The Real Drivers of a Low Carbon Future: China and India
Even the normally cautious Guardian enthused about the signal of global seriousness about climate change evidenced by a record 170 nations signing the Paris accord on a single day and emerging hopes that enough nations might ratify by the end of this year to bring the accord into legal effect four years earlier than originally anticipated. The paper summed up that the signatories had "declared an end to the fossil fuel era," quoting French President Francois Hollande's pledge that "there is no turning back." But the paper ran a simultaneous article signaling the remaining gap between Paris pledges and climate sustainability.
What has not been fully appreciated is the uneven patchiness of global progress in the wake of Paris. The EU, historically the leader globally, was the one major emitter uncertain if it could ratify by the end of 2016, citing its complex multi-national processes, while the U.S., China and India all signaled their commitment to ratification by December. (One of the cited reasons for the urgency, to prevent a possible President Trump from backing out of the Paris agreement, is sadly risible. Trump has signaled his intention of walking away from far more deeply ingrained treaty obligations than those imposed in Paris and in the unlikely event he takes the White House, the impact on the global economy will, in the short term, likely drive emissions down drastically. Meanwhile the major drivers of U.S. compliance with Paris, collapsing U.S. reliance on coal electricity and steadily stronger fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, will be almost impossible for even Trump to reverse).
But the real drivers of a low carbon future appear to be China and India. In the barely three months since Paris both countries have launched a staggering set of initiatives to cut their emission trajectories. China has imposed a floor price of $40/barrel on oil, signaled an intent to cancel 90 percent of the new coal plants awaiting approval, suspended approvals of new coal mines and mandated phase outs of 500 million tons of existing mining operations, cut coal consumption and emissions for the second year in a row. It has now committed to cutting the carbon dependence of its 2020 economy 50 percent below 2005 levels. Its State Grid company has floated a plan for a global renewable energy grid to phase out reliance on fossil fuels, connecting wind power from the North Pole with solar arrays in the Sahara to power human communities in the latitudes in between.
India too has moved aggressively, accelerating vehicle emission standards, assigning next steps on its aggressive renewable energy targets, increasing the tax on coal carbon eight fold and setting tough standards for pollution from coal power plants.
But sweltering in Delhi's hottest April in 5 years, after a national heat wave which has killed hundreds of people across the country with temperatures peaking at 117 degrees a full month before the arrival of the hot season, it's clear that there is no stand-alone climate solution—or conversation—in the developing world.
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At the same time that heat kills, air pollution remains at staggeringly dangerous levels. Delhi has imposed odd-even restrictions permitting each car to be driven every other day. To replace the lost mobility app driven, Uber style private buses are being pressed into service, along with electric three wheeler rickshaws, but these meet only a fraction of the need. Car owners are rapidly learning to make more intense use of those vehicles which are on the road each day, so the benefits of the odd-even system are eroding rapidly, as they have when other nations have tried the tactic. India has accelerated the requirements for tougher emission standards for vehicles as part of its Post-Paris action plan, but the clean fuel that would enable further progress is not expected to be nationally available until 2020, so there is no quick fix.
Water is running out all over the country, with the city of Latur becoming a poster-child. Pictures of women climbing down into wells to fill buckets emblemize the crisis. But Latur's problem is only partly drought caused—the city shut off its municipal supply months ago because half of the water was leaking out of the pipes Lack of investment in infrastructure by cities that lack taxing authority is the other piece. India can't cope with climate without urban home rule—nowhere on the horizon (although constitutionally mandated).
The Modi government's Paris pledge—175 GW of renewable power by 2022—was staggeringly ambitious and the government has taken rapid steps to try to accelerate deployment and meet the goal. 2016 set a record for new renewable power brought on line, but the bankruptcy of Sun Edison, a U.S. solar developer that was a major player in the Indian market, has cast a shadow on the flow of investment dollars into the sector. The 40 percent of India's solar development that needs to occur on roof-tops—because there is not enough vacant land for utility scale solar farms—is not growing nearly rapidly enough to meet the targets. Nor has the international community provided the kind of lending liquidity that will be required for India—and other emerging economies—to build clean energy at the scale they promised in Paris.
