COVID-19 may become a seasonal virus

By Rachael Rettner – Senior Writer 4 days ago

But the virus will continue to spread year-round until the population achieves herd immunity.

COVID-19 may eventually become a seasonal illness like the flu, but only when the population achieves herd immunity, meaning a sufficient number of people are immune to prevent constant spread, a new review article suggests.

But until then, COVID-19 will likely spread year-round, a finding that highlights the importance of following public health measures to control the virus, according to the review, published Tuesday (Sept. 15) in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

“COVID-19 is here to stay and it will continue to cause outbreaks year-round until herd immunity is achieved,” study senior author Hassan Zaraket, an assistant professor of virology at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, said in a statement. “Therefore, the public will need to learn to live with it and continue practicing the best prevention measures, including wearing of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene and avoidance of gatherings.”

What makes a virus seasonal? 

Many viruses seem to follow seasonal patterns — for example, in temperate regions, cases of the flu regularly peak in winter and dwindle during the summer months. The same is true for certain types of coronaviruses that cause the common cold. 

Scientists don’t know for sure why these viruses follow a seasonal pattern, but a number of factors are thought to play a role. For example, studies suggest that many respiratory viruses are more stable and linger in the air longer in environments with cold temperatures and low humidity, the authors said. Human behaviors, such as gathering indoors in wintertime, could also boost transmission.

Early studies on SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, also suggested that the virus’s transmission may increase in colder temperatures and decrease in warmer temperatures.

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But with any infectious disease, in order for cases to decline, a factor known as the “basic reproduction number” (R0, pronounced R-nought), or the average number of people who catch the virus from a single infected person, needs to drop below 1.

The R0 for COVID-19 appears to be relatively high, with many scientists estimating a value between 2 and 3, compared with about 1.3 for the flu, the authors said.

COVID-19’s high R0 may be due, in part, to the absence of pre-existing immunity to the disease in most of the population. Thus, with a higher R0, the authors predict it will be harder for seasonal factors to push R0 below 1. 

“Therefore, without public health interventions, SARS-CoV-2 will continue to spread in summer as witnessed in many countries around the world,” the authors wrote.

In contrast, as more people gain immunity, either through natural infection or vaccine, the R0 “is expected to drop substantially, making the virus more prone to seasonal fluctuations,” such as spikes in wintertime and dips in summertime, the authors concluded.

If a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, it may reduce the spread, but it will likely not totally eliminate the virus, Zaraket and study co-author Hadi Yassine, an associate professor of infectious diseases at Qatar University in Doha, told Live Science in an email. That’s because the vaccine will likely not be 100% effective, so some infections will still occur. In addition, the protection offered by the vaccine may wane with time, or the virus may mutate and evade immune protection, the researchers said.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on Sept. 15 at 11:45 am ET to include comments from the authors about the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine becoming available. 

Originally published on Live Science.  

Climate neutrality claims

How to distinguish between climate leadership and greenwashing


A growing number of countries and companies are setting climate neutrality and net-zero targets. Many countries’ and companies’ efforts towards climate neutrality play a positive role contributing to the fight against climate change and reducing global emissions. However, some of these commitments only obscure the actual impact and ambition of actual climate efforts. In order to enable citizens, investors, consumers and other stakeholders to make an informed judgement, it is crucial that countries and companies are transparent about what exactly their target covers and how they intend to reach it. This discussion paper explores a number of climate neutrality targets and what factors are important to consider when trying to gauge their ambition.

“Climate neutrality” or “Net zero” targets have become increasingly important in the public debate for consumers, voters, and investors alike. This stems in large part from the Paris Agreement, which set out the goal “to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century” (Article 4.1) in order to “hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2˚C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5˚C” (Article 2.1.a). To contribute to this overall goal, some countries have set “climate neutrality” targets as part of their “long-term low greenhouse gas development strategies” (Article 14.9). Further, a growing number of companies set climate or carbon neutrality targets or offer “climate or carbon neutral products” – ranging from car fuel to all-inclusive holidays, and from parcel deliveries to flights and train trips.

There are large differences in the transparency of these claims and targets and what they actually mean in terms of GHG impact. Both governments’ and companies’ climate neutrality targets and claims vary in terms of coverage, target year, and the extent to which offsets and negative emissions are expected to play a role. While some actors provide detailed information on important aspects such as current emissions levels, interim targets, reduction strategies, and – when relevant – what type of offset credits are used, other targets and claims are less clear on such details.

As a result, it is difficult to understand the meaning of climate neutrality targets and their impact on global emission levels. Targets can represent ambitious and Paris-aligned actions, but they may also misrepresent climate action and have no or a negative impact on global emission levels.

Contact for further information: Aki KachiSilke MooldijkCarsten Warnecke

How to get plastic recycling to real scale


Image plasctic bottles dreamstime xs 65520448

Is 100% recycling feasible?

17 Sep 20
Tom Idle

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Waste recycling rates are improving overall, but what are the measures that can really drive plastic recycling forwards?Legislation designed to promote waste recycling appears to be working. 

