from the world's big
These countries are leading the transition to sustainable energy
Sweden tops the ranking for the third year in a row.
What does COVID-19 mean for the energy transition? While lockdowns have caused a temporary fall in CO2 emissions, the pandemic risks derailing recent progress in addressing the world's energy challenges.
The current state of the sector is described in the World Economic Forum's Energy Transition Index 2020. It benchmarks the energy systems of 115 economies, highlighting the leading players in the race to net-zero emissions, as well as those with work to do.
With pressure to get idle economies back to “normal", the short-term shift to a more sustainable energy sector could be in doubt. But the current crisis also presents an opportunity to rethink how our energy needs are met, and consider the long-term impact on the planet.
The past decade has seen rapid transformations as countries move towards clean energy generation, supply and consumption. Coal-fired power plants have been retired, as reliance on natural gas and emissions-free renewable energy sources increases. Incremental gains have been made from carbon pricing initiatives.
Since 2015, 94 of 115 countries have improved their combined score on the Energy Translation Index (ETI), which analyzes each country's readiness to adopt clean energy using three criteria: energy access and security; environmental sustainability; and economic development and growth.
But the degree of change and the timetable for reaching net-zero emissions differ greatly between countries, and taken as a whole, today's advances are insufficient to meet the climate targets set by the Paris Agreement.
WEF Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2020 edition
The 10 countries most prepared for the energy transition
Sweden tops the overall ETI ranking for the third consecutive year as the country most ready to transition to clean energy, followed by Switzerland and Finland. There has been little change in the top 10 since the last report, which demonstrates the energy stability of these developed nations, although the gap with the lowest-ranked countries is closing.
Top-ranked countries share a reduced reliance on imported energy, lower energy subsidies and a strong political commitment to transforming their energy sector to meet climate targets.
The UK and France are the only two G20 economies in the top 10 however, which is otherwise made up of smaller nations.
Powerful shocks Outside the top 10, progress has been modest in Germany. Ranked 20th, the country has committed to phasing out coal-fired power plants and moving industrial output to cleaner fuels such as hydrogen, but making energy services affordable remains a struggle.
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
China currently has the world's largest solar PV capacity
China, ranked 78th, has made strong advances in controlling CO2 emissions by switching to electric vehicles and investing heavily in solar and wind energy - it currently has the world's largest solar PV and onshore wind capacity. Alongside China, countries including Argentina, India and Italy have shown consistent strong improvements every year. Gains over time have also been recorded by Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Kenya and Oman, among others.
But high energy-consuming countries including the US, Canada and Brazil show little, if any, progress towards an energy transition.
In the US (ranked 32nd), moves to establish a more sustainable energy sector have been hampered by policy decisions. Neighbouring Canada grapples with the conflicting demands of a growing economy and the need to decarbonize the energy sector.
The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a reminder of the impact of external shocks on the global economy. As climate change increases the likelihood of weather extremes such as floods, droughts and violent storms, the need for more sustainable energy practices is intensified.
Policy-makers need to develop a robust framework for energy transition at local, national and international levels, capable of guarding against such shocks.
"The coronavirus pandemic offers an opportunity to consider unorthodox intervention in the energy markets, and global collaboration to support a recovery that accelerates the energy transition once the acute crisis subsides," says Roberto Bocca, Head of Energy & Materials at the World Economic Forum.
"This giant reset grants us the option to launch aggressive, forward-thinking and long-term strategies leading to a diversified, secure and reliable energy system that will ultimately support the future growth of the world economy in a sustainable and equitable way."
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- 10 ways cities are tackling the global affordable housing crisis ... ›
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.
- Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
- Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
- It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
A (brief) bloody history<p>Our ancestors understood little about blood. Even the most basic of blood knowledge — blood inside the body is good, blood outside is not ideal, too much blood outside is cause for concern — escaped humanity's grasp for an embarrassing number of centuries.</p><p>Absence this knowledge, our ancestors devised less-than-scientific theories as to what blood was, theories that varied wildly across time and culture. To pick just one, the physicians of Shakespeare's day believed blood to be one of four bodily fluids or "humors" (the others being black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm).</p><p>Handed down from ancient Greek physicians, <a href="https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/shakespeare/fourhumors.html" target="_blank">humorism</a> stated that these bodily fluids determined someone's personality. Blood was considered hot and moist, resulting in a sanguine temperament. The more blood people had in their systems, the more passionate, charismatic, and impulsive they would be. Teenagers were considered to have a <a href="https://wellcomecollection.org/articles/the-humours-in-shakespeare/" target="_blank">natural abundance of blood</a>, and men had more than women.</p><p>Humorism lead to all sorts of poor medical advice. Most famously, Galen of Pergamum used it as the basis for his prescription of bloodletting. Sporting a "when in doubt, let it out" mentality, <a href="https://www.bcmj.org/premise/history-bloodletting" target="_blank">Galen declared blood the dominant humor</a>, and bloodletting an excellent way to balance the body. Blood's relation to heat also made it a go-to for fever reduction.</p><p>While bloodletting remained common until well into the 19th century, William Harvey's discovery of the circulation of blood in 1628 would put medicine on its path to modern hematology.</p><p>Soon after Harvey's discovery, the earliest blood transfusions were attempted, but it wasn't until 1665 that <a href="https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/blood-donation-process/what-happens-to-donated-blood/blood-transfusions/history-blood-transfusion.html" target="_blank">first successful transfusion</a> was performed by British physician Richard Lower. Lower's operation was between dogs, and his success prompted physicians like Jean-Baptiste Denis to try to transfuse blood from animals to humans, a process called <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17489860" target="_blank">xenotransfusion</a>. The death of human patients ultimately led to the practice being outlawed.4</p><p>The first successful human-to-human transfusion wouldn't be performed until 1818, when British obstetrician James Blundell managed it to treat postpartum hemorrhage. But even with a proven technique in place, in the following decades many blood-transfusion patients continued to die mysteriously.</p><p>Enter<a href="https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1930/landsteiner-bio.html" target="_blank"> Austrian physician Karl Landsteiner</a>. In 1901 he began his work to classify blood groups. Exploring the work of Leonard Landois — the physiologist who showed that when the red blood cells of one animal are introduced to a different animal's, they clump together — Landsteiner thought a similar reaction may occur in intra-human transfusions, which would explain why transfusion success was so spotty. In 1909, he classified the A, B, AB, and O blood groups, and for his work he received the 1930 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.</p>
What causes blood types?<p>It took us a while to grasp the intricacies of blood, but today, we know that this life-sustaining substance consists of:</p><ul><li><a href="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=34&ContentTypeID=160" target="_blank">Red blood cells</a> — cells that carry oxygen and remove carbon dioxide throughout the body;</li><li>White blood cells — immune cells that protect the body against infection and foreign agents;</li><li>Platelets — cells that help blood clot; and</li><li><a href="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=160&ContentID=37" target="_blank">Plasma </a>— a liquid that carries salts and enzymes.6,7</li></ul><p>Each component has a part to play in blood's function, but the red blood cells are responsible for our differing blood types. These cells have proteins* covering their surface called antigens, and the presence or absence of particular antigens determines blood type — type A blood has only A antigens, type B only B, type AB both, and type O neither. Red blood cells sport another antigen called the RhD protein. When it is present, a <a href="https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/types-of-blood-donations/blood-types.html" target="_blank">blood type</a> is said to be positive; when it is absent, it is said to be negative. The typical combinations of A, B, and RhD antigens give us the eight common blood types (A+, A-, B+, B-, AB+, AB-, O+, and O-).</p><p><a href="https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/genefamily/bloodgroupantigens" target="_blank">Blood antigen proteins</a> play a variety of cellular roles, but recognizing foreign cells in the blood is the most important for this discussion.</p><p>Think of antigens as backstage passes to the bloodstream, while our immune system is the doorman. If the immune system recognizes an antigen, it lets the cell pass. If it does not recognize an antigen, it initiates the body's defense systems and destroys the invader. So, a very aggressive doorman.</p><p>While our immune systems are thorough, they are not too bright. If a person with type A blood receives a transfusion of type B blood, the immune system won't recognize the new substance as a life-saving necessity. Instead, it will consider the red blood cells invaders and attack. This is why so many people either grew ill or died during transfusions before Landsteiner's brilliant discovery.</p><p>This is also why people with O negative blood are considered "<a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/blood-transfusion/expert-answers/universal-blood-donor-type/faq-20058229" target="_blank">universal donors</a>." Since their red blood cells lack A, B, and RhD antigens, immune systems don't have a way to recognize these cells as foreign and so leaves them well enough alone.</p>
How is Rh-null the rarest blood type?<p>Let's return to golden blood. In truth, the eight common blood types are an oversimplification of how blood types actually work. As<a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/your-blood-type-lot-more-complicated-you-think-180951669/?no-ist" target="_blank"> <em>Smithsonian.com </em>points out</a>, "[e]ach of these eight types can be subdivided into many distinct varieties," resulting in millions of different blood types, each classified on a multitude of antigens combinations.</p><p>Here is where things get tricky. The RhD protein previously mentioned only refers to one of 61 potential proteins in the Rh system. Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system. This not only makes it rare, but this also means it can be accepted by anyone with a <a href="https://www.foxnews.com/health/having-the-golden-blood-can-be-dangerous" target="_blank">rare blood type within the Rh system</a>.</p><p>This is why it is considered "golden blood." It is worth its weight in gold.</p><p>As <em>Mosaic</em> reports, golden blood is incredibly important to medicine, but also very dangerous to live with. If a Rh-null carrier needs a blood transfusion, they can find it difficult to locate a donor, and blood is notoriously difficult to transport internationally. Rh-null carriers are encouraged to donate blood as insurance for themselves, but with so few donors spread out over the world and limits on how often they can donate, this can also put an altruistic burden on those select few who agree to donate for others.</p>
Some bloody good questions about blood types<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODY5NzA1NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTQ2NzIxM30.rxlFylgiyo13WzY2IIsob2G5F2Y-zXiPYcEXUrg_qoY/img.jpg?width=980" id="5fbc0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="290549c29fe31723b4bd70b0624bcb2e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Nurse drawing blood from patient" />
A nurse takes blood samples from a pregnant woman at the North Hospital (Hopital Nord) in Marseille, southern France.