Meanwhile, President Obama has credibly moved forward on the primary elements of his Paris pledge—cleaning up emissions from the power sector, mandating better performance from cars and trucks and now, in partnership with Canada, confronting methane emissions from oil and gas extraction. But there is no viable U.S. vision of how to move from the 28 percent emission cuts pledged in Paris to the 80 percent 2050 cuts promised by Obama at the beginning of his term. The EU seems largely, frozen by its other crises. Even in the wake of the VW crisis it is reluctant to give up its dependence on the diesel as a half-way climate solution. And Japan is falling back on more coal, defying global trends toward cleaner energy. So three months after Paris we have ambitious but very difficult transformational efforts in China and India, inadequate incrementalism at best in the advanced economies and a lack of global mechanisms to help the rest of the emerging world find a low carbon development pathway.
This is all still staggeringly more hopeful than things looked two years ago—but I suspect that we are only beginning to uncover the complexity of global sustainability in a world of 7 billion aspiring consumers, even as that world grasps that there is opportunity, not just sacrifice, at stake.
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By Zahida Sherman
Cooking has always intimidated me. As a child, I would anxiously peer into the kitchen as my mother prepared Christmas dinner for our family.
Falling in Love With Food All Over Again<p>Slowly, through my most intimate relationships with friends and partners, I began to see the beauty — and rewards — of cooking.</p><p>I got tired of giving in to defeat and always bringing chips or paper products to social gatherings. I started asking my mom to send me her Christmas and Thanksgiving recipes. I even volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner at my place.</p><p>Each time I heard my loved ones sing the praises of the foods I prepared for them, I felt a tinge more confident that I could carry out our traditions my way.</p><p>In reaching out to other relatives for their favorite recipes, I learned that they had a little help of their own. They didn't rely solely on their ancestral cooking instincts. They turned to Black chefs for guidance.</p><p>These 7 cookbooks by Black chefs have inspired my family and fed us in nutrients, joy, and spiritual sustenance. They're also helping me overcome my personal fears of cooking.</p>
Get CookingWhether you're in recovery from cooking fears like me, or are just looking to expand your culinary confidence with dishes honoring Black heritage, these Black chefs are here to support you on your journey.Turn on some music, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and throw down for yourself or your loved ones. Glorious flavors await you.
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By Tara Lohan
The conclusion to decades of work to remove a dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River east of Bellingham, Washington began with a bang yesterday as crews breached the dam with a carefully planned detonation. This explosive denouement is also a beginning.
The History<p>The Middle Fork Nooksack drains glacier-fed headwater streams that run off the icy summit of 10,778-foot Mt. Baker. The Middle Fork joins the North Fork and then the mainstem of the Nooksack River, which travels to Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound. The entire Nooksack watershed stretches 830 square miles across Washington and into British Columbia.</p>
A Plan Comes Together<p>The Middle Fork dam is not a pool dam built for water storage. Much of the time, water flows over the top until dam operators drop a floodgate to divert water to new locations. That water travels about 14 miles through tunnel and pipeline to Mirror Lake, then Anderson Creek, and to Lake Whatcom before finally being delivered to residents' taps.</p><p>Before removing the dam, engineers had to move the water intake 700 feet upstream and situate it at an elevation that still enabled city water withdrawals throughout the year, regardless of flow conditions.</p><p>They also needed to make sure that the rushing water didn't sweep up fish and accidentally send them through the water-supply system.</p><p>"The solution required a fairly complex design in the intake structure, including a fish exit pipe out of that structure to put fish back into the river in a way that meets current environmental permit standards," explains LaCroix.</p>
Project layout for the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack diversion dam and rebuilding of water intake. City of Bellingham<p>Despite the cost and the work, she says, being able to continue to meet their municipal water obligations while opening up habitat for threatened species has been a win-win.</p><p>"I think there's a lot of benefits to having a dam removal versus fish passage — the main one being that you get a free-flowing river that can be a dynamic ecosystem and change over time," she says. "A static fish ladder just can't provide that same level of ecosystem benefit."</p>
