TckTckTck The Global Call for Climate Action Mon, 19 Dec 2016 15:15:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Brexit: No excuse to ‘go back to year zero’ on climate Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:11:05 +0000 UK elections
UK elections

Creative Commons: Berit Watkin, 2011

As the UK’s vote to leave the European Union sends shockwaves across the world, green groups warn the move cannot be an excuse to “go back to year zero on environmental protection”.

In the hours since the final votes were counted the pound has crashed to the lowest levels since 1985,UK prime minister David Cameron has announced his intentions to step down, and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said a second Scottish independence referendum was now highly likely.

The exact details of the UK’s exit from the European Union will be years in the making,but fears of prolonged uncertainty and a hiatus of clean energy investment are already palpable, as are worries that decades of progress on environmental legislation will be unpicked.

Coming halfway through what’s set to be the hottest year on record, and six months after nearly 200 countries agreed the Paris Agreement, the UK’s decision to leave the EU does not erase its strong commitment to decarbonise its economy.

Green groups now warn that there is no “time for the environment to take a back seat” and urge “politicians of all parties to affirm their commitment to strong environmental laws and to guarantee united action on climate change.

Key Points

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Climate’s coral killers move in swiftly Thu, 23 Jun 2016 10:07:40 +0000 coral killers
coral killers

Bleached coral off the coast of Queensland. Creative Commons: Matt Kieffer, 2009

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Corals affected by mass bleaching on the northern Great Barrier Reef are “the sickest” Australian scientists have ever seen.

The corals have been hit by unusually high sea temperatures – a consequence of El Niño, the periodic blister of heat that bubbles up in the Pacific and started in full force last year.

Corals thrive in tropic seas, but, like all animals, there is a limit to their heat tolerance. And in a year in which global temperatures each month have set new all-time records, even the corals are feeling the heat, scientists told this week’s 13th International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoralCoE) at James Cook University in Queensland, said: “We measured the condition of surviving corals as part of our extensive underwater surveys of Australia’s worst-ever bleaching event. We found that coral bleaching has affected 93% of the Great Barrier Reef.

Counteract damage

“While the central and southern regions have escaped with minor damage, nearly half of the corals have been killed by mass bleaching in the northern region.”

His CoralCoE colleague, Bill Leggat, head of the Symbiosis Genomics Research Group, said: “Normally, when bleaching kills corals it is a slow death that progresses steadily when temperatures remain high. The corals usually rely on mechanisms that help them fight and counteract the damage. But this time, on some reefs, it looks like they have died very quickly.”

Coral and algae called zooxanthellae live in a mutual help relationship. The algae harness the light to make nutrients that nourish the coral host, and they also give the corals the pattern of colours that make the reefs such a marvel.

But as temperatures soar beyond the coral comfort zone, the relationship breaks down. Where a healthy coral polyp might have up to two million zooxanthellae per square centimetre, numbers may drop to 200,000 in a bleaching event.

But this time, at least in the northern end of the reef, conditions are much worse. Some corals have almost no algal partners left.

“These corals are among the most damaged I have seen,” Dr Leggat said. “For some surviving corals in the northern Great Barrier Reef, over 50% of the coral cells are dead. In some regions, the corals were so badly damaged that we were unable to study their tissue because it was rotting away.”

“It’s time to shift this conversation to what can be done to conserve these amazing organisms . . . local conservation buys us time, but it isn’t enough”

Bleaching and devastation were first reported last year. Coral is already threatened by insidious change in sea water chemistry as ever more carbonic acid – from dissolved atmospheric carbon dioxide, the product of the combustion of fossil fuels – gets into the sea.

Rising sea levels also present a problem. Researchers believe that the loss of the Bramble Cay melomys, a rodent native to the reef, could be counted as the first real mammal extinction laid directly at the door of climate change. Reefs normally support rich and complex ecosystems, but when the reef suffers, so do all the creatures that make their homes in the corals.

Coral reefs have been hit by massive bleaching events in the past, and recovered. But this event seems more sustained. A new report from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggests that many coral reefs will be exposed to higher-than-normal sea temperatures for the third year in a row, with damage to reefs in Hawaii, Guam, the northern Mariana islands, the Florida Keys, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

“It’s time to shift this conversation to what can be done to conserve these amazing organisms in the face of this unprecedented global bleaching event,” says Jennifer Koss, coral reef conservation programme director at the NOAA.

“We have boots on the ground and fins in the water to reduce local stressors. Local conservation buys us time, but it isn’t enough. Globally, we need to better understand what actions we all can take to combat the effects of climate change.”

Combination punch

Even so, there is some hope. A study backed by 35 scientists reporting for the UN Environment Programme says that reefs nearest the surface along the full length of the Great Barrier have been affected by the combination punch of global warming and the extremes of El Niño.

But it says that deeper reef environments – 40 metres to 150 metres below the waves – could serve as a refuge for species driven from the shallows, although more research needs to be done to establish a role for these regions.

“They aren’t a silver bullet, but they may be able to resist the most immediate impacts of climate change – thereby providing a refuge for some species and potentially helping to replenish destroyed surface reef and fish populations,” says Professor Elaine Baker, a senior expert at of the University of Sydney’s school of geosciences.

World celebrates Pope’s words as faith groups shift into action Fri, 17 Jun 2016 10:41:14 +0000 papal message
papal message

Creative Commons: Republic of Korea, 2014

The world is celebrating the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical on ecology, “Laudato Si”, and much of those celebrations are focused on taking climate action.

In Australia Thursday, four Catholic orders shifted their investments away from coal, oil and gas companies in the first ever joint Catholic divestment announcement.

The moral case against fossil fuels has powered countless actions around the world, including the Interfaith Climate Statement, the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change, and the Hindu Declaration on Climate Change this year.

For Catholics, high-profile actions, including a Spanish Cathedral going 100 per cent renewable, and countless churches taking part in the energy transition are adding to the momentum sparked by the Pope in June 2015.

On the individual level, people are sharing stories of how they are living Pope Francis’ words using the #LiveLaudatoSi hashtag.

Given the excitement buzzing from Laudato Si Week, and potential of 1.2 billion Catholics around the world finding ways to “live Laudato Si” , the impact of Pope Francis’ words to “care for our common home,” could prove massive.

Key Points

  • If Catholics live Laudato Si, it can make a real difference for the climate. Around the world, there are 1.2 billion Catholics, more than 220,000 churches, and over  100,000 catholic primary and secondary schools. – all offering ample surface space to install rooftop solar panels. What’s even more encouraging is that new polling from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate shows that 68 per cent of Catholics believe we have a moral responsibility to personally act on climate change, and 73 per cent of Catholics believing society needs to take steps to address climate change.
  • Anyone, regardless of their faith, can live Laudato Si. Pope Francis stressed in his encyclical that we are all connected to each other by the planet we all share. Anyone can reduce their energy consumption levels, shift their investments away from harmful fossil fuels, embrace renewable energy or simply speak out. The numerous faith-related climate announcements taking place since Laudato Si was published show that when it comes to moral imperative for taking action, climate change is an issue shared across all divides.

