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Study finds national and international frameworks are imperative for implementing nature-based solutions in Asia

Recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), nature-based solutions (NbS) refer to solutions that bring together human well-being, environmental sustainability, and…

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Recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), nature-based solutions (NbS) refer to solutions that bring together human well-being, environmental sustainability, and biodiversity benefits. NbS are also key elements to post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery strategies. NbS include a variety of elements, starting from ecosystem-based climate change mitigation to ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction measures. While the techniques behind NbS may not be new, incorporating them into national and international governance frameworks for their effective implementation is.

Credit: Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Japan

Recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), nature-based solutions (NbS) refer to solutions that bring together human well-being, environmental sustainability, and biodiversity benefits. NbS are also key elements to post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery strategies. NbS include a variety of elements, starting from ecosystem-based climate change mitigation to ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction measures. While the techniques behind NbS may not be new, incorporating them into national and international governance frameworks for their effective implementation is.

Most studies on NbS focus on Europe. The European Union was an early adopter of NbS and has ensured its promotion by linking NbS with the European Green Deal and COVID-19 pandemic recovery. The region has firmly established links between NbS and various actors (governments, institutions, businesses, etc.). But the same cannot be said of Asia. There remains a lack of cohesive regional strategy for implementing NbS in Asia, as well as limited cross-sectoral local and national governance to promote NbS and green recovery strategies. The large number of developing countries in Asia also presents a problem for the promotion and realization of NbS.

In a new study, published in Politics and Governance, researchers Dr. Kanako Morita from the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute and Associate Professor Ken’ichi Matsumoto of Toyo University, Japan, have elaborated the governance challenges to implementing NbS in East, Southeast, and South Asian regions. “Implementing NbS governance in countries at different stages of economic development is tricky, as is developing measures for NbS with different institutions and actors,” explains Dr. Morita.

The findings of their study indicated that climate change mitigation, disaster risk reduction (DRR), and infrastructure are three areas where NbS have been widely implemented in Asian countries. These areas are also linked to climate security issues, including ecological security. However, there is scope for further work, particularly to ensure uniformity in implementing NbS across diverse regions. “Current discussions on NbS governance focus on urban areas, but NbS are essential across a wide range of landscapes and seascapes and across jurisdictional boundaries. In developing countries particularly, there is a need for international cooperation in NbS governance,” observes Dr. Morita, in this context.

The researchers found that NbS have links to international frameworks related to the UNFCCC and CBD in the area of climate change (climate change mitigation), with clear national strategies, policies, and international financial mechanisms. The Paris Agreement is one of the main drivers behind this development. Unfortunately, however, discussion on cross-sectoral strategies, such as application of NbS to post-pandemic green recovery, has not been extensive in Asian countries so far.

In the field of DRR, NbS are linked to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). Japan in particular is heavily invested in the promotion of ecosystem-based DRR (Eco-DRR). But the same cannot be said about other Asian countries. While some countries have incorporated Eco-DRR in their national strategies, the domestic governance and measures for implementation remain poor. The financial mechanisms for incorporating NbS in Eco-DRR need to be elaborated and clarified. Moreover, developing countries in particular need both financial and technical support to properly implement NbS for Eco-DRR.

Finally, the researchers found no official links between NbS and international frameworks in the infrastructure field. “There is no consensus on what NbS for infrastructure entails. This makes it very difficult to establish national policies or frameworks, and, more importantly, financial mechanisms for the implementation of NbS,” says Dr. Morita.

Taken together, the study highlights the fragmentation of institutions and actors in Asia, and the unique challenges this poses for the different types of NbS. The study also emphasizes the need for cooperation among local, national, and international actors including governments, and institutions. “Our analysis recognizes the need for a cross-sectoral framework to match the need for NbS with relevant actors and institutions at various scales. We also recommend creating guidelines to incorporate and promote NbS into local and national policy, as well as international cooperation,” concludes Dr. Morita.

Implementing these suggestions will surely help address the tragedy of the commons staring us all in the face¬—that is climate change—as well as achieve benefits for biodiversity and humans, both in the short-term, post pandemic, and with regards to long-term sustainable development.

About Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Japan
Inaugurated as a unit for forest experiments in Tokyo in 1905, the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute (FFPRI) was largely reorganized in 1988, when it received its current name. During its history of over 110 years, the FFPRI has been conducting interdisciplinary research on forests, forestry, the timber industry, and tree breeding with an agenda based around sustainable development goals. The FFPRI is currently looking to collaborate with more diverse stakeholders, such as international organizations, government agencies, and industry and academic leaders, to conduct much needed forest-related research and make sure we preserve these renewable resources. 

Website: https://www.ffpri.affrc.go.jp/ffpri/en/index.html

About Dr. Kanako Morita from Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Japan
Dr. Kanako Morita obtained her Ph.D. from the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 2010. She is currently a senior researcher at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Japan. Her research areas are interdisciplinary approaches to improve climate change, biodiversity, forest, and renewable energy-related institutions. Her work focuses on governance and financial mechanisms to meet the needs of sustainable development and climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Asia-Pacific. Dr. Morita is also an Assistant Professor at Keio University, Japan, visiting research fellow at the United Nations University, and visiting researcher at the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan.

 

Funding information
This research is supported by JSPS KAKENHI grant numbers 19K12467, 18H03428, 18K11800, 19H04340, the Environment Research and Technology Development Fund (JPMEERF20181001) of the Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency of Japan, Research Institute for Humanity and Nature: Feasibility Project 14200158, the Diversity Promotion Office Fund of Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, and the Integrated Research Program for Advancing Climate Models (TOUGOU program) grant number JPMXD0717935715 of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan.
 


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A dog has caught monkeypox from one of its owners, highlighting risk of the virus infecting pets and wild animals

The monkeypox virus can easily spread between humans and animals. A veterinary virologist explains how the virus could go from people to wild animals in…

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A dog in Paris has become the first case of a pet contracting monkeypox from its owners. Cavan Images via Getty Images

A dog in Paris has caught monkeypox from one of its owners, both of whom were infected with the virus, according to a scientific paper published on Aug. 10, 2022. This is the first case of a dog contracting the monkeypox virus through direct contact with skin lesions on a human.

I am a veterinary pathologist and virologist who has been working with poxviruses for over 20 years. I study how these viruses evade the immune system and am working on modifying poxviruses to prevent infection as well as treat other diseases, including cancer.

With monkeypox spreading in humans throughout the world, my colleagues and I have begun to worry about the increased risk of monkeypox spreading from humans to animals. If monkeypox spreads to wildlife species in the U.S. and Europe, the virus could become endemic in these places – where it has historically been absent – resulting in more frequent outbreaks. The report of the infected dog shows that there is a decent chance these fears could become a reality.

A microscope image of a bunch blue circles in a brown-colored cell.
The monkeypox virus – the blue circles in this image of an infected cell – is a poxvirus similar to smallpox and cowpox and can easily infect many different species. NIAID/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

A species-jumping virus

Monkeypox is a poxvirus in the same family as variola – the virus that causes smallpox – and cowpox viruses and likely evolved in animals before jumping to humans. Monkeypox causes painful lesions in both humans and animals and, in rare cases, can be deadly. Researchers have found the monkeypox virus in several species of wild rodents, squirrels and primates in Africa, where the virus is endemic. Monkeypox does not need to mutate or evolve at all to be able to infect many different species. It can easily spread from animals to people and back again.

Though there is a fair bit of research on monkeypox, a lot more work has been done on cowpox, a similar zoonotic poxvirus that is endemic in Europe. Over the years, there have been several reports of cowpox infection spreading from animals to humans in Europe.

From people to animals

Until recently, most monkeypox infections occurred in specific areas of Africa where some wildlife species act as reservoirs for the virus. These outbreaks are usually contained quickly through isolation of infected individuals and vaccinating people around the infected individual. The current situation is very different though.

With nearly 40,000 cases globally as of Aug. 17, 2022 – and more than 12,500 cases in the U.S. alone – monkeypox is now widespread within the human population. The risk of any one person transmitting the virus to an animal – particularly a wild one – is small, but the more people are infected, the greater the chances. It’s a numbers game.

There are a number of ways viruses can transfer from animals to people – called spillover – and from people back to animals – called spillback. Since monkeypox is most easily spread through direct skin-to-skin contact, it is a bit more difficult to transmit between species than COVID-19, but certainly possible.