Restoration Success<p>Despite local authorities' championing dam removal on the Middle Fork, the project has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed in the Pacific Northwest by heated discussions about a much larger potential project — removing <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/feds-reject-removal-of-4-snake-river-dams-in-key-report/" target="_blank">four federal hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River</a>, a major tributary of the Columbia River.</p><p>Proponents of dam removal there see it as the best chance for recovering threatened salmon populations, including Chinook, which could help starving Southern Resident killer whales. Those dams also provide irrigation water, barge navigation and hydropower, so there's been more pushback against removal efforts.</p><p>Previous dam removals around the country, however, have proved successful at aiding fish recovery and river restoration.</p><p>Most notably the 1999 demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/edwards-dam-removal/" target="_blank">Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec River</a> restored the annual run of alewives, a type of herring essential to the food web. The fish run has gone from zero to 5 million in the two decades since dam removal. Blueback herring, striped bass, sturgeon and shad have also extended their reach. And the resurgence has brought back osprey, bald eagles and other wildlife, too.</p><p>The overwhelming success of river restoration on the Kennebec helped to spur a nationwide dam removal movement that's now seen 1,200 dams come down since 1999. Last year a record <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/conservation-resource/a-record-26-states-removed-dams-in-2019/" target="_blank">90 dams</a> were removed in 26 states, including <a href="https://therevelator.org/cleveland-forest-dam-removal/" target="_blank">20 dams in California's Cleveland National Forest</a>.</p>
Spider excavators remove on dam on San Juan Creek in California's Cleveland National Forest. Julie Donnell, USFS<p>The results have been seen in the Pacific Northwest, as well, which boasts the largest dam removal thus far in the country. In 2011 and 2014, the demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/elwha-dam-removal/" target="_blank">two dams</a> on Elwha River, which runs through Washington's Olympic National Park, opened up 70 miles of habitat that had been blocked for a century. Scientists have started seeing all five species of salmon native to the river coming back, particularly Chinook and coho. Bull trout, they've observed, have increased in size since the dams were removal.</p>
Benefits on the Middle Fork Nooksack<p>McEwan hopes to see a similar outcome on the Middle Fork.</p><p>Like the Elwha the Middle Fork Nooksack is a relatively pristine river with little development, and dam removal is expected to provide a big boost to fish. The additional miles of spawning habitat are important, but so is the temperature of that water.</p><p>The dam removal will open access to cold upstream waters, which are ideal for salmon and getting harder to come by as climate change warms waters and reduces mountain runoff.</p><p>"This is really great for the climate change resiliency for these species," says McEwan.</p><p>Steelhead will get back 45% of their historic habitat in the river, and scientists expect Chinook populations to increase in abundance by 31%.</p><p>That <em>could</em> help Southern Resident killer whales.</p><p>"When you get to the ocean, it's a little bit of a black box in terms of what you can model and say definitively is going to help, but more fish is better for orcas," McEwan says.</p><p>Upstream habitat will see benefits, too.</p><p>Oceangoing fish like salmon enrich their bodies with carbon and nitrogen while at sea. When they return to their natal rivers to spawn and die, the marine-derived nutrients they carry back upriver become important food and fertilizer for both riverine and terrestrial ecosystems — aiding everything from trees to birds to bears.</p><p>"Once the fish start making their way back, it will start changing the whole ecological system," says Delgado.</p><p><span></span>But any ecological benefit from salmon restoration, either in the ocean or the upper watershed, won't be immediate.<br></p><p>"The population of salmon on the Middle Fork is so low that we expect it's going to take quite a while to rebound," she says. "But the big picture is that what's good for salmon is good for the region — our history and our destiny are intricately intertwined."</p><p>After decades of work, that process of restoration has finally begun.</p>
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By Katie Howell
A new tool called The Food Systems Dashboard aims to save decision makers time and energy by painting a complete picture of a country's food system. Created by the Johns Hopkins' Alliance for a Healthier World, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Dashboard compiles food systems data from over 35 sources and offers it as a public good.
