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Thursday briefing: Stick to 1.5C goal, top scientists tell leaders

·10 min read
<span>Photograph: Alberto Diaz/AP</span>
Photograph: Alberto Diaz/AP

Top story: ‘Vicious cycle – warming, fires, more CO2’

Hello and welcome once again to the Guardian morning briefing with me, Warren Murray.

Chief scientists and presidents of national science academies of more than 20 countries have written to world leaders ahead of the Cop26 climate summit, urging them to set out measures to slash greenhouse gas emissions and limit global heating to 1.5C. This is still possible, they say, but requires drastic emissions cuts in the next 10 years as well as a long-term goal of net zero carbon. Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, said: “It needs action now … A clear roadmap is needed.”

Their intervention comes with world leaders days away from converging in Glasgow for the biggest climate conference since the 2015 Paris agreement was signed. Unesco is warning that forests in at least 10 of its world heritage sites have become net sources of carbon due to wildfires, deforestation and global heating. Tales Carvalho Resende from Unesco said: “It’s a vicious cycle. With global warming, you have more fires. With more fires, there’s more CO2. More CO2 means temperatures continue to increase.”

* * *

Brexit worse than Covid – Brexit is having a worse impact on the economy than the Covid pandemic, the Office for Budget Responsibility has this morning in its post-budget assessment. Rishi Sunak intends to cut taxes before the next general election after limiting his budget help to deal with a winter cost of living crisis in order to start building up a war chest for the next election. Hours after delivering his third budget speech, Sunak told backbenchers that “going forward every marginal pound we have should be put into lowering people’s taxes, not more spending”. The chancellor sought to ease tensions with Boris Johnson by increasing spending for all government departments for the next three years and major reforms to alcohol taxation that will cut the cost of drinking. Use our budget calculator to see how you will fare.

Campaigners say millions of struggling low-income households will not benefit from the “tax cut for the low paid”. The reduction from 63p in the pound to 55p in the universal credit taper rate was intended to soften the blow of withdrawing the £20-a-week universal credit uplift. Sunak also announced a £500 boost to the work allowance and confirmed a 6.6% rise in the “national living wage” to £9.50 an hour. The retail industry is the UK’s biggest private sector employer and this morning figures from across the industry give their verdict on the budget. The budget has been criticised by environmental groups for a lack of new green measures ahead of next week’s UN Cop26 conference.

* * *

Arrests after multiple stabbings – Five men were arrested in Norwich late yesterday after four men were found with stab wounds. The victims – two in a critical condition – were taken to the Norfolk and Norwich university hospital. Norfolk constabulary said they were called to a property in Hemming Way shortly after 5pm. Officers found a wounded man in his 20s inside, then three more on Marriott’s Way. Police cordons were put in place. Officers were treating the stabbings as an isolated incident posing no wider threat to the public.

* * *

‘Now they are spiking us with needles’ – Huge crowds of people across the UK took to the streets on Wednesday night, boycotting nightclubs in protests against a sharp rise in spiking cases. There were demonstrations in more than 40 university towns and cities, from St Andrews in Scotland to Brighton on the south coast of England. Opening the Manchester demonstration, Lucy Nichols, 21, declared: “Every single woman here will have a story about them or one of their friends being spiked.

Protest in Manchester in response to drink spiking.
Protest in Manchester in response to drink spiking. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

“Now we can’t even do the age-old trick of covering up our drinks, because they are spiking us with needles now too.” Figures released on Wednesday reveal 56 incidents of spiking by injection were recorded by police in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in September and October, in addition to 198 confirmed reports of drink spiking. Further protests and boycotts are planned in the next 10 days, including in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff and London.

* * *

Theatre returns – A big night out in the Roman settlement at Richborough about 2,000 years ago might have involved gladiatorial contests, wild beast hunting or execution of a criminal. Archaeologists excavating the site on the Kent coast have over recent weeks unearthed more of a vast amphitheatre, capable of seating up to 5,000 people. Among the discoveries is a skeleton of a cat, nicknamed Maxipus by the excavation team, which was buried in an area of domestic settlement and is believed to have been a pet.

Other finds include a small “carcer”, or cell with a doorway, that was probably used to hold wild animals and people before being released into the arena. The remains are close to one of the most important Roman historical sites in England, dating from the Romans’ invasion in AD43 to the end of their rule in about 410.

Today in Focus podcast: The fightback against spiking

A flurry of reports of students who fear they have been targeted in nightclubs has prompted social media outrage. Now the young women behind the Girls Night In campaign want to turn that anger into lasting change.