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Brexit costs to be counted in health & climate impacts Wed, 15 Jun 2016 11:41:58 +0000 Europe's task
Europe's task

Creative Commons: European Parliament, 2013

The UK public will head to the polls next week, in a “climate referendum” that could see it turn its back on decades of progress on environmental issues, including climate change and air pollution.

With UK ministers at the forefront of lobbying efforts in Brussels against stronger air pollution measures, a new poll of environment professionals warns an exit from Europe could see the UK fail to tackle its own air pollution crisis – already responsible for 40,000 early deaths a year.

It follows a host of similar calls from influential voices from politics, business and civil society warning an exit from Europe could have on a wide range of environmental issues.

As the European Commission and member states move forward to ratify the Paris Agreement, and as its citizens call for strong action to limit warming below the agreed 1.5DegC limit, these voices warn by leaving Europe, the UK would also undermine its ability to effectively tackle climate change, and further hit it’s already struggling renewables industry.

Key Points

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Arctic melting feeds on itself Mon, 13 Jun 2016 09:51:19 +0000 Arctic melting
Arctic melting

Creative Commons: 2007

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network 

Scientists have established at least one factor in the record melting of northern Greenland in 2015. The Arctic itself played a hand in what happened.

In a process that engineers call positive feedback, high atmospheric pressure and clear skies over the Arctic region practically committed the northwest of Greenland to an episode of melting at record rates.

And because the Arctic is the fastest-warming region on Earth, and because atmosphere and ocean influence each other, the steady loss of sea ice each year has forced a change in wind patterns. This in turn has played back into the climatic machinery, according to a new study in Nature Communications

“How much and where Greenland melts can change depending on how things change elsewhere on Earth,” said Marco Tedesco, of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who led the research.

“If loss of sea ice is driving changes in the jet stream, the jet stream is changing Greenland, and this, in turn, has an impact on the Arctic system as well as the climate. It’s a system, it is strongly interconnected, and we have to approach it as such.”

Worldwide impact

Greenland’s burden of ice is the greatest in the northern hemisphere, and second only to Antarctica’s. If Greenland’s ice all melted, sea levels would rise worldwide by seven metres.

So what scientists call “Arctic amplification” isn’t just a bit of climate science jargon, it is also a phenomenon that matters immensely to humans everywhere.

The process works like this. The Arctic is warming faster as the sea ice disappears. This is because solar radiation which would have been reflected by a sheet of ice is being absorbed by blue water, which speeds up the warming further.

And since the temperature difference between the Arctic and the tropics is narrowing, and since it’s the temperature difference that drives wind and ocean currents, then the jet stream that normally whizzes around the Arctic circle – thus keeping frozen air in one place and separating it from the warm breezes of the south – is, the theory goes, slowing, thus allowing warm moist air to penetrate into the north. And, it seems, to melt even more of Greenland.

Professor Tedesco has been observing the intricate interplay of snow, ice, wind and sunlight in Greenland for years. Last year he and others examined the record melt of 2012 to piece together the rate of flow of water to the seas.

“The conditions we saw in the past aren’t necessarily the conditions of the future. If humans change the forcing, we are going into uncharted territory”

Earlier this year he and others pinpointed a change in albedo – a measure of the reflectivity of snow on the island – that suggested that melting might accelerate.

The latest study doesn’t declare the process of Arctic amplification guilty as charged: science proceeds cautiously and the researchers say only that the melting process observed in 2015 is “consistent” with the hypothesis of Arctic amplification.

In fact, the jet stream swung north to latitudes never before observed at that time of year; the winds during July reversed their normal pattern, and southern Greenland – where melting has been at record levels for most of the decade – actually saw more snowfall and lower melting in 2015.

Climate change is happening, being driven by the human combustion of fossil fuels at unprecedented rates for more than a century. But how the climate will change is harder to guess. The suspicion is that – if the Arctic amplification process works in the way that scientists think it must do – then climate change in the Arctic can only accelerate. But right now, all researchers can do is watch, record and measure.

“The conditions we saw in the past aren’t necessarily the conditions of the future,” Professor Tedesco said. “If humans change the forcing, we are going into uncharted territory.”

New India-US partnership sends “jolt of momentum” to global climate deal Wed, 08 Jun 2016 20:48:42 +0000 India-US

Creative Commons: Narendra Modi, 2016

The US and India have signalled their intent to “forge ahead” with climate action, driving the world closer towards meeting its landmark climate agreement.

Meeting in Washington this week, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama agreed to bring the Paris Agreement into effect as soon as possible, preferably this year, and strengthened commitments to phase down the supercharged climate pollutants used in refrigeration.

They also agreed to make clean energy a priority, pledging $20 million in finance to help power up to 1 million Indian homes, along with another $40 million dollars for small-scale renewables in rural off-grid areas.

While the two leaders offered little in the way of specifics for meeting these pledges, the joint commitment shows India and the US are on the same page when it comes to climate, and – together responsible for over 20 per cent of global emissions – it offers yet another “jolt of momentum” to international efforts towards a clean energy and climate-safe future.

Key Points

  • Two of the most influential countries in the world are on the same page on climate. The US is the world’s second largest polluter, while India accounts for nearly 7 per cent of global emissions, and is expected to increase its share rapidly in coming years. This week’s meeting is the seventh between the two leaders since 2014, and by joining forces on climate they have shown their understanding that “long-term prosperity must be underpinned by a stable climate,” and sent another strong signal of countries’ collective commitment to meet its global climate agreement.
  • Bolstering renewables brings huge benefits to vulnerable communities. In India, close a quarter of the population still does not have access to electricity, and research shows that renewables offer a more affordable, practical and healthy solution to energy poverty, than their dirty counterparts like coal. By leapfrogging fossil fuels in favour of clean renewables, countries such as India, would be able to tackle widespread poverty without the harmful impacts to people’s health.
  • Now is the time for leaders to cement the climate legacies they etched out in Paris. With renewables booming, and fossil fuels caught in a death spiral, it is little wonder that government after government is lining up to reaffirm their commitment to climate action. Those leaders putting their best foot forward are already reaping the huge climate, health and economic benefits of the clean energy transition, while those countries, like Australia and Japan, who continue to obstruct progress in favour of out-dated fossil fuels are showing themselves to be increasingly out of touch with reality and losing clout on the international stage.

