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India, the world’s third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, pledged on Monday to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2070. Scientists welcomed the ambitious commitment, although it puts India 20 years behind the 2050 date promised by the United States and Europe, and 10 years behind China. And it will require the nation to juggle steep emissions cuts with lifting a significant proportion of its population out of poverty.
Nature | 7 min read
The abrupt decline in global carbon-dioxide emissions during the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by government-mandated lockdowns, will be all but erased by the end of this year. A consortium of scientists predicts that carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels will rise to 36.4 billion tonnes — an increase of 4.9% — in 2021 compared with last year. The tentatively hopeful news: a reassessment of emissions from the conversion of land to cropland suggests that overall global CO2 output might have been effectively flat over the past decade. However, researchers caution that uncertainties in land-use trends are fairly high, and the estimate remains to be confirmed.
Nature | 5 min read & CarbonBrief | 13 min read
Reference: Global Carbon Project report
Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States are among 20 countries that have promised to stop public funding of fossil-fuel power outside their borders by the end of next year. Last month, China’s government also committed to stop financing coal power abroad. However, these pledges don’t preclude public funding of domestic projects. The COP26 agreement focuses on encouraging clean-energy alternatives — but allows for “limited” exceptions that are “consistent with a 1.5 °C warming limit”.
New Scientist | 5 min read
Read more: China’s pledge on overseas coal — by the numbers (Nature | 4 min read)
Reference: COP26 statement
Last weekend, hundreds of young people boarded a specially chartered train in Amsterdam to travel to Glasgow for COP26. Among them were scientists, activists and policymakers. The Nature Podcast boarded the train to catch up with some of them — to talk about their science, their motivations and their message.
Nature Podcast | 20 min listen
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Features & opinion
Futures: science fiction from Nature
In this week’s helping of short stories for Nature’s Futures series:
• A day feeding the ducks (and the stray robopets) is at the heart of ‘My first pet’.
• An artificial intelligence becomes the voice of a saboteur’s conscience in ‘Eight reasons you are alone’.
Andrew Robinson’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes the power of poo, and what to expect from robots.
Nature | 3 min read