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Governments To Curb Political Influence Of Major Corporations To Tackle Several Global Crisis: Study

This is the final vindication for those of us who have warned about the slippery slope of regulation

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Obesity
An overweight woman sits on a chair in Times Square in New York, May 8, 2012. VOA

To defeat the intertwined pandemics of obesity, hunger and climate change, governments must curb the political influence of major corporations, said a major report Monday calling for a ‘global treaty’ similar to one for tobacco control.

But this will not happen unless ordinary citizens demand a “radical rethink” of the relationship between policymakers and business, nearly four dozen experts from The Lancet Commission on Obesity concluded.

“Powerful opposition from vested interests, lack of political leadership, and insufficient societal demand for change are preventing action,” they said in a statement.

Nearly a billion people are hungry and another two billion are eating too much of the wrong foods, causing epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Children, Hunger
A severely malnourished boy rests on a hospital bed at the Aslam Health Center, Hajjah, Yemen. VOA

Unhealthy diets account for up to 11 million premature deaths every year, according to the most recent Global Disease Burden report.

“Malnutrition in all its forms — including undernutrition and obesity — is by far the biggest cause of ill-health and premature death globally,” said Commission co-chair Boyd Swinburn, a professor at the University of Aukland.

“Both undernutrition and obesity are expected to be made significantly worse by climate change.”

The way in which food is currently produced, distributed and consumed not only fuels the hunger and obesity pandemics, it also generates 25 to 30 percent of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Cattle production alone accounts for more than have of those gases, in the form of methane-laden flatulence and CO2 when forests — especially in Brazil — are cleared to accommodate livestock.

Climate, emissions
– Greenpeace activists wear white morphsuits as they stage an action against particulate matter and health burden caused by diesel exhaust in Stuttgart, southern Germany. VOA

A transport system dominated by cars contributes another 15 to 25 percent of emissions, and supports a sedentary lifestyle.

– Triple pandemic –

“Underpinning all of these are weak political governance, the unchallenging economic pursuit of GPD growth, and the powerful commercial engineering of overconsumption,” the report said.

“Undernutrition is declining too slowly to meet global targets, no country has reversed its obesity epidemic, and comprehensive policy responses to the threat of climate change have barely begun.”

Despite 30 years of warnings from science about the dire impacts of global warming, CO2 emissions hit record levels in 2017 and again last year.

Because all these problems are interwoven, the answers must be too, the researchers emphasized.

BMI, Asthma Risk
High BMI in early life is linked to asthma risk later: Study. Pixabay

“Joining three pandemics” — hunger, obesity, climate — “together as ‘The Global Syndemic’ allows us to consider common drivers and shared solutions.”

Another Lancet Commission report published last week calling for a dramatic shift in global diet to improve health and avoid “catastrophic” damage to the planet.

“Until now, undernutrition and obesity have been seen as polar opposites of either too few or too many calories,” said Swinburn.

“In reality, they are both driven by the same unhealthy, inequitable food systems, underpinned by the same political economy.”

The report calls for a Framework Convention on Food Systems — similar to global conventions for tobacco control and climate change — to restrict the influence of the food industry.

Cold drinks can cause tooth decay, obesity, etc. Wikimedia Commons
Cold drinks can cause tooth decay, obesity, etc. Wikimedia Commons

– How we eat, live, move –

The experts also argue that economic incentives must be overhauled.

Some five trillion dollars (4.4 trillion euros) in government subsidies for fossil fuels and large-scale agribusiness should be rechanneled toward “sustainable, healthy and environmentally friendly activities,” they said.

To sharply reduce red meat consumption, for example, the report favors high taxes, abolishing subsidies, along with transparent health and environment labeling.

In addition, they favor the creation of a one billion dollar philanthropic fund to support grassroots action.

“Tackling ‘The Global Syndemic’ requires an urgent rethink of how we eat, live, consume and move,” said Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet.

The two Lancet reports are not the only urgent appeal from science in recent months. In October, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change likewise called for an economic and social “paradigm shift” to avoid global chaos.

Reaction to the Lancet recommendations has been sharply divided. Health advocates and climate experts hailed its sweeping call for deep change.

U.N. Climate Conference
In this Dec. 11, 2018 photo a participant in U.N. climate conference walks by a photo of a satellite in Katowice, Poland. VOA

“For too long we have been day-dreaming our way to a diseased future,” said Katie Dain, CEO of the Noncommunicable Disease Alliance.

“A food system that secures a better diet for this and the immediate next generations will save millions of lives and, at the same time, help save the planet.”

