DAILY DOSE: Doom and gloom at COP27; AI helps curb illegal fishing in international waters.


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The United Nations is holding its annual climate conference and as always, the message is “Do X or else we’ll all die.” If that sounds familiar it’s because it’s sort of the fall back message for climate change activists. Per the Associated Press,

Cooperate or perish,” the United Nations chief told dozens of leaders gathered Monday for international climate talks, warning them that the world is “on a highway to climate hell” and urging the two biggest polluting countries, China and the United States, to work together to avert it.

This year’s annual U.N. climate conference, known as COP27, comes as leaders and experts have raised increasing alarm that time is running out to avert catastrophic rises in temperature. But the fire and brimstone warnings may not quite have the effect as they have had in past meetings because of multiple other challenges of the moment pulling leaders’ attention — from midterm elections in the U.S. to the Russia-Ukraine war.

More than 100 world leaders will speak over the next few days at the gathering in Egypt. Much of the focus will be on national leaders telling their stories of being devastated by climate disasters, culminating Tuesday with a speech by Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Sharif, whose country’s summer floods caused at least $40 billion in damage and displaced millions of people.

“Is it not high time to put an end to all this suffering,” the summit’s host, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, told his fellow leaders. “Climate change will never stop without our intervention... Our time here is limited and we must use every second that we have.

We don’t disagree with that assessment. However, we also don’t think anyone is listening to that particular warning anymore. New messaging is needed. https://bit.ly/3zSS0IN

It’s amazing how the Covid-19 pandemic has altered so many facets of life. First people stopped flying. Now they are flying all the time thanks to hybrid work. Moreover, business travel appears to be undergoing serious changes. According to Reuters,

Airlines around the world are ripping up schedules and bringing in new flights to cope with a COVID-triggered trend in corporate travel for executives like Jerome Harris - the scrapping of one-day business trips in favour of longer stays.

For Sydney-based Harris, exhausting one-day treks to Melbourne or Brisbane - meaning four taxi rides, two flights, extended waits and the risk of delays - are no more after a pandemic-driven reassessment of his travel habits.

Industry data show business travellers are taking longer trips than before COVID-19, leaving airlines adjusting flight plans. Environmental concerns, rising ticket prices, increased flight cancellations amid staff shortages and a boom in online videoconferencing are all undermining the single-day trip option as an industry standard.

"I'm happier to save the effort and the carbon and do a few days in a location and have time to meet up with multiple people and visit multiple projects," said Harris, who works for an infrastructure company.

One travel agency reported the proportion of one-day domestic trips has fallen by more than 25% compared with 2019 levels as online meetings grow in popularity. https://reut.rs/3WDkDDD

The Covid-pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the Chinese economy for the time being. Per Reuters,

China's exports and imports unexpectedly contracted in October, the first simultaneous slump since May 2020, as a perfect storm of COVID curbs at home and global recession risks dented demand and further darkened the outlook for a struggling economy.

The bleak data highlights the challenge for policymakers in China as they press on with pandemic prevention measures and try to navigate broad pressure from surging inflation, sweeping increases in worldwide interest rates and a global slowdown.

Outbound shipments in October shrank 0.3% from a year earlier, a sharp turnaround from a 5.7% gain in September, official data showed on Monday, and well below analysts' expectations for a 4.3% increase. It was the worst performance since May 2020.

Over the weekend Beijing reiterated its commitment to Zero-Covid. So, yeah. https://reut.rs/3TeKCOW

A malaria vaccine has been the Holy Grail for a very long time. Talking at least three-quarters of a century if not more. Lately, things have been looking like it might actually become a reality. Per Science,

A new vaccine against malaria showed promising preliminary results in a large trial in four African countries, boosting hopes that an additional tool may soon be available to help control the deadly disease. The vaccine, named R21/Matrix-M and developed by researchers at the University of Oxford, produced similarly impressive results in a small trial last year, but the current study posed a stiffer test of its protection.

Initial data from the trial, reported yesterday at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene meeting in Seattle, suggest the vaccine had an efficacy higher than 70% in regions where malaria is a threat year-round as well as in places where the disease is more seasonal. “The results were very exciting,” says DeAnna Friedman-Klabanoff, a malaria vaccine researcher at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who was not involved in the study.

She and other scientists caution, however, that it is not yet clear how long the vaccine’s protection might last.

There are still lots of “ifs” but things look so much better than they have in the past. https://bit.ly/3FYZC0x

For all of its current shortcomings, artificial intelligence certainly shows flashes of serious promise. In this case, it has helped monitor illegal fishing in international waters. Per Science,

In February 2019, the 60-meter-long South Korean fishing vessel Oyang 77 slipped into Argentinian waters and deployed its trawl nets, hauling in more than 140 tons of hake, skate, and squid. The ship did not have permission to fish those waters, according to Argentine officials, and to avoid detection the crew turned off a beacon that sends a vessel’s precise location via satellite to maritime authorities. But the coast guard caught the Oyang 77, confiscated the catch, and destroyed its nets.

Now, researchers have used artificial intelligence to help authorities more easily decipher what vessels like the Oyang 77 might be doing when they go dark and whether they might be fishing illegally. The approach is already guiding some enforcement agencies in planning their patrols.

Illegal fishing accounts for hauls that are worth about $25 billion per year and include endangered species such as sharks. Some vessels have been caught with enslaved crews. Although there is increasing political awareness of the problem, governments have not taken enough action, says Rashid Sumaila, an ocean and fisheries economist at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. “This paper is showing some of the possibilities that we can achieve,” says Sumaila, who was not involved. “I think there’s hope.”

Good stuff. https://bit.ly/3FQv80w

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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