It has been a fiery beginning to a new decade with 13% larger, uncontrolled wildfires around the world this year compared to last year, spelling dire consequences for CO2 levels, health, biodiversity, as well as the economy. And human actions in burning down forests are mostly to blame, according to a newly released report.
The year began with Australia’s record-shattering bushfires which bled into January and February that burned down a forest the size of England which pushed CO2 levels to 26 times higher than acceptable levels. In April, nearly 20% of the forested area of northern Thailand burned, as wildfires overtook Indonesia and Ukraine’s Chernobyl region, causing dangerous levels of air pollution. During May, the Uttarakhand forest fires in North India marked the world’s warmest region at 50 C. By June wildfires lit up the Arctic Circle with Siberia registering the most extreme recorded heat temperatures resulting in the severest artic melting. By August a government researcher told Reuters that Brazil’s Amazon wildfires were the worst in the past ten years. The West Coast of the U.S. slipped into an epic wildfire season with California’s megafires erupting with stunning speed and ferocity across forests, grasslands, rural areas, and city neighborhoods, of which a record 4.1 million acres have burned this year. And Colorado experienced its largest fire ever that is still ongoing.
Climate change plays an undeniable role in these unprecedented wildfires raging across the world, smashing last year's records for CO2 emissions, according to scientists at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. Meanwhile, these fires aggravated respiratory ailments amid the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic -- the most devastating plague to ravage humankind this century which demonstrates the critical role of science in addressing global challenges.
Ghosts of Roses 2, Oil, 60 x 50 cm, Canvas, Selva Ozelli
Chronicling Corona, Oil, 30 x 30 cm, Canvas, Selva Ozelli
A majority of the world population continues to be exposed to levels of air pollution substantially above World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines, making air pollution a major and increasing threat to public health, according to a study published in the journal Climate and Atmospheric Science. A report prepared by the WHO stated that the true cost of climate change is felt when it penetrates deep into our respiratory and circulatory systems and damages our lungs, which are highly vulnerable to the coronavirus. Accordingly, researchers in multiple countries-- the United States, Italy, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom --have been exploring the apparent correlation between pollution and the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Harvard University study shows that an increase of only one microgram per cubic meter in PM 2.5 - dangerous tiny pollutants in the air - is associated with an 8% increase in the Covid-19 death rate. Another study by scientists at the UK's University of Cambridge also found a link between the severity of Covid-19 infection and long-term exposure to air pollutants—which affects the immune system’s ability to fight infection.
In essence, failure to reduce levels of air pollution could potentially increase not only infection rates of COVID-19 but the numbers of people who die from the virus in the long-term as healthy lungs are our first defense against respiratory illnesses and viruses like COVID-19. Future pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, do more damage to the world economy and kill more people than COVID-19 unless there is a transformative change in the global approach to dealing with climate change and biodiversity loss. Both of which also drive pandemic risk warns a major new report from Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) by 22 leading experts from around the world.
So far over globally 40 million people have been infected and over 1 million people have died of the Coronavirus, with the highest infection and death rates in the U.S. according to John Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. Coronavirus not only causes severe acute respiratory symptoms, but it also features neurological symptoms (Tsunami of Corona – Portrait of Dr. Kalbiye Yalaz who established the first Pediatric Neurology Department in Hacettepe University) including depression according to a study (Surviving the Jungle of Corona – Portrait of Lale Baymur Vanli, Pediatric Neuropsychologist) and can cause severe and lasting harm in other organs (Blurring Lines to Save Lives – Portrait of Dr. Esma Akin, Nuclear Medicine), such as the heart and kidneys (Surviving the Jungle of Corona – Portrait of Dr. Zubeyde Arat-Akdogan, Nephrologist) as well.