By Manuela Callari
It can grow to a maximum of six inches (16 centimeters), change color depending on mood and habitat, and, like all seahorses, the White's seahorse male gestates its young. But this tiny snouted fish is under threat.
Building an Ocean Seahorse Destination<p>Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate coastal water worldwide, but are most abundant around Australia, China and the Philippines. </p><p>Trade in the tiny creatures is strictly regulated because of their use in traditional medicine, aquariums and their sale as dried curios. But because they are poor swimmers and cannot easily move elsewhere, habitat loss is a particular threat for these curious animals. </p><p>Seahorses wrap their tails around seagrass and corals to avoid being carried away on currents. They use the habitat to spawn and hide from predators such as crabs, while also feeding on riches of plankton and small crustaceans living in the reef.</p><p><span></span>Where corals aren't available, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.1217" target="_blank">scientists</a> found seahorses taking up residence in fishing nets and old crab traps abandoned at the bottom of the ocean. </p>
Mixing With the Locals<p>Baby seahorse mortality is high in the wild because they are easily caught, so those bred in the protected environment of the aquarium weren't ready to be released into the wild until early May.</p><p>The team released 90 new arrivals into Sydney Harbor, placing some directly into the purpose-built hotels, and others onto a net that wild seahorses had already settled on.</p><p>Before setting them free, the researchers marked each young seahorse with a fluorescent tag with unique IDs inserted just beneath the skin to track how they get on in the different environments. </p><p>"The most exciting part was being able to put these animals into the wild and then go back a month later and still see them surviving and growing," said McCracken. </p><p>The seahorses will be old enough to mate and reproduce around October or November 2020. And researchers hope that by then, they will be able to breed with the wild population. </p>
Building a Global Seahorse Hotel Chain<p>With seahorses everywhere facing the loss of their coral reef homes, similar projects have sprung up in places like Greece and South Africa, home to the world's most endangered seahorse, the Knysna seahorse. </p><p>"The endangered South African seahorse is benefiting from something quite similar, even though it wasn't intentional," said Peter Teske, professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg.</p><p>In the South African <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322649251_An_endangered_seahorse_selectively_chooses_an_artificial_structure" target="_blank">case</a>, seahorses have bedded down in "Reno mattresses" — wire cages filled with rocks — that were used to build a new marina. Researchers from NGO Knysna Basin Project found the structures acted as a refuge for the animals.<span></span></p><p><span></span>While Teske describes the seahorse hotels as "a positive news story" and a great way to create public awareness of conservation, he added that establishing artificial habitats in some areas will only prevent the extinction of local populations.</p><p>"For a complete recovery, it is necessary to give the natural habitat a chance to regenerate," said the seahorse expert. </p>
Underwater Mascot<p>In Australia, the researchers hope the project could provide an opportunity to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Sydney seahorses but the other animals with which it shares its ocean habitat.</p><p>The waters around Sydney and the east coast are rich in biodiversity and include several threatened species like the weedy seadragon — a relative of the seahorse — and the grey nurse shark. Like the seahorse, they're also under pressure from pollution, ocean traffic and habitat loss through storms and coastal construction. </p><p>"It's a good thing to get people's support and interest. The seahorses are a useful vehicle to get people concerned if the harbor is in trouble," said David Booth, professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology Sydney who is also working on the project. </p><p>The hotels have become an attraction for divers hoping to catch a glimpse of these small but near mythical creatures. </p><p>"Everyone loves seahorses," added Booth, "they are so popular." </p>
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