In Europe, the latest data shows that, even with more waste being generated by EU nations, the total amount ending up in landfill continues to fall. Since 1995, 69m tonnes of rubbish – or 57% – less waste has been buried in the ground. Since 2005, landfilling has dropped by almost 4% a year on average.

Member states do seem to have adhered to the EU’s Directive 62/1994, in place since 2001, to ensure all nations recover a minimum of 50% of all packaging put on the market (further revised in 2008 with a 60% recovery target). Directive 31/1999 has also had an impact, which forced EU states to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste going to landfills to 35%.

All of this means more waste being recycled. Since the mid-1990s, the average annual rate of recycling has increased by 4.2% year on year. Now, more than 100m tonnes of waste is recycled annually. While that still only accounts for 47% of all waste, it’s a significant increase on the 19% recycled in 1995.

It is a similar story in the US, which produces more than 260m tonnes of waste a year. Over time, recycling rates have steadily increased – from just 16% in 1990 to a little over 35% in 2017.

Plastic progress  

But while overall recycling rates have slowly improved, brands remain under intense pressure to do more, in plastics particularly. 

Of course, boosting recycling rates requires action from a range of different stakeholders – among them brands that place products on the market, the local authorities and resource management companies charged with treating waste, and consumers. 

But in which part of the chain can the biggest impacts be made? 

For Ceris Turner-Bailes, CEO of WasteAid, it starts with properly incentivising the use of recycled materials. She says that products made from materials that are not recyclable because they use mixed materials should be phased out, and incentives created to utilise single-material packaging, which is more easily recycled. 

Part of the solution is paying a fair price to the people that collect waste, not just the basic market value of the material, particularly in lower-income countries.AndWasteAid is working with waste pickers and training vulnerable and marginalised people to recycle plastics into products such as paving stones and tiles. Turner-Bailes says: “One of the biggest challenges is creating a market for the products in the countries that we work, and this is a big focus for us going forward.”

Joe Franses, VP of sustainability at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) agrees. He wants a step-change in investment of recycled plastic. “Certain sectors need help in securing access to post-consumer feedstock at a viable price,” he says. Currently, the beverage industry is the only sector which is obligated to meet a minimum recycled PET (rPET) percentage threshold. The EU Single-Use Plastic Directive requires a minimum of 25% recycled plastic to be used in beverage bottles by 2025. Franses says that “too much” collected PET currently goes to other applications or is exported once it’s collected for recycling. “More could be done to ensure that PET from beverage packaging that is collected can be recycled bottle-to-bottle.”

Engaging consumers 

Making it easier for consumers to engage in the recycling process will also be key to boosting recycling numbers. “Industry-driven” deposit return schemes (DRS) are likely to deliver the highest collection rates for beverage packaging – and help to facilitate bottle-to-bottle recycling, as they reduce contamination, Franses says. But such schemes require strong support from policymakers and governments, as well as effective collaboration, to make them work, with producers and retailers working together. “Norway and Sweden offer best-in-class DRS, with a focus on creating a local, circular system via a strong connection to local recycling partners, such as Veolia.” Franses points out. 

Another good example is the SRN (Stichting Retourverpakking Nederland) in the Netherlands, which is a scheme that gives access to feedstock at competitive prices for all those that participate in the scheme.

Deposit return schemes do, of course, have their detractors, particularly where there is near-universal local authority kerbside collection, such as in the UK. Introducing DRS requires development of new infrastructure, with reverse-vending machines installed in public places or retailers being required to devote space to collection and deposit returns. 

Another potential downside is that DRS removes PET, which is currently amongst the most valuable recyclate, from kerbside waste streams, taking away that revenue and making the collection of other wastes less financially viable. DRS can create an incentive for increased use of plastic and penalises the use of other materials, notably aluminium, which does not require any venture financing and novel chemistry solutions to improve its recyclability. 

Whatever your view, this is a debate that will, no doubt, continue . 

Keep it simple 

To get the attention of consumers, James Bull, head of packaging at Tesco, says it’s all about simplifying processes. He argues for legislation that drives “consistency in what is used and what is collected” and will make it easier to manage and more straightforward for the general public to engage with.

In fact, making it easier for people to understand how recycling supply chains actually work will give them the confidence and incentive to recycle more, Turner-Bailes says. “There needs to be full transparency in the movement and use of materials across borders, to generate confidence that materials are properly recycled and not dumped.” 

WasteAid is currently working in Douala, Cameroon, where the local government is supporting recycling by ordering recycled products on a large scale to improve local infrastructure. “It’s a good example of local government working with commercial enterprises to support recycling efforts on a large scale,” according to Turner-Bailes. 

Barriers remain

Closer collaboration and more effective consumer engagement are likely to have a big impact. However, some specific challenges remain. Bull highlights the difficulties in collecting and recycling the soft plastic bags, pouches and films that represent a large proportion of any shopping basket. 

