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Tuesday briefing: ‘Worst of climate change is still avoidable’

Dry and cracked ground
Unprecedented changes to the Earth’s climate are ‘unequivocally’ the result of human actions, the IPCC report says. Photograph: Muntaka Chasant/REX/Shutterstock

Top story: Scientists call for sharp and immediate cuts in emissions

Good morning. Warren Murray bringing you news that needs knowing if we are to stand a chance.

“If ever there was going to be a wake-up call to the world when it comes to climate change, this report is it. But the future is not yet written. The very worst of climate change is still avoidable.” Alok Sharma, the UK minister due to preside over the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, has said the world’s biggest greenhouse emitters must produce clear plans to cut back drastically, after scientists warned there was only a small chance of escaping the worst ravages of climate breakdown, with global temperatures likely to top 1.5C above pre-industrial levels in the next two decades.

The report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says widespread and “unprecedented” changes to the climate are “unequivocally” the result of human actions. Extreme weather resulting from these changes was already seen around the world, in the form of rising temperatures, worsening storms, heatwaves, droughts, floods and sea level rises. The scientists say only sharp and immediate cuts in greenhouse gases this decade can stabilise the climate system. The spotlight falls on China, the biggest emitter and biggest user of coal. It has targeted net zero emissions by 2060 and peak emissions by 2030. But it still plans new coal-fired power plants, and the International Energy Agency has warned that global emissions will rise next year by a record amount, largely driven by China’s coal resurgence.

Boris Johnson described the IPCC report as “sobering reading” but the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said the PM was “failing to treat the crisis with the seriousness it deserves”. Labour has said Johnson’s pledge to cut UK carbon emissions by 68% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels is inadequate and should be considerably above 70%. The Lib Dems are calling for a more ambitious green recovery plan, and the Greens want a global carbon tax, as well as much more investment in public transport and home insulation.

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Students A-level up – About 300,000 candidates across England, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive A-level results today, while their peers in Scotland will be issued with Highers results. More than 300,000 in England alone will also receive BTec or equivalent vocational or technical level 3 qualifications. Almost 150,000 who did not receive offers from any university, or missed their required grades at A-level, will be hunting for remaining places, with the most popular institutions expected to have fewer vacancies left than usual. Universities reported that more students than usual have met their offer conditions, as teacher-assessed results have risen by about a grade each compared with last year. That means students who narrowly missed their marks are more likely to be rejected by popular universities. Some universities are planning to keep spaces on hold for students who wish to appeal against their A-level results before the 7 September deadline.

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Epstein accuser sues Prince Andrew – Virginia Roberts Giuffre, an alleged victim of the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, has filed a lawsuit against Prince Andrew in federal court in New York. She accused the British royal of sexually abusing her at Epstein’s mansion in Manhattan and at other locations in 2001 when she was under the age of 18, according to court records. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. In late 2019, Prince Andrew told BBC Newsnight that he never had sex with Giuffre, saying: “It didn’t happen.” The US network ABC News reported that a spokesperson in Britain for Prince Andrew told the company there would be no comment on the lawsuit.

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‘Healthy and ready force’ – Members of the US military will be required to have the Covid-19 vaccine beginning on 15 September. “To defend this nation, we need a healthy and ready force,” said the defence secretary, Lloyd Austin. The order was issued on Monday as the Biden administration conducts a broader campaign to increase vaccinations in the federal workforce. The decision will add the Covid-19 vaccine to a list of other inoculations that US service members are already required to get. Depending on their location around the world, it can be as many as 17 different vaccines.

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Olympic heights – Astronauts and cosmonauts living aboard the International Space Station have held their own mini-Olympics events.

Split into two international teams, Team Soyuz and Team Dragon, the athletes competed in zero-gravity events such as “no-hand ball”, “synchronised floating” and gymnastics. Nasa did not report if any medals were awarded.

* * *

‘This is what I do now’ – Tonight, Max Woosey, 11, from Braunton in north Devon, will enjoy his 500th consecutive night camping out, an adventure that has raised more than £600,000 for charity. “It feels amazing to reach 500 nights,” Max said. “It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long because so many cool things have happened since I started camping.” The marathon began in early 2020 when Max’s mum and dad were helping to care for a neighbour, Rick Abbott, who had terminal cancer. They saw first-hand how the support of North Devon hospice helped him remain in his own home.

