Multo Bene: Milan is ready to shift…

…from cars to walking and biking:

Milan is to introduce one of Europe’s most ambitious schemes reallocating street space from cars to cycling and walking, in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The northern Italian city and surrounding Lombardy region are among Europe’s most polluted, and have also been especially hard hit by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Under the nationwide lockdown, motor traffic congestion has dropped by 30-75%, and air pollution with it. City officials hope to fend off a resurgence in car use as residents return to work looking to avoid busy public transport.

The city has announced that 35km (22 miles) of streets will be transformed over the summer, with a rapid, experimental citywide expansion of cycling and walking space to protect residents as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

I hope this idea is contagious.

Virtuous Circle…

…clearer air = more solar power generated = clearer air. Once again, the coronavirus is giving us a hint:

Solar power generation records have been set in three of Europe’s largest markets, with cleaner air as a result of the coronavirus pandemic a contributing factor.

Reduced air pollution from the lockdown has contributed to new records in Germany and the U.K., while Spain’s bumper year of installations in 2019 is going through its first springtime boost.

Money is practically free to borrow right now, and the US Congress is borrowing trillions. How about throwing a trillion or so at solar power installation and grid upgrades? Capital investment = jobs for shattered economy = less reliance on oil, and gas = climate change mitigation = reduced climate costs = more money to invest in renewable energy.

Another very virtuous circle.

If the rest of the world doesn’t do what it takes…

…to get these markets and the wildlife trade shut down for good, then we are going in circles. Viral circles:

In a bustling meat market on a tourist island in Indonesia on 7 April, a pile of dead bats is laid out for sale on a table next to cuts of fresh pork while a butcher angrily shoos away a customer trying to take pictures of the scene on his iPhone.

Two thousand miles north and two days earlier, cats are crammed into filthy cages in a market in Guangxi province in southwest China where different species are piled haphazardly on top of each other and slaughtered side by side on a concrete floor splattered with dirt, blood and animal parts.

On 26 March, in the southern province of Guangdong neighbouring Hong Kong, a traditional medicine seller offers remedies made with bats and scorpions to treat ailments ranging from shoulder pain and rheumatism to mosquito bites.

More On Meat…

…and why it is a key pandemic vector:

This expanding industrial footprint has accelerated the flow of pathogens into new territories around the world. In Central Africa, the growth of bushmeat hunting—linked to a dearth of local fish due to Chinese and EU overfishing—has spread monkeypox, a smallpox-like virus, from rodents to humans. In China, the growing prosperity of the middle class has led to an increased demand for the luxury “yewei” cuisine, which revolves around the consumption of rare, exotic wild animals; live animal (or “wet”) markets, where such wild animals are sold, have grown accordingly. These wet markets facilitated the emergence of SARS-CoV-1 in bats, civet cats, and humans in 2002 and, some speculate, the novel coronavirus in 2019. And in southeast Asia, rising incomes have led to the increased consumption of pork and the growth of pig farms. The expansion of swine farming in Malaysia precipitated the transmission of Nipah virus from bats to pigs and then humans in 1998; similarly, in China, the expansion of swine farming has led to the frequent emergence of highly virulent forms of avian influenza viruses and antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

And more on “wet markets,” and why shutting them down is a complicated question:

Among today’s wet markets, you’ll find some that sell no live animals whatsoever, just slaughtered animals and produce; some that carry common live animals like chickens or fish; and some that sell wildlife like bats and snakes.

While US lawmakers and other public figures talk about wanting to ban wet markets writ large, what they seem to really want to ban is the sale of wild animals — or perhaps any live animals — that sometimes occurs there. (Presumably they would have no problem with the wet markets that carry only slaughtered meat and produce; after all, the US is full of such markets.)

Which is why (can’t refrain), the most comprehensive solution would be evolution toward plant-based diets. Just saying.

Norway Is An Electric Car Leader….

…And it is an inspiring story of what can happen when incentives change, and then a culture changes:

It still has some way to go, but the country looks on course to meet a government target – set in 2016, with full cross-party parliamentary support – of phasing out the sale of all new fossil-fuel based cars and light commercial vehicles by 2025.

“It’s actually quite amazing how fast the mindset’s changed,” said Christina Bu of the Norwegian EV Electric Vehicle Association. “Even in 2013 or 2014, people were sceptical. Now, a majority of Norwegians will say: my next car will be electric.”

But I couldn’t help noticing with all Norway’s efforts, EVs are still only 10% of the passenger fleet. So Norway’s success is also a warning about how hard it is to make this sort of transition and how important it is to start yesterday.

Nice to know that not everyone shoots grizzly bears…

…who develop a taste for human garbage:

In early April, a young grizzly bear swam through the chilly waters off the western coast of Canada in search of food.

He came ashore on Hanson Island, one of more than 200 rocky outcrops in British Columbia’s Broughton archipelago, and quickly started eating garbage from a cabin.

It was a dangerous move: bears that get too comfortable eating food waste and start to lose their fear of humans are quickly shot.

But this bear’s death was averted through an unlikely partnership between local Indigenous groups and conservation officers, raising hopes of a more holistic approach to wildlife management with greater Indigenous input.

I guess we should call that progress. Though perhaps we should think a bit more about the garbage.

Reality Check: The pandemic shutdown of the global economy…

…could result in a 5% global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020.  That would be the largest fossil fuel reduction on record. Pretty amazing.

Unfortunately, the annual reduction required to meet the 1.5 degree C Paris Climate Accord target is 7.6%.

That even putting the global economy in a virtual coma is not enough to meet the Paris targets is mindblowing. And makes you realize that instead of waking the old carbon economy from this coma once the pandemic passes, this is the time to awaken a new non-carbon economy. We are already borrowing trillions at near-zero interest to cushion the economic blow to workers. Why not borrow a few trillion more to make the rapid transition away from the carbon economy, giving life to a new economy based on renewable energy?

This is the opportunity for revolutionary change. If it passes, the revolution will never come in time.

If you don’t believe me, believe climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who explains it all in crystal clear fashion.

COVID Silver Linings: Cycling Rediscovered…

Much of the world is locked down and turning to cycling. An excellent reminder that it is a superior (carbon-free) mode of transport. And that smart planning would mean making it safer and more accessible everywhere.

Noted For The Record:

Trump Administration easing limits on toxic pollutants:

“This action, which is a gift to the coal industry at the expense of all Americans, is an attack on public health justified by a phony cost-benefit analysis that purposely inflates the cost of MATS and ignores the value of the human health benefits,” Ellen Kurlansky, a former air policy analyst at the EPA who helped to develop the MATS rule, told Reuters.

The Age Of Pandemics Requires Unprecedented Global Cooperation…

Call it Globalism 2.0, and if climate change hadn’t already made clear that humanity needs to start acting more like a family than a chaotic (and violent) gaggle of competing clans, then the prospect of future pandemics certainly does:

An estimated 650,000 to 840,000 unknown viral species capable of infecting humans lurk in wildlife. At the same time, population growth, urbanization, globalization, climate change, the relentless destruction of wildlife habitats and the harvesting of wild species have brought these viruses in closer contact with humans than ever before.

Pandemics may become the new normal.

But that doesn’t have to be. Pandemics are preventable, and the world can do three things to prevent them.

A pandemic, because it affects individuals much more directly than climate change, may be just the sort of wake-up humanity needs to start transcending nationalism and competitive capitalism and start finding our way towards an era of global cooperation and common purpose. Emphasis on “may be”…