The solution? Companies should prove it can be done and influence governments to move quicker and legislate consistently for a set of materials that are to be used to “prevent food waste, provide functionality while limiting carbon and environmental impacts”, Bull says. Then, the sector should “generate demand, engage industry, and influence market investment and cost coverage”. 

Franses reinforces the need for greater investment in new recycling technologies and infrastructure, in particular, to boost capacity within the rPET reprocessing sector to generate an increased supply of rPET. Through its innovation and investment arm, CCEP Ventures, the business has recently invested in recycling start-up CuRe Technology. CuRE uses a partial depolymerisation process to break down PET into its component building blocks to produce food-grade rPET – a good fit for CCEP as it aims to deliver 100% rPET for its bottles in the next five years.

Enforced circularity? 

The European Commission’s long-awaited Circular Economy Package will have made brands and recyclers sit up and take notice. With revised legislative proposals on waste, a more stringent target for recycling, particularly of packaging waste, and lower limits for landfilling, companies will be forced to think more circular. And that’s a good thing, says Bull. “The best examples of driving positive behaviour are about driving a value into packaging, rather than it being provided as a disposable element.”

Turner-Bailes agrees, arguing that voluntary commitments from brands have been a welcome start, but they have had limited impact. “[They] need to be replaced with legislation and clear timescales for the phase-out of product packaging that is non-recyclable. This will be a strong signal of intent towards the creation of genuinely circular economies.”

Join 150+ experts to debate the future of plastics at Innovation Forum’s upcoming conference. For full details click here

Global South Researchers are Making Global Partnerships

a Reality Photo by Clément Falize


COVID-19 has impacted the world as a whole, making voices from developing countries in the Global South critical for finding solutions.

Southern Voice’s researchers from 25 countries are analyzing the impact the pandemic is having in areas such as the economy, gender equality, education, and the digital divide.

By Gabriela Keseberg Dávalos

While preparations are underway for this year’s UN General Assembly and the UN 75th anniversary, the world is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on all areas of life.

Cooperation and partnerships on the local, national, and international levels, as called for in Sustainable Development Goal 17, are more vital than ever. Many multilateral bodies have yet to show real leadership when it comes to this. The pandemic has exposed their internal rifts and animosities.

In the meantime, civil society, academia, and citizens are collaborating to help humanity soften the blow of the most significant event in recent history. COVID-19 has impacted the world as a whole, but some populations are more affected than others. That is why voices from developing countries in the Global South are critical at this moment.

Like most organizations, the Southern Voice network has had to adapt. Luckily, our 51 member think tanks across Africa, Asia, and Latin America generated timely analysis of how the new coronavirus was affecting their countries. At the network’s Secretariat, we felt that researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders outside the network, should be able to access this knowledge. Hence, we created a sort of “one-stop-shop” on information on COVID-19 in the Global South. At first just a page on our website, it has now evolved into a full-fledged digital knowledge hub.

The digital hub shows how each SDG is being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Southern Voice’s researchers from 25 countries are analyzing the impact the pandemic is having in areas such as the economy, gender equality, education, and the digital divide. The user has direct access to information on how each region (AfricaAsia, and Latin America) is dealing with the virus. In addition, information can be searched at the global level.

The hub also shows how each SDG is being affected by the pandemic. For example, the gulf between the “digital have and have nots” became even more evident this year. For the majority of people in the Global South, working or learning from home via virtual means is not an option. This fact is further widening the poverty gap, with a direct impact on SDG 1 (no poverty) and various other Goals.

The next generation of humans will be affected more than any other by the aftershock of COVID-19, in particular through impacts on education. Achieving SDG 4 (quality education) is critical to fulfilling the 2030 Agenda’s principle of leaving no one behind.

As a “bonus”, Southern Voice is also making available a database of experts from across the Global South. Various Southern Voice research centers are now teaming up to offer concrete solutions and recommendations to the crisis. Updates on their work will be available in the hub.

We hope that the database will be used for conference organizers and media outlets, but also by policymakers seeking advice on how to “build back better” with the help of fact-based, timely analysis.

Spaces like this hub represent a glimmer of hope among all the bad news this year. A concrete example of cooperation and partnership, it proves that humanity can come together. It shows that we can tackle a problem that affects us all, much in the spirit of the upcoming Declaration on the Commemoration of the UN’s 75th Anniversary. In it, the UN Heads of State and Government pledge to “boost partnerships” across the whole of society to “ensure an effective response to our common challenges.” To achieve that, new and diverse voices from all walks of life and cultures are pivotal. For this reason, Southern Voice members are working tirelessly not only to understand the effects of the pandemic, but also to promote hands-on solutions for the short and long-term.

We hope that the COVID-19 in the Global South knowledge hub becomes a go-to place for analysis and recommendations. It is a testament to the cooperative work of hundreds of researchers across the Global South and beyond.

2020 can go down in history as an apocalyptic year. Or it can be a time in which we finally join hands to make SDG 17 a reality, through a more robust multilateral system. 

Gabriela Keseberg Dávalos is Head of Communications of Southern Voice (@SVoice2030), a network of 51 think tanks from the Global South.