Lunchtime read: ‘Scared I’ve left it too late’

We typically associate the so-called biological clock with women, but, thanks to a wider commodification of men’s health anxieties – hair transplants, apps offering drugs for erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation – the male biological clock is becoming ever more relevant. It’s not surprising that men are anxious: over the last few years there have been a spate of stories about the decline in sperm count, often linked to trends like cycling or skinny jeans.

A number of sperm-freezing tech startups backed by venture capitalists have responded to the growing anxiety. And then there are the at-home testing kits to analyse sperm quality and motility. Children born to men aged 45 and above have a higher risk of premature birth, seizures, low birth weight and being admitted to neonatal intensive care. There is also data linking an increased risk of autism. As Sirin Kale finds out, when it comes to their prospects of fatherhood, men do have plenty to worry about – and they are starting to speak up.


Despite speculation that he has already been sent home from the T20 World Cup for refusing to take a knee before their match against West Indies on Tuesday, Quinton de Kock remains with South Africa’s squad in the United Arab Emirates. Ronald Koeman’s underwhelming spell as the Barcelona manager came to an abrupt end on Wednesday night after he was sacked following a 1-0 defeat at Rayo Vallecano. After five years of utter dominance, Manchester City’s hold on the Carabao Cup ended in a penalty shootout defeat as West Ham booked their place in the last eight. Liverpool also moved into the quarter-finals with a 2-0 win over Preston North End at Deepdale, while Lucas Moura sent a spluttering Tottenham through against the equally misfiring Burnley.

Josh Cavallo, the Adelaide United player, has received widespread support after becoming the first openly gay man playing top-flight football anywhere in the world in a move that is hoped will break down barriers. As Emma Raducanu prepares for her second round at the Transylvania Open, her opponent, Ana Bogdan, says that her US Open victory has been an inspirational example to the lower‑ranked players on the WTA tour. Two days after he defeated the world No 10, Hubert Hurkacz, Andy Murray was unable to advance further into the draw at the Erste Bank Open. Modern-day rugby league players are in just as much danger of developing serious neurological injuries as a result of playing the game as the group of former internationals that intend to take legal action against the Rugby Football League, the lawyer leading the case has warned. And Scotland’s top order was blown away again in a devastating first-over blitz by the Namibia pace bowler Ruben Trumpelmann as they slipped to a four-wicket defeat at the T20 World Cup.


More than a third of Chinese property developers risk running into serious financial difficulties in the next 12 months according to a stark warning from S&P. Even if the embattled giant Evergrande avoids default again tomorrow, analysts at the credit agency say China’s bloated housing market is heading for an “unusually intense” downturn. “Defaults will rise as firms enter a prolonged down cycle,” they say. Concerns about Evergrande helped to subdue Asian market overnight but the FTSE100 is on track to lift slightly at 8am. The pound is on $1.375 and €1.184.

The papers

Given the budget we have a separate round-up of the front pages today – as per usual a summary follows. The Guardian describes Sunak’s post-Covid plan as “spend now, cut taxes later” with the intention to cut taxes before the next general election. The paper also notes Sunak has been criticised for a lack of “green measures” ahead of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow. The Telegraph has a photo of Boris Johnson and Sunak at the pub in reference to the chancellor’s promised beer duty cuts. “Hey, big spenders,” the headline reads, and the newspaper reports that: “Sunak takes spending to highest levels since 1970s as he declares Tories ‘the party of public services’.”

The i also refers to the chancellor as a “big spender” who is taking Britain’s tax burden back to the 1950s. The Times calls it “Sunak’s spending spree” with an extra £150bn announced for public services, paid for by better-than-expected economic growth and tax rises. The Financial Times says the chancellor “backs Johnson on spending” to “pump more money into public services”. The paper also says “Fizzy Rishi plays party politics with a cut in the price of bubbly” in a follow-up story beneath.

The Daily Mail leads with a picture of Sunak and Johnson wrestling with a pair of beer kegs, with the headline below reading: “The drinks are on us!” But it also issues a warning for the chancellor: “Keep your tax cut vow”. The Metro’s headline “Cheers Rishi” references the paper’s opening line that Sunak rolled out of the “biggest cut in beer tax for 50 years” as well as a £150bn “public services binge”. The Daily Express also says “cheers” and praises the chancellor for his “moral” mission to cut taxes and efforts to “reduce the role of the state in people’s lives” with a “defining budget for the nation’s future”. The Mirror has a decidedly different and more serious take: “Champagne for rich … real pain for poor.” It says: “Rishi Sunak today condemned millions of poor people to more misery with a budget that failed to tackle the cost of living crisis.” The Sun fits Sunak’s “£150bn budget spree” into the top right corner but dedicates its entire front page to an Ed Sheeran story.

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