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Australia’s ‘stormageddon’ shows glimpse of new normal in warming world Mon, 06 Jun 2016 10:54:50 +0000 Stormageddon

Collaroy beach. Courtesy of: UNSW/Twitter

If the brutal bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef was not enough to bring home the need for drastic and urgent action on climate change, this weekend’s wild weather all along the East coast and Tasmania should be.

Upping the ante on France’s “worst floods in 100 years”, “stormageddon” swept through NSW over the weekend, with floodwaters reportedly taking three lives, and waves up to eight metres high erasing beaches and doing severe damage to property and infrastructure.

Images of the battered coast are dominating coverage, but flooding and high winds throughout NSW have compounded storm damage, which manifested immediately in insurance company stocks drops of more than 2.5 per cent.

The storm comes as heat records were again broken for Autumn, hinting at a severe future that lies ahead if we continue to burn fossil fuels and worsening global warming.

Key Points

  • Coastal communities and infrastructure are increasingly vulnerable to rising sea levels and storm surges. While “unprecedented” and “once-in-a-lifetime” weather events are making the news with nauseating regularity, the risks remain both poorly understood and poorly communicated. Without action to eliminate fossil fuels, temperatures relentlessly and mercilessly rise, leading to one record hot month after another being ticked off, and increasingly dire impacts on our natural systems, natural treasures, and both human and economic health.

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Climate impacts laid bare as Europe’s flood waters ease Mon, 06 Jun 2016 10:46:02 +0000 Europe's flood waters
Europe's flood waters

Two museums had to close and artwork moved to safety as the River Seine burst its bank. Creative Commons: 2016

As Europe reels from flooding, which submerged streets, closed schools and saw thousands evacuated, EU leaders are reminded of the threats of climate change to the continent.

18 people were left dead and thousands more stranded as flash floods broke river banks, across Europe.

In France, the Louvre and Orsay museums were shut as flood waters in Paris peaked over six metres above normal levels, while 5,000 people were evacuated, over 20,000 homes were left without power, and an estimated €1 billion in damages were caused across the country.

Experts have been quick to connect this latest extreme weather event to climate change, and now, a new report from E3G warns that if left unmanaged, the frequency of such events could bring untold security threats, human losses and economic disruption to Europe.

As leaders look to refresh its approach to security, the report warns that the EU has “no security without climate security”.

Key Points

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Global renewables boom, but is Europe reaping the benefits? Wed, 01 Jun 2016 15:41:55 +0000 emissions cuts
emissions cuts

Creative Commons: Activ Solar, 2013

Renewable energy is booming as 2015 saw new sources coming online at a faster rate than ever.

Last year investment in clean energy was double that of new coal and gas plants, 173 countries now have renewable power targets, and over 8 million people are working in the industry, according to REN 21’s latest Renewables Global Status report.

With the huge employment, health and climate benefits of the clean energy transition, it is little wonder countries continue to focus in on renewables even as fossil fuels prices hit “historic lows”.

But with clean energy investment in Europe plummeting 21 per cent last year, and continued policy uncertainty, the region is teetering on the edge and could risk falling behind in the global race for clean energy and missing out on all that it has to offer.

Key Points

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Renewable renaissance on the horizon for Canada as it seeks to revamp its economy Wed, 01 Jun 2016 15:28:13 +0000 US emissions
US emissions

Creative Commons: Kevin Dooley, 2010

Canada’s energy industry is poised to join the rest of the world in weaning itself off fossil fuels, according to new federal analysis.

Policy Horizons Canada, a federal think tank, reported that the country’s fossil fuel industry is in swift decline as a result of a global accelerated energy transition.

Based on a rising demand for renewables, especially among a rising middle class in developing countries, these findings show that any long-term investment in oil and gas infrastructure will lose value.

With provinces like Alberta and Ontario teaming up to accelerate renewable growth, the next step will be for the federal government to follow advice from their own researchers and implement policies that move the country’s assets away from fossil fuels for good.

Key Points

  • Not only is this progress, it’s also common sense. As “highly scalable and distributable” energy sources like wind and solar become more available, renewables are an increasingly appealing energy choice for communities of all sizes. With the fossil fuel industry scaling down rapidly in the coming years, moving away from dirty energy and towards renewables is a prudent financial choice that will also keep people healthier and safer.
  • It doesn’t make sense for Canadians to invest in a stranded asset. The report cautions that investments in oil and gas infrastructure, like pipelines, “could be at high risk of becoming economically unviable as prices in renewable electricity further decline.” If the government goes through with these projects, taxpayers will be the ones stuck paying a hefty price for the inevitable.
  • Canada can only fulfill its climate commitments if it is ready to let go of its pipeline dreams. Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands are rising faster than the country’s ability to curb them. If federal leaders are committed to fulfilling the climate pledges made during the campaign period, and in Paris, now is a critical moment to put their own recommendations into policy and accelerate the just transition towards a renewable-only future.

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Australian Govt caught in “Soviet style” scrubbing of climate risks from UN report Wed, 01 Jun 2016 15:20:07 +0000 climate risks
climate risks

Creative Commons: Lock the Gate Alliance, 2005

The Australian Government resorted to extraordinary “Soviet style” tactics to dodge international scrutiny for the climate impacts threatening  its World Heritage Areas including the Great Barrier Reef.

The Australian government pressured UNESCO to remove mentions of the site in the final version of a major new report entitled, “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate”.

The report had a key chapter on the reef, as well as sections on Kakadu and Tasmania’s forests, all of which were scrubbed after objections from the Environment Department, which claimed that the truth about climate impacts could damage tourism revenue.

Australia is the only government to have made such an objection, but given 93 per cent of the reef has been hit by coral bleaching this year the time for pretending it is seriously acting to protect natural treasures from climate change is long gone.

Key Points

  • No tourists will visit a dead reef. Instead of listening to the multiple warning signs and putting in place a strong plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef by phasing out coal burning and exports, the Australian Government is instead censoring the truth. The only way to protecting tourist dollars in both the short and long term is to take strong and visible action on climate change that does justice to the scientific community’s warnings.
  • It’s coal or coral. Not both. The Coalition Government is big on rhetoric but small on action. It has no credible plan to protect the reef or the climate, and by scrubbing a document that identifies an embarrassing challenges that can be overcome, it is only further drawing attention to its inadequate plan for the future of Australia’s natural treasures, and the economic risks failing to act creates.
  • Transitioning to renewables has massive benefits for Australia – not least of which is protecting the multi billion dollar tourism industry. Great Barrier Reef tourism is worth $5.4 billion to the economy and almost 70,000 jobs. Transitioning to 100% renewable energy won’t just help protect those tourism dollars, it will create clean affordable energy and homegrown jobs across the nation.

