The world should adopt faster to the climate crisis – UN report

The gap is widening between the impacts of the climate crisis and the world’s effort to adapt to them, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme, CNN reports.

The annual “adaptation gap” report — which published Thursday amid the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow — found that the estimated costs to adapt to the worst effects of warming temperatures such as droughts, floods and rising seas in low-income countries are five to 10 times higher than how much money is currently flowing into those regions. 

In addition to promising to limit warming, governments from wealthy nations in the 2015 Paris Accord reaffirmed their commitment to contribute $100 billion a year to poorer nations to move away from fossil fuel and adapt to climate change-fueled disasters. This is because developing nations, particularly those in the Global South, are most likely to endure the worst effects of the climate crisis, despite the small amount they contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions. 

Inger Andersen, executive director of the UNEP, said this is why climate finance — funding for low-income countries to fight the climate crisis — is vital.

“The Paris Accord says adaptation and mitigation funding needs to be in a degree of balance,” Andersen told CNN. “Those in poorer countries are going to suffer the very most, so ensuring that there’s a degree of equity and a degree of global solidarity for adaptation finance is critical.”

But the report found that $100 billion a year — a pledge which wealthy nations have so far been unable to achieve — isn’t even enough to match the demand. Adaptation costs for low-income countries will hit $140 to 300 billion each year by 2030 and $280 to 500 billion per year by 2050, UNEP reports. 

In 2019, only $79 billion of climate financing flowed into developing nations, according to the latest analysis.

As the climate crisis intensifies, adaptation measures are becoming more critical. Global scientists have said the world should try to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — a critical threshold to avoid the worst impacts. But Thursday’s report suggests this threshold will be breached sooner than previously imagined, and some climate impacts are already irreversible. Wildfires, droughts, record heat waves and deadly floods terrorized parts of the Northern Hemisphere this summer.

“While strong mitigation is the way to minimize impacts and long-term costs, increased ambition in terms of adaptation, particularly for finance and implementation, is critical to prevent existing gaps widening,” the report’s authors wrote. 

Roughly 79% of all countries have adopted at least one adaptation plan, policy or strategy to stem the impact, a 7% increase since 2020. Meanwhile, 9% of countries that don’t currently have a plan or policy in place are in the process of developing one. 

But the report says implementation of these adaptation measures is stalling. A separate UNEP report found that 15 major economies will continue to produce roughly 110% more coal, oil, and gas in 2030 than what’s necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, which will worsen climate change-fueled extreme weather events and make adaptation all the more critical. 

At a forum on vulnerable countries at COP26 this week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on wealthy nations, banks and shareholders to “allocate half their climate finance to adaptation” and “offer debt relief” for low-income nations.

“Vulnerable countries must have faster and easier access to finance,” Guterres said. “I urge the developed world to accelerate delivery on the $100 billion dollars to rebuild trust. Vulnerable countries need it for adaptation and for mitigation. [They] are not the cause of climate disruption.”

One way to tackle this, according to the report’s authors, is to use Covid-19 recovery stimulus packages as an opportunity to deliver green and resilient adaptation measures to developing countries. The twin crises of climate change and the pandemic have stretched economic and disaster response thin, but authors say it proves the world can adapt to the worst impacts of warming temperatures.

The adaptation gap report comes at a critical time as world leaders gather at COP26 to discuss the probability of keeping the goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius alive, as well as also ensuring that wealthy, fossil fuel-generating nations hold on to their promise of transferring $100 billion a year to low-income countries, particularly in the Global South.

Andersen said one thing is clear: “The more we delay climate action, the more adaptation will become important, especially for the most poor, who are going to be hit the hardest.”

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What TV news green activists should watch?

When environmental activists, government officials and corporate leaders descend on Glasgow for COP26, there will be plenty of articles, videos and books floating around that extol the virtues of being green. One piece of content unlikely to be circling much is Blown Away: The People Vs Wind Power, a documentary currently airing on Fox News in the US. But Glasgow attendees would do well to watch it, FT reports.