Photo by BERTRAND LANGLOIS / AFP<p>There remain many mysteries regarding blood types. For example, we still don't know why humans evolved the A and B antigens.<a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-people-have-differ/" target="_blank"> Some theories</a> point to these antigens as a byproduct of the diseases various populations contacted throughout history. But we can't say for sure.</p><p>In this absence of knowledge, various myths and questions have grown around the concept of blood types in the popular consciousness. Here are some of the most common and their answers.</p><p><em><strong>Do blood types affect personality?</strong></em></p><p>Japan's<a href="https://japantoday.com/category/features/lifestyle/the-importance-of-blood-type-in-japanese-culture" target="_blank"> blood type personality theory</a> is a contemporary resurrection of humorism. The idea states that your blood type directly affects your personality, so type A blood carriers are kind and fastidious, while type B carriers are optimistic and do their own thing. However,<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886902001010" target="_blank"> a 2003 study</a> sampling 180 men and 180 women found no relationship between blood type and personality. </p><p>The theory makes for a fun question on a <em>Cosmopolitan</em> quiz, but that's as accurate as it gets.</p><p><em><strong>Should you alter your diet based on your blood type?</strong></em></p><p>Remember Galen of Pergamon? In addition to bloodletting, he also prescribed his patients to eat certain foods depending on which humors needed to be balanced. Wine, for example, was considered a hot and dry drink, so it would be prescribed to treat a cold. In other words, belief that your diet should complement your blood type is yet another holdover of humorism theory.</p><p>Created by Peter J. D'Adamo, the Blood Type Diet argues that one's diet should match one's blood type. Type A carriers should eat a meat-free diet of whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables; type B carriers should eat green vegetables, certain meats, and low-fat dairy; and so on.</p><p>However, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140115172246.htm" target="_blank">a study from the University of Toronto</a> analyzed the data from 1,455 participants and found no evidence to support the theory. While people can lose weight and become healthier on the diet, it probably has more to do with eating all those leafy greens than blood type.</p><p><strong><em>Are there links between blood types and certain diseases</em>?</strong></p><p>There is evidence to suggest that different blood types may increase the risk of certain diseases. <a href="https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20120814/blood-type-may-impact-heart-risk" target="_blank">One analysis</a> suggested that type O blood decreases the risk of having a stroke or heart attack, while AB blood appears to increase it. With that said, <a href="https://obi.org/blood-donation/scientific-facts/" target="_blank">type O carriers</a> have a greater chance of developing peptic ulcers and skin cancer.</p><p>None of this is to say that your blood type will foredoom your medical future. Many factors, such as diet and exercise, hold influence over your health and likely to a greater extent than blood type.</p><p><strong><em>What is the most common blood type?</em></strong></p><p>In the United States, the <a href="http://www.lancastergeneralhealth.org/LGH/Our-Services/Blood-Bank/About-Us/Blood-Type-Frequency.aspx" target="_blank">most common blood type</a> is O+. Roughly one in three people sports this type of blood. Of the eight well-known blood types, the least common is AB-. Only one in 167 people in the U.S. have it.</p><p><strong><em>Do animals have blood types?</em></strong></p><p>They most certainly do, but they are not the same as ours. This difference is why those 17<sup>th</sup>-century patients who thought, "Animal blood, now that's the ticket!" ultimately had their tickets punched. In fact, blood types are distinct between species. Unhelpfully, scientists sometimes use the same nomenclature to describe these different types. <a href="https://animals.howstuffworks.com/animal-facts/do-animals-have-different-blood-types.htm" target="_blank">Cats</a>, for example, have A and B antigens, but these are not the same A and B antigens found in humans.</p><p>Interestingly, xenotransfusion is making a comeback. Scientists are working to genetically engineer the blood of pigs to potentially produce <a href="https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/01/25/ape-human-pig-human-blood-donations-xenotransfusions-work/" target="_blank">human compatible blood</a>.</p><p>Scientists are also looking into creating <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/synthetic-blood-is-about-to-go-through-human-trials_us_58ee654be4b0a3bddb60a645" target="_blank">synthetic blood</a>. If they succeed, they may be able to ease the <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/07/27/blood-donation-amazon-gift-card-american-red-cross/849582002/" target="_blank">current blood shortage</a>, while also devising a way to create blood for rare blood type carriers. While this may make golden blood less golden, it would certainly make it easier to live with.</p> * While antigens are typically proteins, they can be other molecules as well, such as polysaccharides.
Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.
Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.
Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.
- Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
- A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
- Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.