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We summarize some of the past year's most important findings within climate change-related research. New research has improved our understanding of Earth's sensitivity to carbon dioxide, finds that permafrost thaw could release more carbon emissions than expected and that the uptake of carbon in tropical ecosystems is weakening. Adverse impacts on human society include increasing water shortages and impacts on mental health. Options for solutions emerge from rethinking economic models, rights-based litigation, strengthened governance systems and a new social contract. The disruption caused by COVID-19 could be seized as an opportunity for positive change, directing economic stimulus towards sustainable investments.
A synthesis is made of ten fields within climate science where there have been significant advances since mid-2019, through an expert elicitation process with broad disciplinary scope. Findings include: (1) a better understanding of equilibrium climate sensitivity; (2) abrupt thaw as an accelerator of carbon release from permafrost; (3) changes to global and regional land carbon sinks; (4) impacts of climate change on water crises, including equity perspectives; (5) adverse effects on mental health from climate change; (6) immediate effects on climate of the COVID-19 pandemic and requirements for recovery packages to deliver on the Paris Agreement; (7) suggested long-term changes to governance and a social contract to address climate change, learning from the current pandemic, (8) updated positive cost–benefit ratio and new perspectives on the potential for green growth in the short- and long-term perspective; (9) urban electrification as a strategy to move towards low-carbon energy systems and (10) rights-based litigation as an increasingly important method to address climate change, with recent clarifications on the legal standing and representation of future generations.
Social media summary
Stronger permafrost thaw, COVID-19 effects and growing mental health impacts among highlights of latest climate science.
To draw lessons from Fiji regarding the challenges and opportunities for policy initiatives to restrict (i) food marketing to children and (ii) marketing of breast milk substitutes, to inform policy for the double burden of malnutrition.
Qualitative political economy analysis of two policy case studies.
Eleven key informants from relevant sectors, representing public health, economic and consumer interests.
This study used two policy initiatives as case studies to examine factors influencing decision-making: Marketing Controls (Foods for Infants and Young Children) Regulations 2010, amended in 2016 to remove guidelines and restrictions on marketing in the form of labelling, and the draft Advertising and Promotion of Unhealthy Foods and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children Regulation developed in 2014 but awaiting review by the Solicitor General’s Office. Factors identified included: a policy paradigm in which regulation of business activity contradicts economic policy goals; limited perception by key policy actors of links between nutrition and marketing of breast milk substitutes, foods and beverages; and a power imbalance between industry and public health stakeholders in policymaking. Regulation of marketing for health purposes sits within the health sector’s interest but not its legislative remit, while within the economic sector’s remit but not interest. Opportunities to strengthen restrictions on marketing to improve nutrition and health include reframing the policy issue, strategic advocacy and community engagement.
Restricting marketing should be recognised by public health actors as a public health and an industry policy issue, to support strategic engagement with economic policy actors.
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