Industry representatives and libertarians slammed the findings as overwrought and an assault on free choice.

Also Read: Eliminate World Hunger By Selling Burgers

“This is the final vindication for those of us who have warned about the slippery slope of regulation,” said Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs.

“Nanny-state zealots are no longer hiding their intention to use the anti-tobacco blueprint to control other areas of our lives.” (VOA)

Next Story

As Climate Change Brings Extreme Heat Waves around The World, Demand for Air Conditioners Soaring

“By the end of the century, global energy demand for cooling will be more than it is for heating,” said Radhika Khosla

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Climate Change, Heat Waves, World
FILE - People cool off by the Vistula River during a heatwave in Warsaw, Poland, June 30, 2019. VOA

As climate change brings more frequent and extreme heat waves around the world, demand for air conditioners is soaring, with 10 new units sold every second on average, but the poor may be left to swelter, said a University of Oxford researcher.

By 2050, energy use for cooling is projected to triple, while in hot countries like India, China, Brazil and Indonesia, it is expected to grow five-fold, the World Bank has said.

“By the end of the century, global energy demand for cooling will be more than it is for heating,” said Radhika Khosla, who leads an Oxford Martin School program on future cooling.

But not everyone will be able to afford to beat the heat.

Climate Change, Heat Waves, World
As climate change brings more frequent and extreme heat waves around the world, demand for air conditioners is soaring, with 10 new units sold every second. Pixabay

“Traditionally, energy poverty has been defined as people not having heating. Now that is potentially going to shift, and we could have cooling poverty,” Khosla warned on the sidelines of a conference on efforts to slash planet-warming emissions.

Health risks of heat waves

Rising heat is having a huge impact on health — deaths and hospital admissions jump in heat waves — but also on productivity as workers struggle to cope, climate scientists say.

A 2018 report from Sustainable Energy for All, a U.N.-backed organization, said more than 1.1 billion people globally faced immediate risks from lack of access to cooling.

Also Read- Nano and Microplastics Harming Drinking Water for Humans, Says Study

On a warming planet, cooling is not a luxury but “essential for everyday life,” said the organization’s CEO Rachel Kyte.

Better buildings

But because air conditioners use 20 times as much power as running a fan, their growing popularity could fuel demand for fossil fuel-based electricity that exacerbates climate change.

Rather than relying entirely on air conditioning, buildings should be designed so they are easier to keep cool, which is still rare, said Khosla, who also directs research at the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development.

Climate Change, Heat Waves, World
By 2050, energy use for cooling is projected to triple, while in hot countries like India, China, Brazil and Indonesia, it is expected to grow five-fold, the World Bank has said. Pixabay

Her modern apartment has windows that open just a few inches, making it hard to keep cool on hot days, she said.

“Net zero” buildings, designed partly to stay cool without heavy use of air conditioning, are popping up around the world, from Southeast Asia to the United States and Europe, but remain the exception, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Khosla, who has herself lived in a range of hot cities from New Delhi to Chicago, predicted that in the future, housing that cannot be kept cool or have air conditioning installed could see a drop in value, even in relatively cool places such as Britain.

New technology

Also Read- Netflix inks Multi-year Exclusive Deal with Karan Johar for New Series, Films

In some developing nations with rising incomes, buying an air conditioner is also a status symbol, which could make any push for lower-energy alternatives challenging, she said.

Making less power-hungry, affordable air conditioners will be crucial, Khosla believes.

Most machines for sale now, the majority built in China, are half as energy-efficient as they could be, she said.

But researchers are working on more efficient cooling technologies that could hit the market in as little as two years, Khosla said.

Judges are now looking at entries for a $3 million global cooling prize, launched by the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute, aimed at developing an affordable window air conditioning unit that is at least five times more efficient than current models.

Amory Lovins, co-founder of the institute, said designing cheaper, greener air conditioning was “extremely important.”

Getting manufacturers to ramp up production fast, partly by putting in place policies that require greater energy efficiency, will also be key, Khosla said.

Greener cooling

Greener cooling is “one of the levers we have left” to hold the line on climate change, and using less energy for cooling would help avert power blackouts in cities on sizzling days, she said.

Cities face an “awful feedback loop” as air conditioners churn out hot exhaust, boosting temperatures further, she said.

All these risks mean smarter cooling must be figured out quickly, before the world gets even hotter and more families rush to appliance shops, she said.

“It’s a future we can’t afford to get wrong,” she warned. (VOA)