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By Emily Saari
According to media reports, the World Bank plans to limit its financing of new coal-fired power plants to “rare circumstances,” reflecting the Bank’s increased focus on reducing the effects of climate change. A recent World Bank report warns that the world is currently heading towards 4 degrees Celsius of warming compared to pre-industrial levels, which could have disastrous impacts on people and nature worldwide.
From the leaked World Bank report:
[The World Bank] will cease providing financial support for greenfield [new] coal power generation projects, except in rare circumstances where there are no feasible alternatives available to meet basic energy needs and other sources of financing are absent.
As a powerful funder of global energy projects—the Bank spent $8.2 billion on energy projects in the 2012 fiscal year—this decision is pivotal for shifting global investments away from coal, one of the dirtiest forms of energy. Coal power is responsible for 40 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions and a host of public health impacts.
This plan could be a major boost in the transition needed from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources in the fight against the climate crisis, in a way that prioritizes the interests of poor people.
The U.S., the Bank’s largest shareholder, affirmed this decision earlier in the week when President Obama announced that he would restrict U.S. funding for coal projects overseas. President Obama, however, indicated that his administration would fund new coal projects if they implemented carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology to limit the release of greenhouse gas emissions. CCS technology is controversial and has yet to be proven reliable on a large scale.
Still open for questioning is whether this decision will stop the World Bank from funding a controversial coal-fired power plant in Kosovo, a project highly criticized by local activists for its potential public health effects. In speaking of the controversy over the power plant in Kosovo, Tim Wirth, former undersecretary of state for global affairs under President Clinton and now vice chairman of the U.N. Foundation, said:
Kosovo, that’s a tough decision. But of course they shouldn’t build it. If the president makes decisions right after a major climate speech to fund a coal power plant right off the Adriatic, we’re right back where we started. They’re just getting themselves right back in the soup.
This announcement by the World Bank follows suit with recent reports by Australia’s Climate Commission and the International Energy Agency warning that the world must leave 80 percent of all fossil fuel deposits in the ground if catastrophic climate change is to be avoided. Today’s media reports are based on a leaked draft of a new World Bank plan, which is apparently scheduled for discussion by the World Bank board next month.
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Tensions are continuing to rise in Canada over a controversial pipeline project as protesters enter their 12th day blockading railways, demonstrating on streets and highways, and paralyzing the nation's rail system
Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
- Is California heading for another drought? - Los Angeles Times ›
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- California Emerged From Drought and Is Still Catching Fire - The ... ›
A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?