The film features Tucker Carlson, the genial-looking TV host with a dyspeptic streak who underwent a conversion from bow-tie-wearing prep into rightwing barker in the Trump era. In the 26-minute film, he travels across the country to “expose the hidden costs of the green energy agenda”. What he seems most angry about is the “death and destruction brought on by these monstrosities” known as wind turbines.

Never mind the fact that most Glasgow attendees view wind power as such a self-evidently wonderful thing that turbine photos plaster the COP26 programme. Carlson thinks that wind farms threaten the livelihood of fishermen (because turbines are being built offshore), harm pristine forests and jeopardise the safety of ordinary US workers, since they can sometimes fail and cause a power cut.

“This is about enrich[ing] the most powerful people in the country at the expense of the most vulnerable — it’s exploitation of the weak by the powerful,” says Carlson. “It’s foreign companies that will make a fortune.” More specifically, he hates the fact that companies from Spain, Norway and Denmark are running the turbines and that financiers such as Warren Buffett and banks including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan are involved.

If you’re in Glasgow, you’re no doubt rolling your eyes by now or perhaps correctly retorting that, say, a coal mine does more damage than any Scandinavian turbine. But even if you disagree with Carlson’s attacks, it would be a mistake to ignore him for at least three reasons.

First, and most obviously, we live in an era when political tribes are losing the ability to empathise with others and when it is dangerously easy for anyone, particularly activists, to slip into groupthink. Not only has lockdown kept us trapped with our own social groups for a long period, but as we have dashed online we have tended to intensify our tribal affiliations. Technology, after all, makes it so easy to customise our identities and confirm our biases.

As a result, I suspect few Glasgow attendees even know that Carlson is so angry about wind turbines, or are likely to see clips of his diatribes in their social media feeds. Even though the show he fronts, Tucker Carlson Tonight, is the highest-rated on American cable TV, with 3.42 million nightly viewers.

Second, even if you dislike Carlson’s overall stance, there are grains of truth in some of what he says. Take his charge about elitism. 

As Blown Away reports, one feature of wind farms is that they tend to be located in remote, rural areas or places subject to what wind engineers call the “Starbucks Rules”. As one explains on camera, “Never try to site a wind project within 30 miles of a Starbucks . . . because the demographic that is willing to pay a premium price for Starbucks coffee has the education and wherewithal to organise to resist wind projects.” Nimby-ism — Not In My Back Yard — predominates.

This was recently on display in the Hamptons, the wealthy enclave near New York, when a wind farm company proposed running a cable through one beach town. Such was the local outcry that the project was shelved. This is far from the only inequitable issue haunting green policies. If gas prices rise because of a carbon tax, it is poor — not elite — voters who suffer relatively more. If coal mines are shut down, it will not be urban voters who lose their jobs.

Green activists ignore this at their peril; without government action to offset these effects, we will see more episodes like the gilets jaunes demonstrations against fuel-price hikes that erupted in Paris a few years ago. And more angry Fox News coverage.

Which leads to my third point: cultural issues and affiliations matter. Covid-19 showed us you cannot beat a pandemic with medical and computing science alone. You need to shift behaviour too. The same applies to green policies. People who fear that wind turbines are destroying their livelihoods — or who define their political identity by watching Fox — will not listen to lectures by scientists. Behaviour will only change if “green” issues are presented to different communities with empathy and respect — and proper incentives.

This will not be easy. Last week, the UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team published a research paper urging ministers to use social science insights to “nudge” people to be green. However, it was withdrawn from the government’s website a few hours later.

Yet, even if the gulf between Fox News and the COP26 crowd seems hopelessly wide, neither can afford to simply dismiss or deride the other. Think of that when you see glossy photos of turbines in Glasgow; Carlson’s resistance isn’t entirely hot air.

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Rome airport plans to launch flying taxis

Passengers flying into Rome from 2024 onwards will be able to go airborne for their taxi ride into the city center too, if a project between the company operating its main airport and a German startup lifts off on schedule, CNN reports.

Startup Volocopter hopes to make Fiumicino Airport a pioneer site for the rotor-bladed, battery-powered two-seater air taxi it is developing.

