The planet is getting too warm, too fast — but we might have flying cars soon
Global temps are going to rise “far in excess” of Paris Agreement targets if emissions continue at their current rate: Greenhouse gas concentration hit an all time-high last year, increasing at a higher rate than the annual average for the past decade, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide concentration levels in 2020 suggest that global temperature increases at the end of the century will be “far in excess of the Paris Agreement targets of 1.5 to 2°C above pre-industrial levels,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said. This outlook would mean we’re in for faster melting of ice caps, sea levels rising, and ocean acidification, alongside socioeconomic consequences. Bloomberg and BBC News took note of the report.
It’s not looking great, but it’s better than where we were a few years ago: Prior to the 2015 Paris Agreement, we were on track for a 4°C increase by the end of the century, but as the world shifted gears towards clean energy, this forecast dropped by a whole degree. This is a relative improvement, but still cause for worry and alarm, the New York Times writes. And with various countries promising to drop emissions (including Egypt, which decreased subsidies for fossil fuels, among other measures), the forecasted temp rise could drop to 2-2.4°C. Scientists are still flashing the warning signs and urging countries to take more drastic measures to bring us to a safer 1.5°C increase in global temperatures by the end of the century.
Who’s doing their part? Nobody but Gambia: Last month, we reported that nearly all nations fell far behind on goals set out by the Paris Climate Agreement, according to a report by the Climate Action Tracker, with the only country to achieve its goals being Gambia. Seven other countries, including the UK, were ranked as “almost sufficient” in their promises to cut carbon pollution and policy changes. The US, the EU, Germany, and Japan’s efforts have been deemed “insufficient,” while Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia are among the countries that are “critically insufficient.”
Can we leapfrog into a cleaner, Jetsons-like near future? British aerospace manufacturer Vertical Aerospace, which builds zero carbon vertical take-off and landing electric aircrafts, is slated to begin production of flying taxis in 2024, with an eye to introduce the vehicles to London’s Heathrow Airport by 2025, Bloomberg reports. The vehicles are aimed at replacing noisier (and dirtier) helicopters in large cities, as carriers look for ways to transport passengers across and between cities using cleaner technology. Meanwhile, Chinese EV startup Xpeng Inc is also making its foray into AI and flying cars, according to the business information service. The car, which is developed by Xpeng’s affiliate HT Aero, has raised upward of USD 500 mn from investors to-date and is expected to begin mass production in 2024.
Rich countries have received 16x more vaccines per person than poorer nations that rely on the World Health Organization’s Covax initiative, according to analysis by the Financial Times. Low-income countries received 9.3 vaccines for every 100 people, with 7.1 of those through Covax, data from Unicef found. Meanwhile, wealthy nations have received 155 vaccines for every 100 people — with the extra shots being used as boosters. The findings highlight how far Covax has failed in its mission to provide an equitable distribution of vaccines globally.
African countries have been trying to reduce their dependence on Covax by replicating mRNA vaccines that they can manufacture locally, writes the Associated Press. Moderna is the main vaccine being studied to create a similar jab for the continent. The company had said it would build a vaccine manufacturing facility “in the future,” but with no timeline given, many African labs have taken the issue into their own hands. WHO has backed the venture, coordinating a vaccine research, training and production hub in South Africa in a “last resort effort to make doses for people going without.” Africa CDC now puts the figure of fully-vaccinated individuals on the continent at 5%, with folks that have taken at least one dose at 8%, according to its vaccine tracker.
But it hasn’t been going so well: Intellectual property issues are expected to arise as Moderna eyes the possible mRNA production warily. The pharma company has said it would not pursue legal action against a company for infringing on its vaccine rights, but it also won’t help companies create the competing shots either. Moderna’s Chairman Noubar Afeyan made his sentiments clear when he said it would be better to expand production itself than to share technology.