The case of the dog in Paris provides a clear example of how cuddling or being close to a pet can spread the virus. Previous studies on poxviruses like monkeypox have shown that they can stay active in fecal matter. This means that there is a risk of wild animals, likely rodents, catching it from human waste.

A grey rat.
There are a number of species that host monkeypox in Africa – like this gambian rat. Monkeypox can spread from humans to many other animals, including dogs and likely cats and other species of rodents. Louisvarley/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

The monkeypox virus is also present in saliva. While more research needs to be done, it is potentially possible that an infected person could discard food that would then be eaten by a rodent.

The chances of any one of these events happening is extremely low. But I and other virologists worry that with more people becoming infected, there is a greater risk that rodents or other animals will come into contact with urine, feces or saliva that is contaminated with the virus.

Finally, there is the risk of people giving monkeypox to a pet, which then passes it on to other animals. One case study in Germany described an outbreak of cowpox that was caused when someone took an infected cat to a veterinary clinic and four other cats were subsequently infected. It is feasible that an infected household pet could spread the virus to wild animals somehow.

How to help

One of the key reasons that the World Health Organization was able to eradicate smallpox is that it only infects people, so there were no animal reservoirs that could re-introduce the virus to human populations.

Monkeypox is zoonotic and already has several animal reservoirs, though these are currently limited to Africa. But if monkeypox escapes into wild animal populations in the U.S., Europe or other locations, there will be always be potential for animals to spread it back to humans. With this in mind, there are a number of things people can do to reduce the risks with regard to animals.

As with any infectious disease, be informed about the signs and symptoms of monkeypox and how it is transmitted. If you suspect you have the virus, contact a doctor and isolate from other people.

As a veterinarian, I strongly encourage anyone with monkeypox to protect your pets. The case in Paris shows that dogs can get infected from contact with their owners, and it is likely that many other species, including cats, are susceptible, too. If you have monkeypox, try to have other people take care of your animals for as long as lesions are present. And if you think your pet has a monkeypox infection, be sure to contact a veterinarian so they can test the lesion and provide care when needed.

Even though monkeypox has been declared a public health emergency, it is unlikely to directly affect most people. Taking precautionary steps can protect you and your pets and will hopefully prevent monkeypox from getting into wildlife in the U.S., too.

Amy Macneill does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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UBC researchers discover ‘weak spot’ across major COVID-19 variants

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have discovered a key vulnerability across all major variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including the…

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Researchers at the University of British Columbia have discovered a key vulnerability across all major variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including the recently emerged BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron subvariants.

Credit: Dr. Sriram Subramaniam, UBC

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have discovered a key vulnerability across all major variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including the recently emerged BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron subvariants.

The weakness can be targeted by neutralizing antibodies, potentially paving the way for treatments that would be universally effective across variants.

The findings, published today in Nature Communications, use cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to reveal the atomic-level structure of the vulnerable spot on the virus’ spike protein, known as an epitope. The paper further describes an antibody fragment called VH Ab6 that is able to attach to this site and neutralize each major variant. 

“This is a highly adaptable virus that has evolved to evade most existing antibody treatments, as well as much of the immunity conferred by vaccines and natural infection,” says Dr. Sriram Subramaniam (he/him), a professor at UBC’s faculty of medicine and the study’s senior author. “This study reveals a weak spot that is largely unchanged across variants and can be neutralized by an antibody fragment. It sets the stage for the design of pan-variant treatments that could potentially help a lot of vulnerable people.”

Identifying COVID-19 master keys

Antibodies are naturally produced by our bodies to fight infection, but can also be made in a laboratory and administered to patients as a treatment. While several antibody treatments have been developed for COVID-19, their effectiveness has waned in the face of highly-mutated variants like Omicron.

“Antibodies attach to a virus in a very specific manner, like a key going into a lock. But when the virus mutates, the key no longer fits,” says Dr. Subramaniam. “We’ve been looking for master keys — antibodies that continue to neutralize the virus even after extensive mutations.”

The ‘master key’ identified in this new paper is the antibody fragment VH Ab6, which was shown to be effective against the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Kappa, Epsilon and Omicron variants. The fragment neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 by attaching to the epitope on the spike protein and blocking the virus from entering human cells.