Aeroporti di Roma (AdR) CEO Marco Troncone said the journey in one of the craft, which takes off and lands vertically, will take around 15 minutes, compared with 45 minutes or more by car.

The initial cost of a ride will be around 150 euros ($175), a price likely to drop as the service goes mainstream, he said.

“The connection will be very swift,” he told Reuters at Fiumicino, where Volocopter was showcasing a prototype. “It will be a silent journey and … the level of emissions will be zero.”

Volocopter, founded in 2011, hopes to get a commercial air license from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) within three years and then start operations, its Chief Commercial Officer Christian Bauer said.

Rome is seen as the third most suitable European city behind Paris – where Volocopter said in June it hoped to have a service in operation in time for the 2024 Olympic Games – and Berlin for the development of air taxis, an EASA study showed.

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Climate change will affect on all the countries – Biden administration

A series of new reports from the Biden administration will issue a stark warning on Thursday: The effects of climate change will be wide-reaching and will pose problems for every government, CNN reports.

“No country will be spared from the challenges directly related to climate change,” a senior administration official told reporters in a call previewing the reports.

The four reports — which President Joe Biden called for in executive orders in January and February — not only analyze issues currently being made worse by climate change, they examine future threats facing the United States. The release includes a report on migration, a National Intelligence Estimate, and separate reports from the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security. The reports come 10 days before the President is scheduled to attend the international climate conference known as COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

“These analyses will serve as a foundation for critical work on climate and security moving forward,” a senior administration official told reporters during a call Wednesday evening, on the condition of not being named. “It’s important to flag that these analyses reinforce the President’s commitment to the United States making evidence-based decisions, guided by the best available science and data.”

Among the reports, which were released later Thursday morning, the administration details how climate change is driving migration, the first time the US government is officially recognizing the link between climate change and migration.

It “identifies migration as an important form of adaptation to the impact of climate change, and in some cases an essential response to climate threat,” the official explained. 

That threat will cause people to move to the “nearest stable democracies that adhere to international asylum conventions and are strong economies,” they added. 

In many cases, that will mean US allies or partner countries that have already experienced climate-related influxes of migration, and are vulnerable to “greater insecurity,” such as Greece, Turkey, the United Kingdom and France. 

The official noted that the administration was “very careful not to frame migration as a purely negative coping mechanism.”

“Our goals remain to ensure that migration for any reason is done in a safe, orderly and humane pathway,” the official said.

Asked about migration from Central America in particular — which has been straining US resources as waves of migrants show up at the country’s southern border — the official said they would “let the report speak for itself.”

“The migration report does talk about different countries and regions that are affected by climate migration and includes countries within the Western Hemisphere, and what we can do along those lines as well,” they said, declining to get into specifics.

The White House will also release a National Intelligence Estimate — an “authoritative assessment” that represents a consensus view of all 18 intelligence agencies — that provides a “geopolitical analysis of the implications and risks to the United States” posed by climate change.

“Climate change will increasingly exacerbate a number of risks to US national security interests from both physical impacts that could cascade into security challenges, to help countries respond to the climate challenge,” the senior official said. The broad categories of risk will include increased geopolitical tension, cross-border geopolitical flashpoints as countries “take steps to secure their interests,” and the risk that climate change will destabilize countries internally.

“The Intelligence Committee judges all of these risks will increase, and that no country will be spared from the challenges directly related to climate change,” the official said.

Another report from the Department of Defense will focus on “the strategic and mission implications of climate change.” The official said it provides a “starting point” for how the Defense Department will tackle climate change and the effects it will have, laying out “a path forward.”

“Both climate change threats and the global efforts to address climate change will influence US defense, strategic interests, relationships, competition and priorities,” the official told reporters, adding that the report identifies “security implications of climate change for DoD at the strategic level, including impacts to missions, international partners, as well as risks to region, to protect our national security.”

A fourth analysis from the Department of Homeland Security gives “a strategic framework for addressing climate change to govern the department’s efforts to combat the climate crisis,” the official said.

“The strategic framework builds on DHS Climate Action Plan, and applies to strategy, plans, policy and budgets across DHS,” the official previewed. It includes plans for “empowering individuals and communities to develop climate resilience,” and building readiness to respond to increases in climate driven emergencies. 