The new coronavirus can infect brain cells, study finds

By Nicoletta Lanese – Staff Writer 5 days ago

 Comments (0)neurons(Image: © Shutterstock)

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can sometimes hijack brain cells, using the cells’ internal machinery to copy itself, according to a new study.

The research, posted Sept. 8 to the preprint database bioRxiv, has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but it provides evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can directly infect brain cells called neurons. Although the coronavirus has been linked to various forms of brain damage, from deadly inflammation to brain diseases known as encephalopathies, all of which can cause confusion, brain fog and delirium, there was little evidence of the virus itself invading brain tissue until now.

“We are actively looking at more patient tissues to be able to find how frequently such brain infections occur … and what symptoms correlate with infection of which areas of the brain,” senior author Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, told Live Science in an email. In addition, scientists must still figure out how the virus enters the brain in the first place, and whether it can be kept out of the brain, the authors noted in their report.

Related: 20 of the worst epidemics and pandemics in history

Human, mouse and mini-brains  

To see whether SARS-CoV-2 could break into brain cells, the study authors examined autopsied brain tissue from three patients who died of COVID-19. They also conducted experiments in mice infected with COVID-19 and in organoids — groups of cells grown in a lab dish to mimic the 3D structure of brain tissue.

“This study is the first to do an extensive analysis of SARS-CoV-2 [brain] infection using three models,” said Dr. Maria Nagel, a professor of neurology and ophthalmology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study. Previously, there were only “rare case reports” of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and viral particles found in post-mortem tissue from patients, Nagel, who specializes in neurovirology, told Live Science in an email. 

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In the organoids, the team found that the virus could enter neurons through the ACE2 receptor, a protein on the cell surface that the virus uses to enter the cell and  trigger infection. They then used an electron microscope, which uses beams of charged particles to illuminate the tissue, to peer inside infected cells. They could see coronavirus particles “budding” within the cell, demonstrating that the virus had commandeered the neurons’ internal machinery to build new copies of itself.

While setting up shop in infected cells, the virus also caused metabolic changes in nearby neurons, which were not infected. These nearby cells died off in large numbers, suggesting that the infected cells might steal oxygen from their neighbors in order to keep producing new virus, the authors noted.

Related: From dino brains to thought control — 10 fascinating brain findings

“We do not know if similar events are taking place in infected people,” though there is some evidence they might be, Iwasaki noted. In the autopsied tissue, the team found SARS-CoV-2 had infected some neurons in the wrinkled cerebral cortex. Near these infected cells, they found evidence of “small strokes” having taken place, hinting that the virus might steal oxygen from nearby cells in the brain just as it did in the organoids, Iwasaki said. 

Notably, the infected brain tissue was not flooded with immune cells, as might be expected. When the Zika virus or rabies virus invades the brain, a large number of immune cells usually follow, the authors noted. So it’s possible that when SARS-CoV-2 manages to infiltrate the brain, it may somehow escape the body’s typical defense against such invasions. It’s not yet known how this unusual immune response might affect the course of the infection, but it may make the virus more difficult to clear from the brain. And though few immune cells flock to the site of infection, dying neurons nearby can trigger a chain-reaction in the nervous system that still leads to harmful inflammation, the authors noted.

Finally, in the mouse experiments, the authors genetically modified one group of mice to express human ACE2 receptors in their brains, while another group of mice only bore the receptor in their lungs. The first set of mice rapidly began losing weight and died within six days, while the second set did not lose weight and survived. In addition, in the mice with brain infection, the arrangement of blood vessels in the brain changed dramatically, presumably to redirect nutrient-rich blood to “metabolically active hot spots” where the virus had taken over, the authors wrote.

Next steps 

The organoid and mouse studies offer hints at how lethal SARS-CoV-2 can be if it reaches the brain. But now, scientists must see if the same results carry over to humans. 

“Every experimental system has its limitation,” Iwasaki noted. For instance, COVID-19 infection may progress differently in mice than it does in humans, and while organoids somewhat resemble a mini-brain, they do not contain immune cells or blood vessels like the full-size organ, she said.

In addition, “in humans, virus is not directly introduced into the brain” as it is in mouse experiments, Nagel said. Scientists will need to examine more autopsied tissue from COVID-19 patients to determine whether the findings of this preliminary work hold up in larger groups of people. 

Nonhuman primates infected with SARS-CoV-2 could also serve as research models, since the supply of human brain tissue is limited, Nagel said.RELATED CONTENT

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“Virus may be present in specific brain regions or may have more indirect effects on neurological function,” Nagel added. In particular, some patients experience symptoms reminiscent of chronic fatigue syndrome for months after their initial COVID-19 infection takes hold; it’s been suggested that the syndrome arises from changes in hormone function regulated by the specific parts of the brain, she noted. Another key question is whether the “virus affects the respiratory center in the brainstem — contributing to respiratory failure in critically-ill COVID patients,” she said.

What’s more, scientists still need to figure out how the virus sneaks into the brain in the first place.