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G7 host Japan goes rogue on coal as renewable jobs buck global trend Thu, 26 May 2016 11:39:14 +0000 health risks of climate change
health risks of climate change

Creative Commons: 2012

Japan, host of this week’s G7 summit, is isolated before the meeting has even begun, as its continued love of dirty coal has exposed it as a rogue among its G7 peers.

While the G7 collectively provided more than $42 billion in support of coal projects between 2007 and 2015, Japan was the worst offender, putting up more than half of this sum, while also planning  47 new coal plants at home.

Such moves not only threaten lives at home and abroad, but they directly undermines the Paris Agreement, will cement Japan’s reputation as a drag on international climate action, and will leave it missing out on the huge economic benefits of the renewable energy transition and facing vast sums stranded in worthless coal assets.

Key Points

  • Shepherd of the 1992 Kyoto Protocol, Japan was once a climate leader, but its coal push has left it a foot-dragging rogue. Japan has put both climate change and health emergencies on the G7 agenda, but whatever progress it may secure will be undone by itscommitment to expand coal use at home and abroad. Japan has used the Fukushima nuclear disaster as an excuse for its lacklustre ambition to reduce emissions, but as other G7 nations look to address their long-term decarbonisation plans this year, it is at risk of being left behind and has run out excuses not to act.
  • There is no future in coal; renewables have already won. According to IRENA, solar PV is the largest renewable energy employer with 2.8 million jobs worldwide – an 11 per cent increase from last count, while China, the United States and Germany drove strong wind installations and a five per cent increase in wind jobs to hit 1.1 million globally. Japan enjoyed big solar gains itself, with a 28 per cent increase in employment in 2014. Japan’s love affair with coal, however, is expected to see its renewable jobs go backwards at next count, while setting itself up for huge losses in stranded coal assets.

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Pressure mounts on Sweden to ditch Vattenfall coal sale Thu, 26 May 2016 11:34:18 +0000 Vatenfall’s German coal dreams
Vatenfall’s German coal dreams

Creative Commons: Bert Kaufmann, 2012

Pressure is mounting on the Swedish government to halt the sale of its German lignite mines, with a ‘special’ debate on the issue kicked off in the country’s Parliament.

Ahead of the debate on the sale of the state-owned Vattenfall’s Lusatia operations, demonstrators are gathering in Sweden, Germany and Belgium urging the government to reject the deal.

The sale could incur up to €2.9 billion in losses, see 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions passed on to owners-to-be Czech energy company EPH and PPF Investments, and break the Swedish government’s own rules for state-owned companies.

The protest is also echoed in an open letter from German NGOs, who stress that holding onto the mines and phasing-out its coal operation is “the most important contribution that the Swedish government could make to fight climate change“.

Failing to do so, they add, would represent a betrayal of its commitment on decarbonisation and its promise under the Paris Agreement.

Key Points

  • Fossil fuels need to be kept in the ground, not sold off, if governments are serious about tackling climate change. Lignite is one of the dirtiest forms of energy, and each year Vattenfall’s open-cast mines in Lusatia produce 60 to 65 million tonnes of the brown stuff and 60 million tonnes of CO2 – more emissions than the whole of Sweden. By holding onto its assets, and phasing out coal production in the region, Sweden would be making a significant contribution to the global shift to a clean energy future.
  • Citizens will pay the price as companies risk health and the climate in favour of profiting from coal. Last year alone, Swedish taxpayers, had to bear over €1.6 billion ($1.8 bn) in losses associated with Vattenfall’s German lignite business and could incur another €2.6 billion ($3 bn) of losses from the sale of its assets. Coal mining in Lusatia – and across Europe – has decimated villages and destroyed livelihoods and cultures, while continued coal burning is responsible for 18,200 premature deaths and €43 billion in health costs every year.

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The ‘fight goes on’ as UK ends 5-year fracking hiatus Thu, 26 May 2016 10:33:27 +0000 fracking regulations
fracking regulations

Courtesy of: Friends of the Earth, 2015

Fracking could soon take place in the UK, following a five-year hiatus, as North Yorkshire County Council give Third Energy the green light to drill in Ryedale.

The decision flies in the face of fierce local opposition which saw 4,375 objections, compared to just 36 letters in favour of the plans. Itcould pave the way for hundreds of well across the rolling Yorkshire hills and set a precedent for the controversial process to take place in other parts of the country.

Campaigners have been labelled “a travesty” which will “industrialise the beautiful Yorkshire countryside and contribute to climate change”.

Public opposition has prevented any fracking since 2011 following two minor earthquakes caused by the procedure near Blackpool, and with this opposition at an all time high, it is certain the expansion of this controversial industry will still have a fight on its hands as it tries to take root in the UK.

Key Points

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Cape Grim climate milestone underscores need for urgent action Thu, 19 May 2016 21:02:34 +0000 Creative Commons: Ian Cochrane, Cape Grim DSC08448 Tasmania, 2015.
Creative Commons: Ian Cochrane, Cape Grim DSC08448 Tasmania, 2015.

Creative Commons: Ian Cochrane, Cape Grim DSC08448 Tasmania, 2015.

The burden fossil fuels are putting on the planet is again in the spotlight, as an atmospheric monitoring site in Tasmania’s Cape Grim has recorded carbon dioxide measurements of 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time.

This is not the only time this threshold has been passed, with sites in the Northern Hemisphere registering 400ppm at various times since 2012.

But, unlike other stations, Cape Grim’s very stable baseline – and less seasonal variation than other sites – means levels are unlikely to dip below this milestone again.

We’re already seeing the brutal impacts of rapidly increasing CO2 concentrations and as governments meet in Bonn for the first round of UN climate talks since the Paris Agreement was signed, this milestone is yet another stark reminder of the urgent need for them to write the rulebook for the deal and move their economies onto a fossil free pathway.

Key Points

  • Greenhouse gas levels have hit a symbolic, but record peak. Until around 1850, global CO2 levels were running at roughly 280 parts per million (ppm) and 350ppm is a level considered “safe” from the worst impacts of climate change. The passing of 400ppm at Cape Grim – along with record fast increases at other stations – is significant and levels are unlikely to drop back below this milestone for a very long time unless “we get very good at mitigation”.
  • We have entered uncharted climate territory, and are living the consequences. As the relentless smashing of temperature records, the Fort McMurray wildfires, and the unprecedented bleaching of the Great Barrier reef have all shown, no continent will be left untouched by the impacts of our fossil fuel addiction. Scientists now warn the chances of such extreme events are higher than ever before, bringing an even bigger toll on people and communities, with the poorest and most vulnerable bearing the brunt.
  • We have changed the climate for the worse, but we can still change it for the better. The ink on the Paris agreement is well and truly dry now, and the hard work has now begun to write its rules and see through its pledge to hold warming below 1.5DegC. This will mean leaving the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground and rapidly phasing out dirty energy for clean, sustainable alternatives – bringing huge economic and health benefits in the process.