“It’s a really pivotal moment to underscore how the US is thinking about climate security, its risks, how we’re responding to many of those, and the heightened urgency we face in addressing climate change across all the different strategies and tools we have in our toolbox to demonstrate US leadership on this critical issue,” the senior administration official said.

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Is solar cooking the new way to save forests

From cool, dewy European mountain ranges and humid Central Asian forests to the urban sprawl across North America and the arid landscapes of the African continent, millions of people are cooking with only the sun’s rays as fuel, CNN reports.

This culinary magic is known as solar cooking. Instead of burning a fuel source, solar cooking uses mirrored surfaces to channel and concentrate sunlight into a small space, cooking food while producing zero carbon emissions.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.6 billion people around the globe cook their daily meals over open fires. Fuelled with wood, animal waste, kerosene and charcoal, these fires produce highly polluting smoke and contribute to deforestation, soil erosion and ultimately desertification — but solar cookers could provide an alternative.

Solar cookers and shrinking forests 

Solar Cookers International (SCI) is an non-profit that advocates for the adoption of solar thermal cooking technologies. SCI says it knows of over 4 million solar cookers around the world, which people are using to cook and bake in the direct sun or through light clouds.

One of these people is Janak Palta McGilligan. The 73-year-old is a member of the SCI Global Advisory Council and director of the Jimmy McGilligan Centre for Sustainable Development in Madhya Pradesh, India — which she founded with her late husband in 2010.

In a country where up to 81% of rural communities rely on polluting fuels for cooking, Palta McGilligan noticed people were being disadvantaged by cooking with firewood from shrinking ecosystems. Their health was impacted and the natural environment surrounding them eroded. “Girls couldn’t go to school because they spent all day collecting wood,” adds Palta McGilligan.

Yet with an estimated 300 sunny days a year, India has a substantial opportunity for using solar thermal energy.

Palta McGilligan introduced solar cookers to these communities, with the Jimmy McGilligan Centre covering all the training costs and 90% of the price of the cookers, both to protect the forests from degradation and to provide equal opportunities for women.

To date, the Centre has trained more than 126,000 people in sustainable practices such as solar cooking, and food curing and dehydrating techniques, as well as using solar thermal energy to heat up an iron to press clothes.

“It is about the environment, but it is also about equality,” she tells CNN.

A simple solution?

There are many types of solar cookers: from mirrored boxes to rooftop systems and evacuated tube cookers — a more complex device that functions well in colder climates.

Palta McGilligan advocates globally for the health benefits of solar cooking. “Even economic health is benefited,” she says. “All the polluting fuels are so expensive but solar cooking is free — always.”

Anyone can use a solar cooker and training is simple: “You have to learn to position the solar cooker, how to align it to the sun. That’s all,” explains Palta McGilligan.

A basic solar box oven can be constructed with a cardboard box and mirrors or foil, costing as little as a couple of dollars.

Solar cookers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but all utilize thermal energy from the sun.

There’s one obvious drawback: You can’t cook after dark, and although food will cook quickly on a sunny day, in poor weather solar cookers can take considerably longer than a conventional stove or oven and may not reach temperatures high enough to safely cook meat. On cool or windy days, heavy foods — such as loaves of bread — may not cook at all.

But solar cookers can be used to dehydrate and cure foods to preserve them for stretches of time when there is heavy cloud cover.

‘Whole forests will be saved’

According to international NGO SolarAid, in sunny and arid climates a single solar cooker can save up to a ton of wood annually.

That can add up, with the use of polluting cooking fuels accounting for more than half of global black carbon emissions. Black carbon is one of the biggest contributors to climate change after carbon dioxide, but it only stays in the atmosphere for days to weeks. In fact, burning wood biomass generates greater CO2 emissions per unit of energy than burning fossil fuels.

Beyond the carbon cost, the use of biomass fuels can contribute to deforestation of rural regions.

“The planet is at risk,” says Palta McGilligan. “In rural India, we can’t grow trees quickly enough to make up for the wood burnt for cooking.”