When scientists learned that COVID-19 can disrupt people’s ability to smell and taste, some theorized that the virus might infect the brain directly by traveling through nerves in the nose, Live Science previously reported. The virus may invade the brain through the nose, Iwasaki agreed, or it might enter through the bloodstream by crossing compromised regions of the blood-brain barrier — a wall of tissue that normally separates brain tissue from circulating blood and allows only certain substances through. Learning what route the virus takes into the brain will be key to preventing and treating the infection, the authors noted. 

Originally published on Live Science.

Food and Agriculture Indicators Reveal Impacts of Pandemic on Data Collection

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has released its second SDG Progress Report. It provides updates on the status of the global indicators for which FAO serves as the statistical custodian. The indicators under FAO custodianship measure global targets for SDGs 2 (zero hunger), 5 (gender equality), 6 (clean water and sanitation), 12 (responsible consumption and production), 14 (life below water), 15 (life on land).

The report titled, ‘Tracking Progress on Food and Agriculture-related SDG Indicators 2020: A Report on the Indicators under FAO Custodianship,’ was released on 15 September 2020.

The first such report, issued in 2019, found that the world was not going to meet most of the SDG targets related to food and agriculture by 2030. In the second report, the FAO finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only made it even more difficult to achieve the SDGs, and more unlikely that the food and agriculture targets will be met on time, but it has also made it more difficult to monitor progress.

Among the findings on SDG progress:

  • The prevalence of undernourishment is stagnating, and food insecurity is worsening;
  • Practices to conserve genetic resources have been disrupted, but in Northern Africa, efforts have increased;
  • Countries’ legal provisions do not adequately protect the rights of women to land, with only 12% of those assessed providing a very high degree of legal protection;
  • In Central and Southern Asia and Northern Africa, water stress levels are very high, but globally they are at a safe level;
  • In Southern Asia, water use efficiency has improved;
  • An estimated 13.8% of food is lost after harvest on farm and in transport, storage, and processing (it is not yet possible to estimate food waste at retail and consumption stages);
  • Most countries have made good overall progress in implementing international instruments to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing;
  • Globally, forest area continues to decrease, though at a slightly slower rate; and
  • The world has made some progress towards sustainable forest management. 

Among the findings on how the pandemic has affected SDG monitoring, the report notes that COVID-19 disrupted national agricultural censuses in many countries, meaning they were delayed, postponed, or suspended. Such censuses are key to identifying immediate needs, the authors note. In addition, for one in four countries surveyed, nearly all data collection by national statistical agencies was adversely affected, “vastly complicating FAO’s work as the custodian agency” for the global SDG indicators.

The FAO is turning to alternative data sources to continue monitoring trends and to ensure real-time assessment of how disruptions caused by the pandemic are affecting food systems. It reports that satellite imagery and machine-learning models are being integrated with other data sets.

FAO notes that it has set up a Big Data laboratory and tool to gather real-time information for a series of indicators, a Food Price Monitoring and Analysis tool, and the Hand in Hand Geospatial Platform. [Publication: Tracking progress on food and agriculture-related SDG indicators 2020: A report on the indicators under FAO custodianship] [FAO press release] [Indicators under FAO custodianship

International Climate Policy Journal


A major question of international climate policy is which countries have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by how much. As ambitious global climate policy has been delayed for long, emissions now have to be reduced in all countries as fast as possible. Considerations whether the national emission pathway itself is in line with the responsibility and capability of that country moves more and more into the background. It is now more a question of who pays for the transition, not where it is happening. In this paper with Fraunhofer ISI, we argue that only the combination of assessments on “what is a fair contribution” and of “how much could emissions technically be reduced” can give sufficient guidance for national greenhouse gas emissions targets that are in line with the Paris Agreement. If the national potential is not large enough to represent a fair contribution (likely for most developed countries), these countries should support other countries to make the transition. If the highest possible ambition leads to faster reductions than the fair contribution (likely for many developing countries), these countries would receive financial support.

***Main findings:

Five years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the need to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions without further delay is more urgent than ever. Emission reduction rates never seen before are necessary to meet the long-term temperature goal of the Paris Agreement and to avoid the worst impacts from climate change.

In the longer term, all sectors and countries will need to reach GHG neutrality and in particular, mitigate all avoidable energy- and process-related GHG emissions, in order to be in line with a Paris-compatible pathway.

Given the agreement on the global challenge, the combination of equity-based assessments and domestic mitigation potential together can give guidance for exploring and setting national targets for greenhouse gas emissions that are in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. While both methods yielded quite similar results only 10 years ago, they provide very different results today. The concept of a fair contribution applied only to domestic emissions may either stop the discussion before it started for developed countries (requiring net zero emissions within a decade) or suggesting that an increase in emissions is in line with the Paris Agreement for some developing countries for a longer period of time (while it is actually not).

To make the stringent global mitigation pathways possible, emissions in all countries have to be reduced as fast as possible. Whether a national emission pathway itself is in line with the responsibility and capability of that country becomes less relevant. It is now more a question of who pays for the transition, not where it is happening.

