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11 May

Melting permafrost in Arctic will have $70tn climate impact – study

The release of methane and carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost will accelerate global warming and add up to $70tn (£54tn) to the world’s climate bill, according to the most advanced study yet of the economic consequences of a melting Arctic.

If countries fail to improve on their Paris agreement commitments, this feedback mechanism, combined with a loss of heat-deflecting white ice, will cause a near 5% amplification of global warming and its associated costs, says the paper, which was published on Tuesday in Nature Communications.

The authors say their study is the first to calculate the economic impact of permafrost melt and reduced albedo – a measure of how much light that hits a surface is reflected without being absorbed – based on the most advanced computer models of what is likely to happen in the Arctic as temperatures rise. It shows how destabilised natural systems will worsen the problem caused by man-made emissions, making it more difficult and expensive to solve.

They assessed known stocks of frozen organic matter in the ground up to 3 metres deep at multiple points across the Arctic. These were run through the world’s most advanced simulation software in the US and at the UK Met Office to predict how much gas will be released at different levels of warming. Even with supercomputers, the number crunching took weeks because the vast geography and complex climate interactions of the Arctic throw up multiple variables. The researchers then applied previous economic impact models to assess the likely costs.

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24 Apr

NHS Long Term Plan

With people living longer, more people living with long-term conditions, and lifestyle choices affecting people’s health, significant changes are needed to keep our NHS sustainable, address inequalities, and provide the best possible care for everyone.

24 Apr

Bad diets killing more people globally than tobacco, study finds

Unhealthy diets are responsible for 11m preventable deaths globally per year, more even than smoking tobacco, according to a major study.

But the biggest problem is not the junk we eat but the nutritious food we don’t eat, say researchers, calling for a global shift in policy to promote vegetables, fruit, nuts and legumes.

While sugar and trans-fats are harmful, more deaths are caused by the absence of healthy foods in our diet, the study found.

The research is part of the Global Burden of Disease study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle, published in the Lancet medical journal.

Heart attacks and strokes are the main diet-related causes of death, followed by cancers and type 2 diabetes, say researchers.

The study found that eating and drinking better could prevent one in five deaths around the world. Although diets vary from one country to another, eating too few fruits and vegetables and too much sodium (salt) accounted for half of all deaths and two-thirds of the years of disability attributable to diet.

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3 Apr

UK economy at risk of shrinking as Brexit chaos hurts services

The British economy is at risk of sliding into a deepening downturn after stalling in the first quarter, following the weakest performance in the private sector in almost seven years as Brexit approaches.

In the latest sign the gridlock over leaving the EU is extracting a high price from the economy, the survey from IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply showed that overall business activity stalled in March.

The country’s dominant services sector, which contributes about four-fifths of GDP, slipped into contraction as consumers and clients put spending decisions on hold in response to the intense political uncertainty.

The survey of firms in the sector, which includes finance, shops and restaurants, will raise alarm bells at the Bank of England and the Treasury, which keep a close eye on the PMI indicators for early warning signs from the economy.

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