Tsunami of Corona, Oil, 30 x 30 cm, Canvas, Selva Ozelli
Surviving the Jungle of Corona 1, Oil, 30 x 30 cm, Canvas, Selva Ozelli
Surviving the Jungle of Corona 2, Oil, 30 x 30 cm, Canvas, Selva Ozelli
Corona Corona, Oil, 30 x 30 cm, Canvas, Selva Ozelli
Nevertheless, in a hopeful announcement, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory disclosed that they found a safe way to track the spread of COVID-19 and other contagious diseases from one cell to another in the human body. And a vaccine against COVID-19 by BioNTech (Dr. Ugur Sahin and Dr. Ozlem Tureci) Pfizer and Fosun Pharma may be ready by year-end, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
Ghosts of Roses 3, Oil, 30 x 30 cm, Canvas, Selva Ozelli
Surviving the Jungle of Corona 3, Oil, 30 x 30 cm, Canvas, Selva Ozelli
Blurring Lines to Save Lives, Oil, 30 x 30 cm, Canvas, Selva Ozelli
Roses of the Corona Vaccine, Oil, 30 x 30 cm, Canvas, Selva Ozelli
The Covid-19 crisis and the political, economic, and social disruptions it has caused fundamentally change the traditional decision-making context of World leaders engaged with the World Economic Forum’s “Great Reset initiative.” These leaders are merging global efforts and ensuring global collaboration in addressing the World’s pollution problem by announcing their decarbonization initiatives under the UN’s ‘Race To Zero’ campaign.[iv]
This campaign is the largest ever global Climate Ambition Alliance — launched in 2019 and representing 452 cities (including London and New York City), 22 regions in 120 countries, 1,101 businesses, 45 of the biggest investors, and 549 universities. It rallies leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient, zero-carbon recovery ahead of COP26, where governments must strengthen their contributions to the Paris Agreement, achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest.
According to a new report by independent think tank RethinkX, the world can switch to 100% renewable electricity earlier, by 2030. As part of the Race to Zero campaign Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London explained:
“Last year we held London’s first-ever Climate Action Week, bringing together climate expertise and talent from across the world. I’m proud to see that it’s back in 2020, despite the huge challenges posed by Coronavirus. The climate emergency remains one of the biggest threats we face. As we recover from Covid-19, we can’t replace one health emergency with another - we need to come out of this crisis embracing a new normal which puts tackling the climate emergency at the heart of everything we do. With the delay to COP 26 we can’t lose the momentum on climate action, so I’m pleased to see that London organisations are leading the way, showing once again that the capital is a driving force for action nationally and globally.”
The world’s top 6 carbon emitters—which I wrote about in a series of articles addressing their digital technology adoption, solar energy, and tax policies-- injected new momentum into global climate action this year ahead of COP26.
President Xi told the UN General Assembly that China,-- the world’s biggest polluter of greenhouse gases-- pledged to go carbon neutral by 2060, only a week after the EU --the world’s third-largest carbon emitter--committed to increasing its emission-reduction target from 40 to 55 percent by 2030. French oil and Gas company Total, SE delivered its first shipment of carbon-neutral liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).
In the U.S. – the World’s second-biggest carbon emitter-- growth in clean energy  is attributed primarily to the result of state legislation with nearly 30 states approving laws requiring their local utilities to source a percentage of electricity supply from renewable energy and also to private initiatives. A new report titled “Renewables on the Rise 2020” stated that in 2019, America produced over 30 times more solar power and more than triple the amount of wind energy than it did in 2010.
Recently, the governors of California and New Jersey banned the sale of new gasoline-fueled cars by 2035. And the ex-Mayor of NYC Mike Bloomberg announced that Bloomberg Philanthropies and Sierra Club successfully retired 60% of U.S. coal-fired power plants — 318 out of 530 plants — via the Beyond Coal campaign. Bloomberg Philanthropies also announced a new partnership with the Brussels-Capital Region Government and Brussels Environment that aims to enhance air pollution monitoring to help cut pollution levels put forward in the European Green Deal.
A diverse coalition of individuals and groups spanning culture, sport, entertainment, business, and civil society in India – the World’s fourth-largest carbon emitter-- announced their participation in Count Us In, a global campaign to inspire one billion people to take practical steps to reduce carbon pollution and challenge leaders to act more boldly on climate change-related issues.
Russia – the World’s fifth-biggest carbon emitter – adopted a new climate goal, seeking to reduce demand for fossil fuels and boost renewable energy by 2030 and upgrade insulation for buildings that will encourage energy efficiency.
Japan — the World’s sixth largest carbon emitter—became the first country to purchase blue ammonia from Saudi Arabia to be used to produce carbon-free electricity with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledging a cut in greenhouse-gas emissions in Japan to net zero by 2050 with South Korea joining in making the same 2050 carbon-neutral pledge shortly thereafter.
As to me, for the first time this year, I began expressing my thoughts and feelings on climate change and COVID-19 as an artist in 3 solo, 6 group digital art shows with 22 paintings that have been acknowledged in 10 international art contests. I would like to share these art shows that have been published by the World’s first climate change Museum The Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change – Hong Kong, Climate Museum UK, and more than 190 other museums in over 40 countries with you on World Science Day for Peace and Development (Nov 10) and London Climate Action Week (Nov 14 – 20) for which I have registered my art shows (1 through 5) and the 10 art shows I curated. 
Main Photo, Oil; Ghosts of Roses 2, 30 x 30cm