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.
The World's Most Toxic Air: Soot Levels 16 Times Higher Than WHO Safety Levels https://t.co/qesqOnB8JB @CarlPope https://t.co/9iA2gc5Xjw— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1447188022.0
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.
A new report promoting urgent climate action in Australia has stirred debate for claiming that global temperatures will rise past 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next decade.
Australia's Climate Council released the report on Thursday. The council is an independent organization of climate scientists and experts on health, renewable energy and policy who work to inform the Australian public on the climate crisis. But their latest claim is causing controversy.
"Multiple lines of evidence show that limiting global warming to 1.5°C above the preindustrial level, without significant overshoot and subsequent drawdown, is now out of reach due to past inaction," Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Prof. Christopher Field of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment wrote in the foreword. "The science is telling us that global average temperature rise will likely exceed 1.5°C during the 2030s, and that long-term stabilization at warming at or below 1.5°C will be extremely challenging."
The report is titled "Aim high, go fast: Why emissions need to plummet this decade," and as the name suggests, it is ultimately concerned with urging more robust climate action on the part of the Australian government. The report calls for the country to reduce emissions by 75 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2035 in order to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris agreement, which means limiting warming to well below two degrees Celsius.
"The world achieving net zero by 2050 is at least a decade too late and carries a strong risk of irreversible global climate disruption at levels inconsistent with maintaining well-functioning human societies," the authors wrote.
The report further argues that global temperatures are likely to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius in the 2030s based on existing temperature increases; locked-in warming from emissions that have already occurred; evidence from past climate changes and the percentage of the carbon budget that has already been used.
The report isn't a call to give up on the Paris agreement. It is possible that global temperatures could swell past 1.5 degrees Celsius but still be reduced by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even if temperatures do exceed 1.5 degrees, every degree of warming that can be prevented makes a difference.
"Basically we can still hold temperature rise to well below 2C and do that without overshoot and drawdown," Will Steffen, lead report author from the Australian National University's Climate Change Institute, told Australia's ABC News. "Every tenth of a degree actually does matter — 1.8C is better than 1.9C, and is much better than 2C."
However, some outside scientists question both the accuracy and effectiveness of the report's claim. Both Adjunct Professor Bill Hare from Murdoch University and Dr. Carl-Freidrich Schleussner from Humboldt University told ABC News they have been trying to contact the Climate Council about its 1.5 overshoot claim for months. They said that it went against other major reports, including the UN Environment Program Gap Report and the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on 1.5˚C.
"The big challenge their report reinforces is the need for urgent action to get on that 1.5C pathway, [so] it's very paradoxical to me that they've chosen to attack that target," Dr. Hare told ABC News.
However, Scientist Andy Pitman from the Center of Excellence for Climate Extremes at the University of New South Wales told The Guardian that the report's assessment was correct.
"It's simply not possible to limit warming to 1.5C now," he said. "There's too much inertia in the system and even if you stopped greenhouse gas emissions today, you would still reach 1.5C [of heating]."
However, one aspect everyone agreed on involved the importance of lowering emissions as soon as possible.
"[There is] absolute fundamental agreement on the task at hand, which is to get emissions to plummet," Simon Bradshaw, report author and Climate Council head of research, told The Guardian.
French winemakers are facing devastating grape loss from the worst frost in decades, preceded by unusually warm temperatures, highlighting the dangers to the sector posed by climate change.
"An important share of the harvest has been lost. It's too early to give a percentage estimate, but in any case it's a tragedy for the winegrowers who have been hit," said Christophe Chateau, director of communications at the Bordeaux Wine Council, told CNN.
Climate change, caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, has pushed winegrowing seasons earlier, putting crops at higher risk of cold — and wildfires supercharged by climate change also threaten American vignerons and farmworkers as well.
"I think it's good for people to understand that this is nature, climate change is real, and to be conscious of the effort that goes into making wine and the heartbreak that is the loss of a crop," Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac in Burgundy's Côte de Nuits told Wine Enthusiast.
As reported by Wine Enthusiast:
Last week, images of candlelit French vineyards flooded social media. Across the country, winemakers installed bougies, or large wax-filled metal pots, among the vines to prevent cold air from settling in during an especially late frost.
With temperatures in early April as low as 22°F, and following an unseasonably warm March, this year's frost damage may be the worst in history for French winegrowers. Every corner of France reports considerable losses, from Champagne to Provence, and Côtes de Gascogne to Alsace. As a result, there will likely be very little French wine from the 2021 vintage reaching U.S. shores.
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Climate change could make it harder to find a good cup of coffee, new research finds. A changing climate might shrink suitable areas for specialty coffee production without adaptation, making coffee taste blander and impacting the livelihoods of small farms in the Global South.
Published in Scientific Reports on Wednesday, the study focused on regions in Ethiopia, Africa's largest coffee-producing nation. Although studies have previously documented the impact of climate change on coffee production, what's less understood is how varying climates could change the flavors of specialty coffee, the researchers wrote.
The team aimed to fill this gap. Their results provide a glimpse into how future climate change could impact local regions and economies that rely on coffee cultivation, underscoring the value of local adaptation measures.
Researchers analyzed how 19 different climate factors, such as mean temperatures and rainfall levels, would affect the cultivation of five distinct specialty coffee types in the future, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) reported. Although researchers found that areas suitable for growing "average quality coffee" may actually increase over time with climate change, regions where specialty coffee is grown will shrink — a pending problem in light of the global demand for high-quality coffee.
"This is an issue not just for coffee lovers, but for local agricultural value creation," Abel Chemura, the study's lead author, told the PIK.