The discovery is the latest from a longstanding and productive collaboration between Dr. Subramaniam’s team at UBC and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh, led by Drs. Mitko Dimitrov and Wei Li. The team in Pittsburgh has been screening large antibody libraries and testing their effectiveness against COVID-19, while the UBC team has been using cryo-EM to study the molecular structure and characteristics of the spike protein.

Focusing in on COVID-19’s weak points

The UBC team is world-renowned for its expertise in using cryo-EM to visualize protein-protein and protein-antibody interactions at an atomic resolution. In another paper published earlier this year in Science, they were the first to report the structure of the contact zone between the Omicron spike protein and the human cell receptor ACE2, providing a molecular explanation for Omicron’s enhanced viral fitness.

By mapping the molecular structure of each spike protein, the team has been searching for areas of vulnerability that could inform new treatments.

“The epitope we describe in this paper is mostly removed from the hot spots for mutations, which is why it’s capabilities are preserved across variants,” says Dr. Subramaniam. “Now that we’ve described the structure of this site in detail, it unlocks a whole new realm of treatment possibilities.”

Dr. Subramaniam says this key vulnerability can now be exploited by drug makers, and because the site is relatively mutation-free, the resulting treatments could be effective against existing—and even future—variants.

“We now have a very clear picture of this vulnerable spot on the virus. We know every interaction the spike protein makes with the antibody at this site. We can work backwards from this, using intelligent design, to develop a slew of antibody treatments,” says Dr. Subramaniam. “Having broadly effective, variant-resistant treatments would be a game changer in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.”


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German Official Trashes Cost Of Living Protesters As “Enemies Of The State”

German Official Trashes Cost Of Living Protesters As "Enemies Of The State"

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

A top German…

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German Official Trashes Cost Of Living Protesters As "Enemies Of The State"

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

A top German official has trashed people who may be planning to protest against energy blackouts as “enemies of the state” and “extremists” who want to overthrow the government.

The interior minister of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Herbert Reul (CDU), says that anti-mandatory vaxx and anti-lockdown demonstrators have found a new cause – the energy crisis.

In an interview with German news outlet NT, Reul revealed that German security services were keeping an eye on “extremists” who plan to infiltrate the protests and stage violence, with the unrest being planned via the Telegram messenger app, which German authorities have previously tried to ban.

“You can already tell from those who are out there,” said Reul. “The protesters no longer talk about coronavirus or vaccination. But they are now misusing people’s worries and fears in other fields. (…) It’s almost something like new enemies of the state that are establishing themselves.”

Despite the very real threat of potential blackouts, power grid failures and gas shortages, Reul claimed such issues were feeding “conspiracy theory narratives.”

However, it’s no “conspiracy theory” that Germans across the country have been panic buying stoves, firewood and electric heaters as the government tells them thermostats will be limited to 19C in public buildings and that sports arenas and exhibition halls will be used as ‘warm up spaces’ this winter to help freezing citizens who are unable to afford skyrocketing energy bills.

As Remix News reports, blaming right-wing conspiracy theorists for a crisis caused by Germany’s sanctions on Russia and is suicidal dependence on green energy is pretty rich.

“Reul, like the country’s federal interior minister, Nancy Faeser, is attempting to tie right-wing ideology and protests against Covid-19 policies to any potential protests in the winter.”

“While some on the right, such as the Alternative for Germany (AfD), have stressed that the government’s sanctions against Russia are the primary factor driving the current energy crisis, they have not advocated an “overthrow” of the government. Instead, they have stressed the need to restart the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, end energy sanctions against Russia, and push for a peaceful solution to end the war.”

Indeed, energy shortages and the cost of living crisis are issues that are of major concern to everyone, no matter where they are on the political spectrum.

To claim that people worried about heating their homes and putting food on the table this winter are all “enemies of the state” is an utter outrage.

As we highlighted last week, the president of the Thuringian Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Stephan Kramer, said energy crisis riots would make anti-lockdown unrest look like a “children’s birthday party.”

“Mass protests and riots are just as conceivable as concrete acts of violence against things and people, as well as classic terrorism to overthrow it,” Kramer told ZDF.

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Tyler Durden Thu, 08/18/2022 - 03:30

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