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India Is Now Investing More in Solar Than Coal

Energy
A solar power plant in the state of Telangana, India. Thomas Lloyd Group / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

India needs power. Good thing it's moving away from coal and honoring its commitment to use renewables. And now, for the first time, India's 2018 investment in solar power outpaced coal, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.


India is home to the world's second largest population and uses more and more power as it grows in size and wealth. It's also the third largest national contributor to greenhouse gasses, after China and the U.S. So what happens in India matters on a global scale, making its recent investments in renewable energy noteworthy.

According to the report, India's switch to renewables is due to a combination of policy and the rapidly decreasing costs of bringing solar power online, the Independent reports.

"There has been a very big step change in terms of the shift in investments in India in just the past three years," Michael Waldron, an author of the report, told Inside Climate News. "But, there are a number of risks around whether this shift can be continued and be sustained over time."

It's not all rosy in India's future. Coal is still king and India's investment in it remains strong. In fact, 74 percent of the country's energy use last year came from coal-fired plants and its spending on coal does continue to increase, according to The Independent.


How the future will look remains murky. Oil giant BP predicts that demand for coal will nearly double over the next 20 years. In contrast, the International Energy Agency reports that coal fired energy will decline from 74 percent to 57 percent of the country's energy use. The IEA also says that more aggressive policies could reduce coal power to as little as 7 percent of India's energy source by 2040, according to Inside Climate News.

India's aggressive investments in renewables have it well positioned to meet and possibly exceed its Paris climate agreement commitments to bring 175 gigawatts of renewable energy online by 2022, The Independent Reports.

The move towards renewables also makes financial sense for India as its able to reduce its trade deficits and dependence on foreign energy sources, which was recently exacerbated when the U.S. forced India to stop buying Iranian crude oil, as Oil Price reports.

"There is a realization that renewables are quicker, cleaner, cheaper and also strategically in India's interest because of energy security; it just makes financial sense to invest in renewables," said Sameer Kwatra, a climate change and energy policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, as Inside Climate News reports.

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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

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SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.