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Paris goal too little to avoid worst effects of climate change, scientists say

A deeper dive into the day's most notable stories with The National newsletter's Jonathon Gatehouse.

Newsletter: A deeper dive into the day's most notable stories

A polar bear walks over sea ice floating in the Victoria Strait in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. A new series of scientific studies shows that the effects of global warming will be significant, even if the temperature rise is limited to 2 C. (David Goldman/AP/Canadian Press)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • New studies conclude the threshold for catastrophic climate change is much lower than previously believed
  • In London, there's a worry that the British capital may be headed for American-style homicide rates
  • Fighters from the Army of Islam are being evacuated from the town of Douma, the final bastion of anti-government resistance near the Syrian capital of Damascus.
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The world's hot future

There is no escape from global warming.

That's the conclusion of a series of pessimistic new studies released Monday in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, where the world's top scientists determined that the threshold for catastrophic climate change is much lower than previously believed.

The Paris Agreement plan to limit the global temperature rise to 2 C — a modest goal that is still well out of reach — will not be enough to help the planet avoid the worst ravages of rising oceans and changing weather, the scientists concluded, provoking food shortages and mass migrations.

While a two-degree limit would be better than Earth's current trajectory — at least a 3 C rise — the negative effects would still be devastating, with a marked increase in destructive storms, extreme heat waves and long-term droughts.

Smoke and steam rise from the smokestack of a coal-fired power plant near Ordos in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Nov. 3, 2015. (Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press)

Among the new predictions for the 2 C scenario:

  • A half-metre rise in oceans by 2100 and at least an additional half-metre by 2300, leading to widespread flooding in the "highly vulnerable" low-lying deltas and cities, where close to one billion people live.

  • Increased food insecurity because of "significant changes" in regional temperatures and water cycles, with India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Oman and Saudi Arabia at the greatest risk.

  • A 13 per cent drop in GDP per person, on average, by 2100, as the world is forced to reckon with the spiralling costs of climate change.

  • Pernicious droughts, especially in southern Africa and South America, where the water flow in the Amazon could decrease 25 per cent.

  • Heightened losses of plant and animal biodiversity and shrinking supplies of fresh water.

As a result, the journal is calling for a downward revision of Paris target to a 1.5 C global rise — an increase that will still result in devastation, but just not as much.

Students walk in the yard of the Pantai Bahagia Elementary School before tide comes in Bekasi, Indonesia on March 7, 2018. Almost every day, the sea, which used to lap the shore a few kilometres away, floods their schoolyard and classrooms. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

"The papers in this issue demonstrate that, on the balance of probability, limiting warming to 1.5 C, in the context of sustainable and equitable development, is still possible," the journal's editors write.

"It remains to be seen whether the evidence provided on the impacts of climate change avoided by stabilizing at 1.5 C over higher temperature thresholds will be sufficient to motivate action on the scale and pace needed to achieve the 1.5 C goal."

Murder they wrote

A surge in fatal stabbings has authorities in London worrying that the British capital may be headed for American-style murder rates.

So far this year, there have been 31 knife killings in Greater London —  the latest in Wadsworth early Sunday — and 46 homicides overall. That puts the metropolis on a par with New York City, which has had 50 killings so far in 2018. And in the months of February and March, the homicide rate in London actually overtook NYC for the first time in modern history.

A police officer walks past flowers left at the scene of a stabbing in Thornton Heath, South London last summer. A surge in knife crimes has put the city's homicide rate on a par with New York. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

At current rates, London is on track for 180 homicides in 2018, which would be the highest total in 13 years. In 2017, there were 116 killings, excluding the victims of attacks on the Houses of Parliament, Borough Market and Finsbury Park.

But despite all the hyperventilating in the U.K. press, both mega-cities, home to around 8.5 million people each, are still remarkably safe.

Chicago, with a population of around 2.7 million, has had 113 killings so far this year — a significant improvement, with the homicide rate down 22 per cent from last year.

And none of the above actually make the list of the world's deadliest cities.