It is therefore fundamental that all countries explore their full mitigation potential, also considering global cost effectiveness or the “highest possible ambition“ as it is termed in the Paris Agreement. Until 2030 – most relevant for the updates of NDCs – substantial effort is needed in all sectors (energy supply, industry, buildings, transport), but speed of cost-efficient decarbonisation will be different across sectors and countries. From the sectoral evaluation, we conclude that national sector targets will be required in addition to national economy-wide targets, to avoid lock-ins in the more difficult-to-decarbonize sectors. In particular, there is a strong need for ambitious sector-specific 2030 targets, best enshrined in national law. Complementing global model results with national bottom-up scenarios can provide valuable insights about national leeway in this regard.

If the national potential is not substantial enough to represent a fair contribution (likely for most developed countries), these countries should support other countries to make the transition. If the highest possible ambition leads to faster reductions than the fair contribution (likely for many developing countries), these countries would receive financial support.

Such support should not finance the cheapest reductions in developing countries as such reductions are to be implemented by the countries themselves in order to set and meet their stringent domestic emission targets. The financial support should, in particular, help to avoid sectoral lock-ins which usually require much higher efforts compared to current NDC pathways, most of which were designed to be in line with the now outdated below-2°C limit. The difference between cost-effective 2°C and 1.5°C pathways can help identify the difficult steps that could be supported, although some caution is required in the interpretation due to uncertainties about future cost developments.

For instance, highly developed countries could support:

– In the energy supply sector: a “top up”, e.g. for each coal plant that the country replaces itself with renewables, developed countries offer to finance the replacement of an additional plant, especially when closing the plants is costly and requires significant societal change.

– In the industry sector: the switch to low- or zero-carbon industrial production processes.

– In the buildings sector: the transformation of building stocks based on the difference between globally best available technologies and a local building standard.

– In the transport sector: the development of infrastructure for low-carbon transport (electrification, public transport) that requires high upfront investments.

The support of highly developed countries to other countries to reach a 1.5°C pathway can be addressed through various instruments, e.g. international climate finance through multilateral or development banks, but also through international market mechanisms to be established under Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement. In addition to financial support, instruments to overcome non-financial barriers, such as labour constraints, will be required. Both financial and non-financial instruments must be designed to support high-ambition activities in a coordinated manner.


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Climate change and fossil fuel production cuts: assessing global supply-side constraints and policy implications


This paper presents the first global database of supply-side climate initiatives seeking to constrain fossil fuel production. There is a clear imperative to keep a large proportion of fossil fuel reserves underground to keep global temperature rise under 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Yet, there is no global overview of supply-side initiatives taken to constrain fossil fuel production, making it difficult to track trends, compare efforts across countries, and assess the effectiveness of different supply-side approaches. The Fossil Fuel Cuts Database presented here identifies 1302 initiatives implemented between 1988 and 2017 in 106 countries across the seven major types of supply-side approaches. Documenting temporal and geographical patterns, we show a rapid growth in the number of supply-side initiatives taken during the past decade and their highly uneven adoption across the world. Most initiatives occurred in countries with low economic dependence on fossil fuel production and limited fossil fuel exports, with the partial exception of Canada and Norway at the national level, and the US at the sub-national level. We discuss policy implications and the need for further research to identify adoption factors, effectiveness, and policy implications. The documentation of a wide range of supply-side initiatives serves as a reminder that constraints on fossil fuel production need to be analysed and considered on a par with demand-side interventions, including in Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Key policy insights

  • Supply-side constraint initiatives have increased in the past decade, suggesting growing policy take-up and potential mitigation impacts.
  • Supply-side initiatives clearly emphasize the key role and responsibility of major carbon producers, and help mobilize demand for greater accountability.
  • Supply-side initiatives take many forms and can suit the capabilities of different actors, from civil society organizations to governments.
  • Supply-side initiatives can usefully complement demand-side measures and help tackle free-rider problems.
  • Larger coalitions of fossil fuel producers are required to address uneven adoption, prevent the relocation of production, and help producers transition away from fossil fuels.

KEYWORDS: Fossil fuelssupply-sideblockadesmoratoriumdivestmentsFossil Fuel Cuts Database

13 Coronavirus myths busted by science

By Live Science Staff March 10, 2020

  •  Comments (57)A Chinese woman holds her protective-mask-wearing dog in Beijing, China, on Feb. 7, 2020 in Beijing, China, amidst the outbreak of the new coronavirus.A Chinese woman holds her protective-mask-wearing dog in Beijing, China, on Feb. 7, 2020 in Beijing, China, amidst the outbreak of the new coronavirus.(Image: © Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

As the novel coronavirus continues to infect people around the world, news articles and social media posts about the outbreak continue to spread online. Unfortunately, this relentless flood of information can make it difficult to separate fact from fiction — and during a viral outbreak, rumors and misinformation can be dangerous.

Here at Live Science, we’ve compiled a list of the most pervasive myths about the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, the disease it causes, and explained why these rumors are misleading, or just plain wrong. 

