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STRASBOURG: The European Court of Human Rights has, for the first time in law, acknowledged government failure to implement sufficient measures to combat climate change.

A case brought by the Swiss Climate Seniors Association (SCSA) claimed Swiss authorities were not taking seriously the impact of global warming on their living conditions and health.

In a vote 16:1, the Court concluded Switzerland’s Confederation had indeed violated Article 8 of the Convention that provides the right to respect for private and family life. The dissenting opinion by British judge Tim Eicke suggested it was beyond the Court’s remit to reach such a conclusion.

The ruling, from the Court’s Grand Chamber and therefore final was by 17 judges: Síofra O’Leary (Ireland) President, Georges Ravarani (Luxembourg), Marko Bošnjak (Slovenia), Gabriele Kucsko-Stadlmayer (Austria), Pere Pastor Vilanova (Andorra), Arnfinn Bårdsen (Norway), Pauliine Koskelo (Finland), Tim Eicke (the United Kingdom), Jovan Ilievski (North Macedonia), Darian Pavli (Albania), Raffaele Sabato (Italy), Lorraine Schembri Orland (Malta), Anja Seibert-Fohr (Germany), Peeter Roosma (Estonia), Ana Maria Guerra Martins (Portugal), Mattias Guyomar (France), Andreas Zünd (Switzerland), plus Søren Prebensen, Deputy Grand Chamber Registrar.

In a subsequent unanimous vote, the Court also determined the SCSA’s right of access under Article 6 had been violated, noting Swiss courts had not provided convincing reasons as to why they “failed to take into consideration the compelling scientific evidence concerning climate change and had not taken the [Association’s] complaints seriously”.

"With its latest ruling, the European Court of Human Rights has expressed its opinion on the core issue of international climate policy - the question of responsibility,” noted Ottmar Edenhofer, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “The fact that the court ruled in favour of the Swiss Climate Seniors Association and recognized inadequate climate policy as a violation of human rights is groundbreaking. This ruling should also remind other states of their international obligations: those who set climate targets are responsible for meeting them.”

Published on the same day as the Court ruling, a report by Oil Change International and Friends of the Earth United States, claims between 2020 and 2022 G20 governments and multilateral development banks (MDBs) provided US$142 billion in international public finance for fossil fuels, compared to US$104 billion for clean energy in the same period.

The top three government fossil fuel financiers per annum were Canada (US$10.9 billion), Korea (US$10 billion) and Japan (US$6.9 billion) followed by China, Italy, U.S., Germany, Russia, Argentina and Saudi Arabia.

By contrast the top annual providers of clean energy finance between 2020 and 2022 were France (US$2.7 billion), Japan (US$2.3 billion) and Germany (US$2.3 billion).

“While rich countries continue to drag their feet and claim they can’t afford to fund a globally just energy transition, countries like Canada, Korea, Japan, and the U.S. appear to have no shortage of public funds for climate-wrecking fossil fuels,” commented Claire O’Manique, Public Finance analyst at Oil Change International.

BROOKLYN, NY/SAN DIEGO, CA: A report from research and technology company First Street finds 83 million Americans are exposed annually to air quality thresholds categorized as “unhealthy” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air Quality Index.

Among those at risk nearly 10 million may have daily exposure to “very unhealthy” air and 1.5 million risk experiencing “hazardous” conditions.

The report highlights the contribution of climate change to the increasing risk of exposure to poor air. First Street said these trends are a reversal of “hard fought gains in air quality improvement over the past half century”.

In the western U.S. EPA data has recorded a 477 percent increase in poor air days between 2000 and 2021 with the most persistent in California’s Central Valley, the San Francisco metro area, and much of Southern California.

Over the next 30 years, the population exposed to “Unhealthy” days is forecast to rise 51 percent while “Very Unhealthy” and “Hazardous” conditions will increase 13 percent and 27 percent respectively.