Los Cabos, Mexico had the globe's highest rate in 2017, with 365 homicides, which works out to 111.33 per 100,000 population. Caracas, Venezuela, with 3,387 homicides, was a close second with a rate of 111.18.

In all, 42 of the world's 50 most violent cities are located in Latin or South America, with 17 of them in Brazil, 12 in Mexico, five in Venezuela, three in Colombia and two in Honduras.

Only four are in the United States — St. Louis, ranked 13th in the world, Baltimore, 21st, and New Orleans and Detroit in 41st and 42nd place.

Armed police patrol busy public areas around Westminster as security is stepped up ahead of New Year's Eve celebrations in London on Dec. 31, 2017. (Eddie Keogh/Reuters)

No British cities made the list.

Ditto for Canada.

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The end of Syria's rebels

The last holdouts among Syria's rebels have begun to abandon the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta.

State media and independent observers are reporting that fighters from the Army of Islam are being evacuated, along with their families, from the town of Douma — the final bastion of anti-government resistance near the capital.

Ammunition and weapons left behind by rebels are seen in Jobar, eastern Ghouta, on Monday. (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

Under a Russian-brokered deal reached last week, rebel factions were given the choice of joining their enemies —  the Syrian Army — or taking refuge in the last bits of rebel-held territory near the Turkish border. The remnants of the Army of Islam are said to be headed to Jarablus, a town in the north that is occupied by the Turkish army.

The Assad government says it has sent 50 buses to Douma, although it appears that only a handful have left. To date, more than 40,000 rebels and their families have left Ghouta, according to Russian sources.

The recent assaults on the Damascus suburbs by Syrian and Russian troops and planes have killed more 1,600 people, many of them civilians. And at least 120,000 people have fled their homes.

A member of the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stands guard near destroyed buildings in Jobar, eastern Ghouta, on April 2, 2018. (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

Overall, it is estimated that 350,000 people have died in the seven-year civil war.

What the almost-victorious regime of Bashar al-Assad will do next is anyone's guess.

Pockets of resistance remain in the Idlid region, where the pace of airstrikes — and deaths — has picked up in recent weeks. But there remains some scant hope for a negotiated solution.

Syria's future makeup will likely be determined without U.S. input, however.

In a speech to partisans in Ohio last week, President Donald Trump suggested he is finished with the war.

"We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria like very soon," Trump said, taking his advisers and generals by surprise. "Let the other people take care of it now."

The United States has 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria.

Quote of the moment

"The seagulls were flying everywhere and they had been there for a long time eating Brothers TNT Pepperoni, so you can imagine what the room looked like even before I came back."

- Nick Burchill of Dartmouth, N.S., relating the story of how a suitcase full of pepperoni, an open window and a flock of seagulls got him banned from the Empress Hotel in Victoria for 17 years.

Seagulls trashed a Fairmont Empress room in Victoria 17 years ago while indulging on pepperoni that a Dartmouth, N.S., man had brought for his navy friends. (Matt Cardy/Getty/Submitted by Brothers Meat & Delicatessen)

What The National is reading

  • Winnie Mandela dies at 81 (Heraldlive)
  • Aeroplan apologizes for survey asking views on immigration, male dominance (CBC)
  • Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg hits back at Apple CEO Tim Cook (CNN)
  • Inside the Brazilian prison with no guards (Guardian)
  • Bill Cosby retrial gets underway with jury selection (CBC)
  • Aussie TV network loses Commonwealth Games accreditation (Sydney Morning Herald)
  • EU assembles experts to tackle 'fake news' (Deutsche Welle)
  • The FBI and the mystery of the mummy's head (New York Times)

Today in history

April 2, 1985: Being punk in Victoria

You know what's really punk? Getting interviewed on CBC's Midday by Valerie Pringle. "We're really friendly people," says Amber. "It's only a problem if you make it a problem for yourself."

Punk rock in Canada: Being punk in Victoria, B.C.

6 years ago
Duration 3:29
Punk rock in Canada: Being punk in Victoria, B.C.

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Jonathon Gatehouse

CBC Investigative Journalist

Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.