Myth: Face masks can protect you from the virus

Standard surgical masks cannot protect you from SARS-CoV-2, as they are not designed to block out viral particles and do not lay flush to the face, Live Science previously reported. That said, surgical masks can help prevent infected people from spreading the virus further by blocking any respiratory droplets that could be expelled from their mouths. 

Within health care facilities, special respirators called “N95 respirators” have been shown to greatly reduce the spread of the virus among medical staff. People require training to properly fit N95 respirators around their noses, cheeks and chins to ensure that no air can sneak around the edges of the mask; and wearers must also learn to check the equipment for damage after each use. CLOSE

Myth: You’re waaaay less likely to get this than the flu 

Not necessarily. To estimate how easily a virus spreads, scientists calculate its “basic reproduction number,” or R0 (pronounced R-nought). R0 predicts the number of people who can catch a given bug from a single infected person, Live Science previously reported. Currently, the R0 for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, is estimated at about 2.2, meaning a single infected person will infect about 2.2 others, on average. By comparison, the flu has an R0 of 1.3. 

Perhaps, most importantly, while no vaccine exists to prevent COVID-19, the seasonal flu vaccine prevents influenza relatively well, even when its formulation doesn’t perfectly match the circulating viral strains. 

Myth: The virus is just a mutated form of the common cold

No, it’s not. Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that includes many different diseases. SARS-CoV-2 does share similarities with other coronaviruses, four of which can cause the common cold. All five viruses have spiky projections on their surfaces and utilize so-called spike proteins to infect host cells. However, the four cold coronaviruses — named 229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1 — all utilize humans as their primary hosts. SARS-CoV-2 shares about 90% of its genetic material with coronaviruses that infect bats, which suggests that the virus originated in bats and later hopped to humans

Evidence suggests that the virus passed through an intermediate animal before infecting humans. Similarly, the SARS virus jumped from bats to civets (small, nocturnal mammals) on its way into people, whereas MERS infected camels before spreading to humans.

Myth: The virus was probably made in a lab

No evidence suggests that the virus is man-made. SARS-CoV-2 closely resembles two other coronaviruses that have triggered outbreaks in recent decades, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, and all three viruses seem to have originated in bats. In short, the characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 fall in line with what we know about other naturally occurring coronaviruses that made the jump from animals to people.Did Coronavirus Come From the Wuhan Lab?Where did SARS-CoV-2 come from? Several ideas have been put forward from natural-borne in bats, an escape from a lab in Wuhan and others. Here’s the murky origin story of the novel coronavirus.

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Myth: Getting COVID-19 is a death sentence

That’s not true. About 81% of people who are infected with the coronavirus have mild cases of COVID-19, according to a study published Feb. 18 by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. About 13.8% report severe illness, meaning they have shortness of breath, or require supplemental oxygen, and about 4.7% are critical, meaning they face respiratory failure, multi-organ failure or septic shock. The data thus far suggests that only around 2.3% of people infected with COVID-19 die from the virus. People who are older or have underlying health conditions seem to be most at risk of having severe disease or complications. While there’s no need to panic, people should take steps to prepare and protect themselves and others from the new coronavirus.

Myth: Pets can spread the new coronavirus

Probably not to humans. One dog in China contracted a “low-level infection” from its owner, who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, meaning dogs may be vulnerable to picking up the virus from people, according to The South China Morning Post. The infected Pomeranian has not fallen ill or shown symptoms of disease, and no evidence suggests that the animal could infect humans. 

Several dogs and cats tested positive for a similar virus, SARS-CoV, during an outbreak in 2003, animal health expert Vanessa Barrs of City University told the Post. “Previous experience with SARS suggests that cats and dogs will not become sick or transmit the virus to humans,” she said. “Importantly, there was no evidence of viral transmission from pet dogs or cats to humans.”  

Just in case, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people with COVID-19 have someone else walk and care for their companion animals while they are sick. And people should always wash their hands after snuggling with animals anyway, as companion pets can spread other diseases to people, according to the CDC. A cat’s been infected with the novel coronavirusA domestic cat in Belgium was confirmed to have COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that’s spreading across the globe.

Myth: Lockdowns or school closures won’t happen in the US

There’s no guarantee, but school closures are a common tool that public health officials use to slow or halt the spread of contagious diseases. For instance, during the swine flu pandemic of 2009, 1,300 schools in the U.S. closed to reduce the spread of the disease, according to a 2017 study of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. At the time, CDC guidance recommended that schools close for between 7 and 14 days, according to the study.

While the coronavirus is a different disease, with a different incubation period, transmissibility and symptom severity, it’s likely that at least some school closures will occur. If we later learn that children are not the primary vectors for disease, that strategy may change, Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, previously told Live Science. Either way, you should prepare for the possibility of school closures and figure out backup care if needed.Advertisement

Lockdowns, quarantines and isolation are also a possibility. Under section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S. Code § 264), the federal government is allowed to take such actions to quell the spread of disease from either outside the country or between states. State and local governments may also have similar authority.