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300,000+ public health professionals call on G7 to speed clean energy shift Thu, 19 May 2016 20:55:24 +0000 Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 4.53.21 PM
Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 4.53.21 PM

Creative Commons: Number 10, PM joins the other G7 leaders for the start of the Summit at Schloss Elmau, 2015

More than 300,000 doctors, nurses, public health professionals and health advocates from 30 countries are calling on the world’s seven largest economies to accelerate the transition away from coal to save lives ahead of this month’s high level G7 meeting in Japan.

With this summit being one of the first major international gatherings since leaders committed to meaningful climate-action in Paris, the 82 organisations signing the Global Health Statement have outlined the pressing need and huge benefits to both human health and economies of a coal phase out.

This is particularly pertinent for host country Japan, which has plans for 47 new coal-fired power plants at home, and is pushing to export its marginally less polluting “high efficiency” coal technology. Japan is one of the only G7 nations still seriously backing coal, and its plan is expected to result in an extra 10,000 premature deaths according to a new Greenpeace and Kiko Network study.

Key Points

  • Coal is bad for health and bad for the planet. The World Health Organisation has called climate change the greatest threat to global health of the 21st century. Coal impacts health both directly through respiratory and cardiovascular disease in local populations, and indirectly as one of the largest single contributors to climate change. The global response to health emergencies and climate change the G7 plans to discuss will only be increasingly complicated by coal and the increasingly onerous health emergencies it creates via extreme flooding, fires, famine, and infectious diseases.
  • G7 countries must lead on an accelerated coal phase out. To prevent the worst health effects of climate change, all G7 countries need to speed their efforts to phase out coal.  Japan, host of this month’s G7 meeting, has put public health emergencies high on the agenda, but with 47 new coal plants on the drawing board it is undermining its efforts to improve public health. Accelerating the transition away from coal will also create huge economic gains from avoided health impacts. Ontario’s coal phase-out for example, will deliver health savings valued at approximately US$3 billion per year.
  • ‘Efficient coal’ is like ‘healthy cigarettes’. Japan wants to build dozens of new coal plants at home, and sell its marginally less polluting coal technology abroad. This will have disastrous implications for health as it means much more coal burned in the long term. The plants Japan p aims to build at home will cause at least 10,000 premature deaths, and will emit as much toxic air pollution as 21 million passenger cars. Greenpeace notes Japan is already the worst performer among the G7 when it comes to phasing out coal, and if we are to improve health outcomes and have any chance of limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, the only choice with coal is a rapid phase out.

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Brazil prepares to roll back green laws Thu, 12 May 2016 10:02:36 +0000 environmental laws
green laws

Creative Commons: Deni Williams, 2013

Authored by Jan Rocha, re-posted from Climate News Network

Taking advantage of Brazil’s present political turbulence, as the battle to impeach President Dilma Rousseff reaches its climax, reactionary politicians are quietly rolling back environmental and indigenous protection laws in defiance of the country’s commitments under the Paris Agreement

Environmentalists say that if the bill known as PEC 65/2012, now at the Senate committee stage, is approved, it means that major infrastructure projects will be able to go ahead regardless of their impacts on biodiversity, indigenous areas, traditional communities and conservation areas.

Instead of a careful if somewhat slow licensing process which involves scientific assessments including biological, botanical, anthropological and archaeological studies, developers will merely have to present a proposed study of environmental impact to be allowed to begin – without actually having to carry out the study. And once a project is under way it cannot be cancelled or suspended by the environmental protection agencies. 

Environment organisations, both governmental and non-governmental, have protested strongly at the bill’s implications. For Marilene Ramos, the president of the official agency for the environment and renewable resources, IBAMA, (in Portuguese only) it means Brazil is going in the opposite direction to developed countries and will no longer be able to control infrastructure  projects. 

“It is completely absurd; it is as though the act of applying for a driving licence entitled you to drive a lorry”

Indigenous leader Nara Baré, of COIAB – the Coordination of Indian organisations in the Brazilian Amazon – said: “Brazil presented targets in Paris but doesn’t do its homework, protecting the forest and us who live in it.”

Carlos Bocuhy, the president of PROAM, an environmental NGO, says the effect of the bill will be to end environmental licensing: “It is completely absurd; it is as though the act of applying for a driving licence entitled you to  drive a lorry.”

The Climate Observatory (in Portuguese only) sees the bill as “a bad joke”,  even more so in a country that has just suffered the worst environmental disaster in its history, the bursting of a dam of toxic mud in Minas Gerais state on 5 November last year. The calamity destroyed all animal and plant life and a major river nearby, and could be the world’s worst disaster after Chernobyl.   

Greenpeace director Marcio Astrini said of the bill that “if it becomes law, it will act as a factory of tragedies”

Personal stake

Its author, Senator Acir Gurgacz, has a personal interest: his family owns a transport company which would benefit hugely from the paving of the 900 km BR319 highway, linking two Amazon capitals, Porto Velho and Manaus. At present the project cannot go ahead because IBAMA has embargoed the work, alleging environmental damage. The road runs through conservation areas, indigenous lands and areas of largely unspoiled rainforest.

The bill´s rapporteur is Senator Blairo Maggi, a soya magnate, who has cleared thousands of hectares of rainforest in his home state of Mato Grosso, and is tipped to be the minister of agriculture in the new government that will take over once President Rousseff is suspended from office this week. 

Environmentalists are already expressing deep concern about the government planned by vice-president Michel Temer, who will become Brazil’s president on 12May if the impeachment goes through.They note that his policy paper, A bridge to the future, which laid out his plans for government, made no mention of the environment, climate change or the Amazon rainforest.

Instead the big farmers’ and ranchers’ lobby, FPA, or Parliamentary Farming Front, presented the president-to-be with a “positive agenda” – a list of demands which included the abolition of the ministry of land reform, the halting and revision of the demarcations of indigenous reserves and quilombos (territories inhabited by the descendants of runaway slaves), and more funds for agribusiness, which already enjoys substantial subsidies.

Besides the bill to end environmental licensing, other damaging bills are in the pipeline. 

Ignoring local wishes

One, known as PEC 215, has been doing the rounds in Congress for over 15 years, but with the imminent arrival of the new, pro-farmer government it is expected soon to be voted into law. If it is, it will mean that the power to decide further demarcations of indigenous areas – nearly 400 are under consideration – will pass from the executive to the Congress.

With both houses dominated by members of the rural lobby, this is regarded as tantamount to ending demarcations.  Another 1,611 quilombo areas will also be affected. The importance of the indigenous and quilombo territories is that they tend to conserve forested areas, instead of clearing them for mechanised agriculture or cattle grazing.