Max Woosey with his occasional sleeping companion, Digby the labradoodle
Max Woosey with his occasional sleeping companion, Digby the labradoodle. Photograph: Jim Wileman/The Guardian

Just before he died, Abbott gave Max his tent and told him to have an adventure with it. Max decided to do a fundraising campout until lockdown was over. As restrictions dragged on, donations poured into his JustGiving page. After some freezing nights, some sticky hot ones and a tent collapse in a storm, is it time to come back indoors? “No, this is me, this is what I do now,” Max said. “If it stops being fun, I’ll come in. But I can’t imagine that.”

Today in Focus podcast: Israel v Iran, the undeclared war

A spate of attacks on one of the world’s busiest shipping trade routes is part of an escalating tit-for-tat conflict playing out between Iran and Israel, says Martin Chulov, the Guardian’s Middle East correspondent.

Lunchtime read: Do robot dogs dream of electric cats?

The creators of the Aibo robot dog say it has “real emotions and instinct”. This may seem over the top, but is it? In today’s AI universe, all the eternal questions have become engineering problems, writes Meghan O’Gieblyn.

Sony’s robot dog Aibo
Sony’s robot dog Aibo. Photograph: Aflo Co Ltd/Alamy

Sport

The Guardian’s standout Tokyo moments: Elaine Thompson-Herah was a star, the new sports shone and the hosts were friendly, despite not being able to attend. A decision is to be taken before the end of the year about the possible launch of a female British & Irish Lions touring team. A feasibility study is under way, with officials insisting they would like to see a Lionesses squad take the field in the not-too-distant future.

Jack Grealish has said Britain’s most expensive footballer is “a good tag to have” and one he aims to repay by helping Manchester City finally win the Champions League this season. Manchester United Premier League 2021-22 preview: nothing short of the title will suffice but even with Sancho and Varane added the squad looks light in other areas. The Premier League has announced fans are set to be subject to random spot checks of their Covid-19 status at some grounds in the opening few weeks of the new season. Imran Tahir claimed the first hat-trick of The Hundred as Birmingham Phoenix went joint top of the table with Trent Rockets after a 93-run win over Welsh Fire.

Business

Asian stocks have started off on a weak footing after a largely soft performance on Wall Street and a drop in metals and oil prices. Korea’s Kospi and China’s CSI300 have fallen while Japan’s Nikkei and Australia’s S&P/ASX200 rose. The FTSE is tracking lower in futures trading while sterling is worth $1.384 and €1.179 at the moment.

The papers

A roundup of today’s major front pages can be found here – our regular summary follows. The Guardian’s splash headline is “Global climate crisis: inevitable, unprecedented and irreversible”, as the report’s scientists find that while drastic reductions in emissions are urgent and necessary, it is too late to return the world to less extreme weather patterns. The Financial Times’ headline is “World likely to be 1.5C warmer by 2040, UN’s science panel warns”. Its opinion top line is that “Failure to cut greenhouse gas emissions deeply would lead within a few decades to what a leading climatologist called ‘hell on earth’.”

Guardian front page, Tuesday 10 August 2021
The Guardian’s front page, Tuesday 10 August 2021 Photograph: Guardian

The Daily Telegraph’s more muted take is “Cash pledge to boost the switch to green gas boilers as UN warns of climate ‘reality check’”. Its actual splash is about A-levels. The Times’ main story is also on A-levels, though its IPCC headline is “Top scientists call for urgent road map out of climate change”. The Daily Mail’s headline is “Can UK lead world back from brink?” The story is carried inside the paper, while the front page report is on the high cost of Covid travel tests.

The Independent’s entire front page is taken up by images of fire, drought and flood, behind the headline “Code red for humanity”. The i and Metro also lead on “Code Red”, with the i’s subheading “Shocking verdict on future of humanity – as scientists urge PM to create UK climate plan”. The Daily Express leads with Boris Johnson’s comments: “Wake up to red alert on climate crisis”.

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