“The statistical signals are clear. We are seeing rapid increases in air pollutants after decades of legislation to reduce pollution,” commented Matthew Eby, founder and CEO of First Street. “The major concern moving forward is that [the] climate is much harder to regulate than industry," he continued.

First Street calculates the past, present, and future climate risk for every U.S. property for citizens, industry and government. https://riskfactor.com/

In a related announcement, the Climate Action Campaign (CAC) notes a record 28 billion-dollar weather and climate events in the U.S. last year killed 492 people and cost US$92.9 billion.

CAC says the lack of remedial action has penalized the country US$120.6 billion a year for the past five years according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"Every passing moment, the relentless onslaught of climate change inflicts a toll on our environment, our health, and our wallets – to the tune of nearly $3,000 per second,” comments Margie Alt, CAC campaign director. “This exorbitant price tag, driven by an unparalleled number of weather and climate disasters, reinforces the urgent need for the Biden Administration to use every tool at their disposal to cut climate pollution.”

The campaign includes the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Dream Corps Green For All, Earthjustice, Environment America, Michigan Clinicians for Climate Action, National Wildlife Federation, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and United Women in Faith. https://www.actonclimate.com/

ANN ARBOR, MI/CHICAGO, IL: A study by the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) has concluded 12-26 percent of Americans, depending on location, deny the reality of climate change.

The researchers used Twitter (now X) data from 2017-2019 and AI techniques to understand how key influencers on social media, including Donald Trump, have spread climate change denialism.

Employing ChatGPT’s Large Language Model, the study classified more than 7.4 million geocoded tweets posted by 1.3 million unique users as ‘for’ or ‘against’ climate change and mapped the results at state and county levels to discover an overall 49.6 million Americans deny the reality.

Analysis of the geocoded tweets revealed that belief in climate change is highest along the West and East Coasts, and that denialism is highest in the Central and Southern parts of the country, with more than 20 percent of the populations of Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama and North Dakota not believing in climate change.

According to the data, political affiliation plays the most influential role in determining whether a person believes in climate change or not, with a high percentage of Republican voters having the strongest correlation with deniers.

In addition, the researchers saw a significant connection between denialism and low COVID-19 vaccination rates, education, income level and the degree to which the regional economy is reliant on fossil fuels to produce energy.

The research concluded Trump as the biggest influencer as well as re-tweets from The Daily Wire, Breitbart, Climate Depot and right wing political commentators.

Between 2017-2019, the most heavily re-tweeted post included one by Trump that questioned climate change due to unusually cold weather in the U.S. and another where he cast doubt on a UN climate report just prior to COP24, the 2018 UN Climate Change Conference held in Poland.

In almost half of the tweets analysed, the most common refrain was that climate change was not real, humans are not the primary cause and climate change experts are unreliable according to senior author Joshua Newell, professor and co-director of the Center for Sustainable Systems (CSS) at SEAS.

“People tend to selectively credit or discredit evidence based on their beliefs, which is how fake experts come to serve as credible messengers,” Newell continued. “This is the basis of the theory of identity-protective cognition, which helps explain, for example, why Republican voters are more likely to believe tweets from Trump on climate change rather than other, more reliable sources—it is identity-affirming.”

In a related action Chicago has filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, and the American Petroleum Institute for knowingly fuelling the climate crisis.

The city has joined communities across the U.S. arguing the fossil fuel industry must pay for a decades-long campaign of disinformation that has delayed the transition to lower-carbon energy sources. According to the Center for Climate Integrity, nearly 25 percent of the nation’s population lives in states and municipalities now suing oil companies “over their climate lies”.

“These companies knowingly deceived Chicago consumers in their endless pursuit of profits,” commented Chicago Alderman Matt Martin. “As a result of their conduct, Chicago is enduring extreme heat and precipitation, flooding, sewage flows into Lake Michigan, damage to city infrastructure and more, with enormous costs.”

The lawsuit is calling on the oil companies to pay for the damages Chicago is experiencing because of climate change, including adaptation projects to make the city more resilient in the face of it.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-023-50591-6
https://climateintegrity.org/

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