By law the areas contained within each rural property (which, especially in the Amazon, are often vast) must be left wild. But another measure on the table (bill 4508/16) will allow them to be used for cattle grazing.

Others will permit mining and hydroelectric dams in indigenous areas without any need for permission from their inhabitants. Reducing controls on pesticides – Brazil is the world’s biggest consumer – is yet another target. 

The government of Dilma Rousseff has in no way been a model of protection for the environment and indigenous areas, but it seems that the government of Michel Temer could be much worse.

Searing heat may spark climate exodus Thu, 12 May 2016 09:47:57 +0000 searing heat
searing heat

Creative Commons: Modern Event Preparedness, 2009

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Parts of the Middle East and North Africa could become unbearably hot if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

New research predicts that, by mid-century, summer temperatures will stay above 30°C at night and could rise to 46°C during the day. By the end of the century, maximum temperatures could reach 50°C, and this could happen more often. Instead of 16 days of extreme heat, there could be 80 days.

“In future, the climate in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy,” says Jos Lelieveld, director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany.

He and colleagues report in Climatic Change journal that they used computer models to explore changes in temperature patterns in the MENA region in the 21st century. Global warming happens unevenly, and many regions are experiencing warmer winters – with earlier growing seasons – but not necessarily many more extremes in summer heat.

Sweltering days

But the pattern around the Eastern Mediterranean and in the landscapes of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco is one of increasing summer heat.

Between 1986 and 2005, the average number of “very hot” days was 16. By mid-century, this could reach 80 days a year. By the end of the century, even if greenhouse gas emissions decline after 2040, the number of sweltering days could soar to 118.

“If mankind continues to release carbon dioxide as it does now, people living in the Middle East and North Africa will have to expect about 200 unusually hot days, according to the model projections,” says Panos Hadjinicolaou, associate professor at the Cyprus Institute and a co-author of the report.

Prof Lelieveld and another co-author from the Cyprus Institute took part in a study of changing atmospheric conditions, to see what aerosol concentrations in the atmosphere could tell climate science about soil moisture trends in the region’s arid landscapes.

“Prolonged heatwaves and desert dust storms can render some regions uninhabitable, which will surely contribute to the pressure to migrate”

They report in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal that as soils have dried, dust emissions have increased – by 70% over Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria since the beginning of this century.

Climate researchers have repeatedly warned that extremes of heat will become the “new normal” at most latitudes. However, those countries that already experience the most relentless summer heat could become increasingly unhealthy and unstable.

Extremes of drought have been linked to the fall of ancient civilisations in the region, as well as to the present conflict in Syria and to the growth in the refugee population in Europe and the Middle East.

Near-lethal conditions

One research team recently took a close look not just at heat but at potential humidity levels around the Gulf, and found that conditions could in some circumstances one day become near-lethal. So the latest studies are more confirmation than revelation.

The researchers considered what would happen if the world adopted the notorious “business-as-usual” scenario and did nothing significant to control greenhouse gas emissions.

They also considered a scenario in which the world tried to contain global warming to a 2°C average above historic levels, and in which global emissions began to decrease by 2040. But, even under this scenario, summer temperatures in the region would get to 46°C by mid-century.

“Climate change will significantly worsen the living conditions in the Middle East and in North Africa,” Professor Lelieveld says. “Prolonged heatwaves and desert dust storms can render some regions uninhabitable, which will surely contribute to the pressure to migrate.”


Fort McMurray wildfire: The climate connection Tue, 10 May 2016 14:26:01 +0000 Fort McMurray wildfire
Fort McMurray wildfire

Public Domain: Josh O’Connor – USFWS, 2009

As Albertans scramble for solutions to the Fort McMurray wildfire, experts are warning that a “perfect storm” of last year’s El Niño and climate change helped fuel the destruction.

The fire has now grown 10 times its original size, and is ravaging an area of Canada’s heartland roughly the size of Hong Kong. More than 80,000 locals have evacuated Fort McMurray, 1,600 buildings have been decimated, and many pets remain stranded in the city amid the chaos.

With reports now suggesting that this fire may even make it to the nearby province of Saskatchewan, officials suggest that the only way of containing this wildfire is through heavy rainfall.

As new research shows the region’s mild winter and increased snow melt could have contributed to the dry conditions which sparked the blaze, ultimately, it will remain at the mercy of a changing climate as long as emissions aren’t capped and temperatures continue to rise.

Key Points

  • Extreme weather impacts are harsher and more frequent than ever. With 2015 on record for being the hottest year ever, it’s no surprise that extreme weather events from floods and storms to droughts and heatwaves continue to pummel communities across the globe. As the chances of such incidents continue to grow, bringing an even bigger toll and hitting the most vulnerable hardest, the Fort McMurray wildfire is the latest sobering reality check for what lies ahead if climate action stagnates.
  • As long as fossil fuels are extracted, countries will remain at the mercy of a volatile climate. If the world is to have a chance of holding warming below 2DegC, let alone 1.5DegC, the vast majority of fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. Yet Alberta’s tar sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of emissions, and across the world countries, such as Australia and Japan, continue to dig up and burn dirty fossil fuels. As the Fort McMurray wildfire grabs international headlines all eyes are on governments’ next move, and if they will see through their collective pledge to abandon fossil fuels in favour of a renewable future.

You can find more resources for this story here >>

Zombie fossil firms go for the jugular in dirty fightback Fri, 06 May 2016 11:15:39 +0000 fossil firms
fossil firms

Creative Commons: Bora Chung, Tar Sands Action, 2011

After months of silence following the huge blow delivered by the Paris Agreement, the fossil fuel industry has come out of hiding, and it is swinging wildly.

As greater numbers speak out against dirty energy, companies’ scheming has turned to activists, with founder Bill McKibben, warning operatives from the industry are mounting a six-figure campaign against high-profile campaigners and attempting to discredit the huge potential of renewables.

Coal, oil and gas companies know the impact they have on the climate – and have done so for decades. Yet instead of putting their businesses on a less ruinous path, they continue to choose denial.

But with many businesses, investors and citizens all waking up to the risks of continuing to pump fossil fuels, these underhand tactics are finally being seen for what they are: a last-ditched and desperate attempt for survival by an industry that faces oblivion.

Key Points

  • Standing up for the planet is essential but dangerous. Berta Cáceres was murdered for her activism in Honduras, while a brutal crackdown of a protest in the Philippines left farmers dead. Attacks on campaigners like Bill McKibben, as well as governments’ assaults on the right to protest and the funding of environmental NGOs, while not as viscerally brutal, are reprehensible and undemocratic. But with the impacts of our environmental destruction hitting home across the globe, citizens are coming out in ever greater numbers to call for a fossil free, safe future for all.