She says that alongside training on solar cooking methods, she encourages the planting and nurturing of native vegetation and trees to begin to counteract the environmental impact lifetimes of woodfire cooking has had in rural India.

“The people in the villages are connected to the forests,” Palta McGilligan tells CNN. “They feel sorry the jungles are being lost, they’re sad that there will be no trees. Solar thermal energy is a great relief to them.”

Palta McGilligan has observed the recovery of ecosystems as a direct result of solar cooking being introduced to a village. “Whole forests will be saved by the use of solar cookers,” she says.

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Queen Elizabeth calls attention on lack of action on climate change

Queen Elizabeth II has said the lack of action on tackling the climate crisis is «irritating», CNN reports.

The British monarch made the remarks on Thursday during a conversation at the opening of the Welsh Parliament in Cardiff.

The Queen was chatting with the Duchess of Cornwall and Elin Jones, the parliament’s presiding officer, when her remarks were captured on video.

At one point, the Queen appears to be talking about the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, saying: “I’ve been hearing all about COP … I still don’t know who’s coming.” 

In a separate clip, the Queen appears to say it is “irritating” when “they talk, but they don’t do.” Parts of the two clips were inaudible.

In her reply, Jones appears to reference Prince William’s remarks from earlier Thursday, saying she had been watching him “on television this morning saying there’s no point going into space, we need to save the earth,” the PA Media news agency reported.

The Duke of Cambridge spoke about the ongoing rush for space travel in an interview with the BBC’s Newscast podcast, which aired on Thursday.

“We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live,” he said.

His comments aired the day after “Star Trek” actor William Shatner, 90, made history by becoming the oldest person to go to space aboard a New Shepard spacecraft, developed by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

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Miners protest in Bulgaria

SOFIA, Oct 13 – About 1,000 miners and workers from Bulgaria’s largest coal-fired power plant marched in Sofia on Wednesday to protect their jobs and to urge the government to support their industry, Reuters informs.

Demonstrators called on the Cabinet to guarantee it would not rush to shut mines and power plants at the Maritsa East lignite coal complex in southern Bulgaria, despite a European Union push to decarbonise the bloc’s economy by 2050.

“There should be green, clean energy, but time is needed for investment first,” said Spaska Ruskova, 58, who works for a mining equipment company.

“It will probably happen for our grandchildren, but it cannot happen now, because hundreds of families are destined to lose their jobs and doomed to high power bills,” she said.

Bulgaria needs to set a date when it will phase out power generation from coal if it wants to draw on EU recovery funds and meet the bloc’s climate goals.

The interim government has said it will present its plan for EU aid to Brussels on Friday. It will defend its target of closing coal-fired plants by 2038 or 2040 – largely in line with the miners’ demands.

Environmental group Greenpeace has demanded that the polluting plants be closed by 2030, urging Bulgaria to focus on renewable energy and providing new jobs in the coal regions.

Protesters say early closure of the plants, which produce 40% of Bulgaria’s electricity, would lead to power shortages and rising energy costs.

Some 10,000 people work at the Maritsa East complex, whose lignite coal deposits are rich in sulphur blamed for poor air quality and respiratory diseases.

Trade unions say the complex provides livelihoods for more than 100,000 people in the European Union’s poorest member and have vowed to keep up pressure on the government that is to formed after a Nov. 14 general election.

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Google will prevent climate change deniers from making money from ads

Google is cracking down on the ability of climate change deniers to make money off its platforms and to spread climate misinformation through advertisementі, CNN reports.

The company said Thursday it will no longer allow advertising to appear alongside “content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change.” Google (GOOG) will also prohibit advertisements that deny the reality of climate change. 

The policy, which goes into effect next month, applies to any content on YouTube and other Google platforms that refers “to climate change as a hoax or a scam,” as well as denials that “greenhouse gas emissions or human activity contribute to climate change.”

“We’ve heard directly from a growing number of our advertising and publisher partners who have expressed concerns about ads that run alongside or promote inaccurate claims about climate change,” Google said in its announcement Thursday. “Advertisers simply don’t want their ads to appear next to this content. And publishers and creators don’t want ads promoting these claims to appear on their pages or videos.”

