction, which emits a mix of carbon dioxide, methane and black soot. The practice has persisted since the beginning of oil production over 160 years ago and occurs due to issues such as market and economic constraints and lack of appropriate regulations and political will. It is a waste of a valuable natural resource and the amount of gas being flared annually could potentially power the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.

United Nations chief calls for a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies 

UN chief Antonio Guterres has urged rich countries to tax windfall profits of fossil fuel companies and use that money to help countries harmed by the climate crisis and people who are struggling with rising food and energy prices. Addressing world leaders at the UN General Assembly on the 20th of September, the UN secretary general stepped up his attack on oil and gas companies, which have seen profits soar this year amid rising energy prices. 

“The fossil fuel industry is feasting on hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and windfall profits while household budgets shrink and our planet burns,” he said.

The European Union plans to raise more than €140 billion to shield consumers from soaring energy prices by taxing windfall profits from oil companies and electric generators, while the U.K has passed a 25% windfall tax on oil and gas producers in the North Sea.

Drought risks forcing 3.6 million children to drop out of school in the Horn of Africa 

The United Nations has said that more than 3.5 million children in the Horn of Africa are at risk of dropping out of school due to drought, warning that the crisis may lead to “a lost generation” that misses out on vital education. 

UNICEF estimates that 3.6 million children in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are in danger of leaving school due to pressure placed on households due to the unrelenting drought. Four consecutive failed rainy seasons have pushed millions of families to the brink, increasing the number of child fatalities due to malnutrition and forcing people to flee their homes in search of resources.

Teachers and activists in Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia, have said that they are seeing this effect in classrooms, with girls being particularly vulnerable.  Sadia Allin, country director for Plan International said “it is always the girls who bear the brunt of the situation”.

While UNICEF said it did not expect to see any discernible difference between the sexes in terms of the children dropping out, Jung Rana, UNICEF’s education advisor for eastern and southern Africa, said he did expect girls to be less likely to return to school, just as with the Covid-19 aftermath wherein some places coincided with higher rates of early marriage, teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence.

Denmark first to offer “loss and damage” compensation to regions which are most vulnerable to climate change 

Denmark has become the first UN member to offer direct cash for those communities most affected by climate change. The Danish government, together with five other political parties have decided to grant 100 million Danish crowns (€13.5 million) extra in climate aid to target people most vulnerable to climate-induced loss and damage. The aid further strengthens Denmark’s global climate efforts and the target of dedicating at minimum 60% of Danish climate aid to climate adaptation. 

The Danish foreign ministry said in a statement that 35 million Danish crowns (€4.7 million) will go to an organisation based in Frankfurt, Germany that subsidises insurance in poorer countries. A further 32.5 million Danish crowns (€4.4 million) will go to the ministry’s “strategic partnerships with civil society, which work with climate-related loss and damage”. Particular focus will be placed on the Sahel region of Africa. Another 25 million Danish crowns (€3.4 million) will be spent on “strategic efforts” which can support climate change negotiations in the run-up to COP27.  The final 7.5 million Danish crowns (€941,314) will be given to civil society actors working in developing nations to improve resiliency to climate change impacts. 

Former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, to spend $85 million in a bid to counteract plastic and petrochemical projects

Former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, launched an $85 million campaign to block the planned construction of plastic and petrochemical plants across the USA. This was modelled on his decade-long effort to shutter coal plants.

Bloomberg, who serves as a UN special envoy on climate ambition, stated his philanthropic organisation’s Beyond Petrochemicals campaign will “turbocharge” efforts by local communities, to block permitting and construction of plants, in places like Texas, Appalachia and Louisiana’s Cancer Alley.

The International Energy Agency said the plastics and petrochemical industry will exceed coal-fired carbon emissions by 2030 and account for half of the growth in oil demand by 2050. The expansion planned by the plastics and petrochemical industry could account for 15% of US greenhouse gas emissions, which could make the US miss its goal under the Paris climate agreement of halving its emissions by 2030.



The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not reflective of ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ as a whole.


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