Coffee profiles rely on specific climate patterns for their unique flavors, levels of acidity and fragrances. But in a warmer climate, the coffee cherry — the fruit picked from a coffee plant — matures faster than the bean inside, making for a lower quality cup of coffee, the PIK reported.
For example, the sought-after Yirgacheffe variety of coffee, which is cultivated in southwestern Ethiopia, could lose more than 40 percent of its suitable growth area by the end of the century, PIK reported. This could impact small farms and threaten Ethiopia's economy, the researchers noted.
"If one or more coffee regions lose their specialty status due to climate change this has potentially grave ramifications for the smallholder farmers in the region," Christoph Gornott, co-author of the study, told the PIK. "If they were forced to switch to growing conventional, less palatable and bitter coffee types, they would all of the sudden compete with industrial production systems elsewhere that are more efficient." In a country where coffee exports account for nearly a third of all agricultural exports, "this could prove fatal," Gornott added.
Climate change impacts on coffee production are not unique to Ethiopia. In Columbia's mountainous coffee-growing regions, temperatures are warming by 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit every decade, according to Yale Environment 360. Extreme levels of precipitation, which are becoming more common, also impact production, as they spread insect and fungal diseases.
"In earlier times, the climate was perfect for coffee," one small farmer in Columbia told Yale Environment 360. "In the period of flowering, there was summer. During harvest, there was winter. But from 2008 onward, this changed and we now don't know when it will be summer, when the coffee will blossom."
But researchers say there are glimmers of hope, emphasizing the importance of local adaptation measures that are designed for particular climates and communities. For example, in regions where temperature is an important factor for specialty coffee cultivation, the researchers suggest improved agroforestry systems that could maintain canopy temperatures, a promising step toward sustaining the "availability and taste of one of the world's most beloved beverages and, more importantly, on economic opportunities in local communities of the Global South," Gornott concluded.
By Suzanne Cords
One day Lizzie, the first-person narrator of the novel, receives an old book as a gift, with a dedication wishing the reader to be among the survivors. Like the preppers who build bunkers and stockpile supplies in remote areas to be ready for the end of the world, Lizzie is convinced that the end of the world is definitely near in times of a threatening climate disaster.
Lizzie, who lives in New York with her husband and son, is a university campus librarian. She worries about almost everything: her brother, an ex-junkie, or her dental insurance and the future in the face of the apocalypse. She is obsessed with reading reference books and articles about climate change.
She also devours words of wisdom, including about Buddhist spirituality: "A visitor once asked the old monks on Mount Athos what they did all day, and was told: We have died and we are in love with everything." But nothing can lift her spirits.
'Lizzie Is Just Like Us'
Lizzie observes rich New Yorkers plan their move to regions that are less threatened by climate change, something she simply cannot afford. Sometimes she watches disaster movies, which lead her to worry even more.
Above all, she is a gifted observer of her fellow human beings. "Young person worry: What if nothing I do matters? Old person worry: What if everything I do, does?"
Lizzie, the U.S. author told DW, is a bit like the rest of us — well aware of the climate crisis, but because she cares and worries about so many other things, that awareness falls by the wayside. That's how she felt herself, Jenny Offill said, but the more she looked into the issue, the more she saw a need for action on her part, too.
"I also was trying to see if there was a way to make it funny, because, you know, so much of the world of prepping and imagining disaster is actually sort of strangely funny."
The novel was shortlisted for the 2020 UK's Women's Prize for Fiction and has now been released in German translation.
Climate Activist With a Vision
But then, there is also this serious, scientifically based concern about what climate change means. In the past, says Offill, artists were the ones who would predict disasters; today it's the experts, as well as the students she teaches. In the end, their fears and their justified anger motivated her to take a closer look at the issue. Today, she is a climate activist herself, and is involved in initiatives along with many other artists.
Lizzie, the heroine of Weather, hasn't gotten that far. But she voices her fears, and that's a start. "Of course, the world continues to end," says Sylvia, a mentor of Lizzie's, at one point — and commences to water her garden. There is hope after all.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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By Jake Johnson
A federal appeals court on Tuesday dealt the final blow to former President Donald Trump's attempt to open nearly 130 million acres of territory in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans to oil and gas drilling.
Though the Trump administration appealed the ruling, President Joe Biden revoked his predecessor's 2017 order shortly after taking office, rendering the court case moot. On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to dismiss the Trump administration's appeal.
"Because the terms of the challenged Executive Order are no longer in effect, the relevant areas of the [Outer Continental Shelf] in the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, and Atlantic Ocean will be withdrawn from exploration and development activities," the court said in its order.
Erik Grafe of Earthjustice, which represented a coalition of advocacy groups that challenged Trump's order, said in a statement that "we welcome today's decision and its confirmation of President Obama's legacy of ocean and climate protection."
"As the Biden administration considers its next steps, it should build on these foundations, end fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters, and embrace a clean energy future that does not come at the expense of wildlife and our natural heritage," Grafe continued. "One obvious place for immediate action is America's Arctic, including the Arctic Refuge and the Western Arctic, which the previous administration sought to relegate to oil development in a series of last-minute decisions that violate bedrock environmental laws."
VICTORY: 9th Circuit ends fight over President Trump's illegal attempt to open up 128 million acres of Atlantic & A… https://t.co/TvYVt2F1jO— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice)1618347073.0
In January, Biden ordered a temporary pause on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters, a decision environmentalists hailed as a positive step that should be made permanent.
"We call on President Biden to keep his promise: a full and complete ban on fracking and fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Full stop," Food & Water Watch policy director Mitch Jones said at the time. "The climate crisis requires it and he promised it."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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