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Alberta grapples with devastation as wildfire blazes through community Wed, 04 May 2016 14:59:13 +0000 wildfire

Fort McMurray fires. Creative Commons: 2016

More than 60,000 people have been forced out of their homes in Fort McMurray, Alberta, for the biggest evacuation in the province’s history due to a wildfire.

The wildfire continues blazing through Fort McMurray, destroying homes, businesses, and even blowing up a gas station.

Home to Canada’s tar sands industry, the community has already been hit by the volatile drop in the price of oil globally.

Alberta has also been especially vulnerable to extreme weather impacts as temperatures reach record highs throughout the province, even devastating the local farming industry.

As conditions worsen in Fort McMurray, and extreme weather threatens communities across the globe, these events send a strong signal to leaders that the only way to protect the world’s most vulnerable people from these impacts is by curbing rising temperatures once and for all.

Key Points

  • Climate change is making fires more extreme and more frequent. Reports suggest that the wildfire was caused by rising temperatures – hitting nearly 33DegC on 3 May – and low humidity in the Canadian city, and is expected to worsen as winds are forecasted to increase at speeds of 25 to 50 km/h. Although wildfires are not new to the region, as the world continues to warm, the area is increasingly sensitive to the growing risks
  • Communities, not corporations, are paying for the true cost of fossil fuels. People from Fort McMurray have lost everything to blazing wildfires, while in Australia, the world heritage Great Barrier Reef and its multibillion tourism industry have been decimated by unnatural ocean heat. Extreme weather has a massive toll on people and their communities, and each event can be traced back to fossil fuel impacts.
  • Climate action must be part of a holistic response to tackle extreme weather. Properly resourced and trained emergency personnel, strong public education, and preventative measures are absolutely needed. But to truly respond to growing fire risks, far more needs to be done to reduce carbon emissions, clean up national and global energy systems and economies, and protect and regenerate natural environments.

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UK coal battle heads to Wales as fossil fuel fight goes global Tue, 03 May 2016 16:06:31 +0000 UK coal battle
UK coal battle

Courtesy of: Reclaim the Power, 2016

In yet another call for the UK government to end its love affair with coal, hundreds of protesters have today shut down the UK’s largest opencast coal mine in Ffos-y-fran, South Wales.

The UK has pledged to end coal use by 2025, but by continuing to dig up the brown stuff it will still have a hand in driving global temperatures over 2DegC of warming.

Today’s protest calls on the government to ensure all UK coal is kept in the ground by closing its mines, and supports a local campaign to prevent new coal mines at Nant Llesg.

Coal is in crisis and last week the Aberthaw power station – which uses 95 per cent of the coal mined at Ffos-y-fran – announced it is scaling back operations, another sign the era of UK coal is coming to an end.

With collapsing fossil fuel prices, company bankruptcies and massive divestments, there have never been a better moment to break free from dirty energy and today’s action is the beginning of a global wave of civil disobedience calling for a 100 per cent renewable future.

Key Points

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Reality of climate change sinks in across US party lines, say researchers Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:38 +0000 US party lines
US party lines

Creative Commons: Andrew Czap, 2011

The tides have shifted among conservative voters, as new research suggests that half of Republicans heading to the polls this year believe that global warming is a threat.

The survey, issued by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities, noted that twice as many conservatives believe that climate change is real compared to two years ago, highlighting a major leap in public opinion.

As the urgency of a changing climate becomes increasingly prevalent, more and more people are taking a part in finding solutions through jobs and lifestyle changes.

It’s now up to leaders to show their citizens that they are paying attention, and putting the concerns of communities – especially those at the forefront of climate impacts – at the heart of their political agendas.

Key Points

  • Climate change is a non-partisan issue. Last March, Florida mayors from across party lines called for debate moderators to step in and address climate change during the televised Republican debate. In vulnerable places like Florida, which faces the highest risk of flooding in the country, people realize that their communities are at the forefront of the climate crisis, regardless of their political allegiances.
  • People want governments to do their part in solving the climate crisis. Although there are still divides over people’s perceptions of climate science across party lines, this fundamental change in opinion shows climate action is increasingly mainstream. According to this poll, most people are in favour of climate-friendly policies, including increased funding for renewables, reducing CO2 emissions, and tax programs such as rebates on energy efficiency, or a carbon tax.

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Vulnerable countries suffer as heat epidemics hit worker health and productivity Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:25:41 +0000 worker health
worker health

Creative Commons: Dan DeLuca, 2008

Rising temperatures are already hitting the global workforce, and failing to tackle climate could risk billions of dollars in lost economic output and undermine efforts to reduce poverty.

That’s the stark warning of a new report released for International Workers’ Memorial Day, which shows that as extreme heat forces people to take more breaks, work less, and face increasingly serious health risks, families, incomes, and economic output all suffer.

According to the analysis from the Climate Vulnerable Forum and the International Labour Organisation, some emerging economies could see 10 per cent of working hours lost, with the lowest paid workers facing the biggest risks.

Globally, failing to tackle climate change could cost US$2.4 trillion a year by 2030 in lost productivity and health costs.

Coming just days after governments reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement this latest report is yet another reminder to leaders of the the huge benefits for their citizens and their economies of turning their national pledges into strong and definitive actions.

Key Points

  • The solution: a just transition to a 100 per cent renewable future for all. While workers continue to be exposed to the impacts of rising temperatures, they are also bearing the brunt of the world’s addiction to dirty fossil fuels, with oil and coal volatility already costing thousands of jobs in 2016. Only by setting a clear roadmap to a future powered by clean, secure renewables – and one that puts workers at its centre – will governments protect their citizens and their economies.

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Biodiesel not a solution to EU emissions, warns NGO Wed, 27 Apr 2016 11:59:21 +0000 biodiesel

Creative Commons: Kris Duda, 2011

Long touted as a way to decarbonise the EU’s transport sector, new analysis from NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) has shown the use of biodiesel could increase emissions by almost 4% – the equivalent of putting 12 million cars on the road by 2020.

The analysis, based on the European Commission’s own study into biofuels, found that biodiesel from virgin vegetable oil – known as “first generation biofuels” – leads to around 80% higher emissions than the fossil diesel it replaces.

As the EU looks to review its renewable energy legislation, T&E are calling it to end incentives for these “bad biofuels” – such as those from palm and soy – or be left with a “cure… worse than the disease.

Key Points

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Climate brings hard times for tea yields Mon, 25 Apr 2016 12:26:53 +0000 tea yields
tea yields

Creative Commons: US Department of Agriculture, 2007

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Slow changes in the annual monsoon season may be reducing yields in one of the world’s most important crops – and gradually watering down the tea in China.

Scientists in the US have used a new approach to examine harvests of Camellia sinensis – the evergreen bush whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea − in southern Yunnan and other regions of China, and have identified a decline that could only be linked to the retreat of the monsoon, along with greater levels of downpour.