Myth: Kids can’t catch the coronavirus

Children can definitely catch COVID-19, though initial reports suggested fewer cases in children compared with adults. For example, a Chinese study from Hubei province released in February found that of more than 44,000 cases of COVID-19, about only 2.2% involved children under age 19.

However, more recent studies suggest children are as likely as adults to become infected. In a study reported March 5, researchers analyzed data from more than 1,500 people in Shenzhen, and found that children potentially exposed to the virus were just as likely to become infected as adults were, according to Nature News. Regardless of age, about 7% to 8% of contacts of COVID-19 cases later tested positive for the virus.

Still, when children become infected, they seem less likely to develop severe disease, Live Science previously reported. COVID-19 in Children

Myth: If you have coronavirus, “you’ll know”

No, you won’t. COVID-19 causes a wide range of symptoms, many of which appear in other respiratory illnesses such as the flu and the common cold. Specifically, common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and rarer symptoms include dizziness, nausea, vomiting and a runny nose. In severe cases, the disease can progress into a serious pneumonia-like illness — but early on, infected people may show no symptoms at all.

U.S. health officials have now advised the American public to prepare for an epidemic, meaning those who have not traveled to affected countries or made contact with people who recently traveled may begin catching the virus. As the outbreak progresses in the U.S., state and local health departments should provide updates about when and where the virus has spread. If you live in an affected region and begin experiencing high fever, weakness, lethargy or shortness of breath, or or have underlying conditions and milder symptoms of the disease, you should seek medical attention at the nearest hospital, experts told Live Science

From there, you may be tested for the virus, though as of yet, the CDC has not made the available diagnostic exam widely available.

Myth: The coronavirus is less deadly than the flu

So far, it appears the coronavirus is more deadly than the flu. However, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around the mortality rate of the virus. The annual flu typically has a mortality rate of around 0.1% in the U.S. So far, there’s a 0.05% mortality rate among those who caught the flu virus in the U.S. this year, according to the CDC.

In comparison, recent data suggests that COVID-19 has a mortality rate more than 20 times higher, of around 2.3%, according to a study published Feb. 18 by the China CDC Weekly. The death rate varied by different factors such as location and an individual’s age, according to a previous Live Science report

But these numbers are continuously evolving and may not represent the actual mortality rate. It’s not clear if the case counts in China are accurately documented, especially since they shifted the way they defined cases midway through, according to STAT News. There could be many mild or asymptomatic cases that weren’t counted in the total sample size, they wrote. COVID-19 Kills Up to 20x More Per Week than FluA new paper finds that U.S. deaths per week from COVID-19 may be more than 20 times higher than flu deaths.

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Vitamin C supplements will stop you from catching COVID-19 

Researchers have yet to find any evidence that vitamin C supplements can render people immune to COVID-19 infection. In fact, for most people, taking extra vitamin C does not even ward off the common cold, though it may shorten the duration of a cold if you catch one. 

That said, vitamin C serves essential roles in the human body and supports normal immune function. As an antioxidant, the vitamin neutralizes charged particles called free radicals that can damage tissues in the body. It also helps the body synthesize hormones, build collagen and seal off vulnerable connective tissue against pathogens. 

So yes, vitamin C should absolutely be included in your daily diet if you want to maintain a healthy immune system. But megadosing on supplements is unlikely to lower your risk of catching COVID-19, and may at most give you a “modest” advantage against the virus, should you become infected. No evidence suggests that other so-called immune-boosting supplements — such as zinc, green tea or echinacea — help to prevent COVID-19, either. 

Be wary of products being advertised as treatments or cures for the new coronavirus. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have already issued warning letters to seven companies for selling fraudulent products that promise to cure, treat or prevent the viral infection. 

Myth: It’s not safe to receive a package from China

It is safe to receive letters or packages from China, according to the World Health Organization. Previous research has found that coronaviruses don’t survive long on objects such as letters and packages. Based on what we know about similar coronaviruses such as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, experts think this new coronavirus likely survives poorly on surfaces. 

A past study found that these related coronaviruses can stay on surfaces such as metal, glass or plastic for as long as nine days, according to a study published Feb. 6 in The Journal of Hospital Infection. But the surfaces present in packaging are not ideal for the virus to survive.

For a virus to remain viable, it needs a combination of specific environmental conditions such as temperature, lack of UV exposure and humidity — a combination you won’t get in shipping packages, according to Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, Senior Scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who spoke with Live Science’s sister site Tom’s Hardware.

And so “there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures,” according to the CDC. “Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods, and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.” Rather, the coronavirus is thought to be most commonly spread through respiratory droplets.

Myth: You can get the coronavirus if you eat at Chinese restaurants in the US

No, you can’t. By that logic, you’d also have to avoid Italian, Korean, Japanese and Iranian restaurants, given that those countries have also been facing an outbreak. The new coronavirus doesn’t just affect people of Chinese descent.How does it spread? What are symptoms?Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is spreading across the globe. Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus and the disease it causes, called COVID-19.

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Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflected updated knowledge on SARS-CoV-2 transmission in children. 

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