Big tech companies have faced increasing pressure in recent years to contribute more to the fight against climate change, including action against climate-related misinformation on their platforms. But as some of the big platforms have shown in the past, consistently implementing a policy after it has been announced tends to be the most challenging part.

Facebook last month announced its own effort to combat climate misinformation, including a $1 million grant to support fact-checking of false climate claims. 

Google also rolled out several products earlier this week to increase climate awareness, including a new setting in Google Maps that shows users the most eco-friendly route.

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Google maps will help tourists to find the most eco-friendly routes

Driving and flying are huge contributors to carbon emissions and climate change. So Google is helping users make more informed decisions about how they travel, CNN informs.

The company is releasing features on Google Maps and Google Flights to show how travel plans may contribute to climate change.

Eco-friendly routes

In addition to showing drivers the fastest way to get to their destination, Google Maps will now show the route that’s the most fuel-efficient. 

To provide the new feature, Google incorporated data from the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which estimates that eco-friendly routing has the potential to prevent more than one million tons of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere per year. That’s the equivalent of removing 200,000 cars from the road, Google claims.

On the Google Maps app, the most eco-friendly route will display with a small green leaf next to it. The route option will include information about how long the trip will take and how much fuel the driver could save. 

Options for bikers

It’s no secret that biking is a more eco-friendly travel option than driving, and the use of biking directions on Maps has increased by as much as 98% over the past year, according to Google. The tech company is focusing on tapping into bike riders with a new feature called “lite navigation” that gives cyclists important details about their routes.

This feature is being introduced after Google heard from cyclists who were sick of following turn-by-turn directions on their phones. Bikers tend to tuck their phones away for most of the ride, after all.

With lite navigation, bike riders will be able to see details about their route without needing to keep their screen on or engage turn-by-turn navigation. 

Cyclists will also be able to track their trip progress, see their ETA updated in real time and find details about the elevation of their route.

Bike and scooter sharing

In addition to the biking feature, in 300 cities — including Berlin, New York and São Paulo — Google Maps is introducing a feature that will provide more information about bike and scooter sharing. With this new option, Google Maps users will be able to find nearby docking stations and pinpoint how many vehicles are available at that moment.

To make this feature possible, Google is partnering with bike and scooter companies including Europe-based Donkey Republic, Tier and Voi, as well as Bird and Spin, which are based in the US.

Finding flights with fewer carbon emissions

Alongside price and trip duration information, Google Flights users will now be able to see carbon emissions estimates for nearly every flight in the search results. The estimates are “flight-specific” and “seat-specific,” Google said. 

“Newer aircraft are generally less polluting than older aircraft,” the company said in its press release. “Emissions increase for premium economy and first-class seats because they take up more space and account for a larger share of total emissions,” Google added.

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Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has erupted again

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano began erupting Wednesday afternoon for the first time since May, spewing lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, CNN reports.

Officials note that while there is no present danger to nearby residents on Hawaii’s Big Island, the situation will be monitored for further escalation.

The US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory had raised its watch alert level earlier in the day after it recorded an increase in seismic readings.

“Increased earthquake activity and changes in the patterns of ground deformation at Kilauea’s summit began occurring as of approximately noon on September 29, 2021, indicating movement of magma in the subsurface,” USGS said.

The agency said it detected with observatory webcams a glow within Kilauea’s summit crater at around 3:20 p.m. local time, indicating that an eruption had commenced.

David Phillips, the observatory’s deputy scientist-in-charge, told CNN that evidence of change at the site had been noticed the night before.

“Just after midnight, we started to get some increase in earthquake activity and seismic swarms,” he said.

The eruption is entirely within the boundaries of the park. There is no current threat to life or infrastructure, Phillips said, but the eruption could potentially last for months.

Last month, a recorded increase in earthquake activity led the observatory to increase its volcano alert from “advisory” to “watch,” USGS said.

Kilauea’s most recent eruption began last December, and locals were asked by authorities to stay indoors to avoid exposure to ash clouds. The volcano continued to discharge lava for five months.

In 2018, an eruption destroyed more than 700 homes and forced residents to evacuate.

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