That climate change in the form of greater extremes of heat and drought and flood will affect crop yields overall is well-established, but what matters to farmers is what gradual global warming and subtle shifts in seasonal weather patterns will bring to specific crops in traditional agricultural provinces.

For the moment, wine harvests in areas of France may have benefited from earlier springs and warmer summers, and the overall shift in average temperatures has brought new hope to the once-struggling English vineyards.

Economic importance

But tea – the most consumed beverage in the world, after water, and celebrated by the 18th-century English poet William Cowper as “the cups, that cheer but not inebriate” – is grown in 50 countries, but is of vital economic importance to 80 million rural people in China and at least three million in India.

Rebecca Boehm, PhD candidate at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in the US, and colleagues report in Climate journal that rather than match annual production figures with the calendar dates of the east Asian monsoon onset, they looked at regional rainfall figures from 1980 to 2011 to decide precisely when the rainy season could be said to have begun and ended.

And their “yield response model” identified a set of incremental changes that each seemed to affect harvests.

“We hope that our approach will enable researchers to more accurately assess how monsoon and seasonal dynamics affect crop productivity”

A 1% increase in the date of the monsoon retreat could be linked to a reduction in yields of between 0.48% and 0.535%. An increase of 1%  in average daily rainfall could be associated with a drop in yield of 0.18% to 0.26%. And a drop of 1% in solar radiation the previous growing season could mean a 0.55 to 0.86% fall in yields.

Tea is not a simple crop. The buds form on the evergreen perennial bush, and growers and skilled workers have to decide when to pick to deliver the product with the best flavour.

Producers have to maintain quality, but tea in particular is an astonishing mix of flavonoids, caffeine, non-protein amino acids and other natural chemicals that vary according to growing conditions, but which have been linked to human health.

Management techniques

Epidemiological studies have associated tea-drinking to lower rates of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, depressive symptoms and reduced incidence of cold and ’flu symptoms.

Boehm says: “If monsoon periods continue to be longer and produce heavier daily rainfalls that could reduce tea yield and quality, then there needs to be changes in management techniques, such as possibly planting tea varietals that are more tolerant of increased precipitation, or managing soil in ways to increase water-holding capacity.”

The methodology could be employed to examine yield changes in other places, and with other crops.

“We hope that our approach will enable researchers to more accurately assess how monsoon and seasonal dynamics affect crop productivity in tropical and subtropical regions globally,” Boehm adds.

Emmanuel de Guzman: Sign on the dotted line, but don’t forget the fine print is 1.5C Fri, 22 Apr 2016 12:32:32 +0000 1.5C

Creative Commons: DFID/Russell Watkins, 2010

Authored by Emmanuel de Guzman, reposted from Huffington Post
Emmanuel de Guzman is Secretary and Vice-Chair of Philippine Climate Change Commission

Anyone watching coverage of the Paris Agreement last December could be forgiven for thinking that countries had defeated climate change itself, there and then, once and for all. As a record number of heads of state and other government representatives gather in New York on April 22nd to reaffirm their vows to the Agreement and sign on the dotted line – fresh from the news that unprecedented amounts were invested in renewable energy last year – the feeling of momentum is palpable. As the minister of a country that has suffered severely from climate change, however, I would like to remind my counterparts that much of the work still remains to be done.

My country, together with other vulnerable countries grouped under the Climate Vulnerable Forum, fought tooth and nail to make the Paris Agreement as ambitious as it is. The Agreement’s very existence is historic and should be welcomed as a testimony to the effectiveness of multilateral cooperation in the face of threats to global peace and security.

For our nations, the most important provision we fought for – and won – in the Paris Agreement was the promise in Article 2 to endeavor to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. A 1.5-degree limit is the most ambitious target that is still achievable, provided we act urgently.

Keeping warming below this level would preserve most of the world’s coral reefs and glaciers. It would limit the spread of vector-borne diseases exacerbated by climate change, slow the spread of poverty in my native South-East Asia and provide a boost to the world’s plans to meet the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals it signed in 2015.

Nevertheless, even if the countries signing the Agreement this Friday also ratify it, the vision it enshrines is far from being realized. We’re still headed for a world 3-, 4- or even 5-degrees Celsius warmer. Such a world would create unbearable conditions for the one billion people who live in the member countries of our Forum. Failed harvests, wrecked infrastructure, a drain on emerging market growth, and migration out of worst-hit areas would also place immense strain on the whole world.

A massive increase in effort is already required to help those worst hit by climate change cope with the beginnings of these challenges. Under the new climate pact, obligations for financial support, technology sharing and measures to compensate for the loss and damage suffered by vulnerable groups that barely pollute would skyrocket if we don’t halt the warming.

We are doing our best to lead. Just last week, a meeting of our Vulnerable 20 (V20) Group of finance ministers agreed to adopt domestic carbon pricing systems within 10 years and called for an international tax on financial transactions to help fund efforts to tackle climate change. If small and poor countries can take such steps, any country can, especially developed countries who are expected to lead on emission cuts before 2020.

Read more: Huffington Post >>

Payal Parekh: Breaking free from fossil fuels Fri, 22 Apr 2016 11:53:13 +0000 fossil fuels
fossil fuels

Creative Commons: Max Phillips (Jeremy Buckingham MLC), 2011

Authored by Payal Parekh, re-posted from Project Syndicate
Payal Parekh is Program Director at

There has never been a better time to break free from fossil fuels. Record-breaking global temperatures, plummeting fossil-fuel prices, historic investments in renewable energy, and global pressure to honor climate pledges are all coming together to create the ideal setting for this world-changing shift.

The shift could not be more urgent. The United Nations climate agreement forged in Paris last December reconfirmed the level of 2°C above pre-industrial levels as a hard upper limit for global warming, beyond which the consequences for the planet become catastrophic. But it also included commitments to “pursue efforts” to limit warming to 1.5°C. Judging by the latest data published by NASA, achieving that lower limit should be viewed as an imperative.

Brazil storm Christ the Redeemer

The Brazil Syndrome

Economist Anders Åslund engages the views of Dani Rodrik, Nouriel Roubini, Joseph Stiglitz, and others on the growing turmoil in emerging markets.

PS On Point: Your review of the world’s leading opinions on global issues.

The new data confirm that 2015 was the hottest year on record, and show that the global run of record-breaking temperatures continued through the first two months of this year. According to NASA, global temperatures in February were 1.35°C above average, based on a 1951-1980 baseline.

Fortunately, the privileged position of fossil fuels already seems to be weakening. In fact, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global greenhouse-gas emissions and economic growth have already decoupled, with global energy-related CO2 (the largest source of human greenhouse-gas emissions) having remained at the same level for the second year in a row. This means that fossil fuels are no longer the lifeblood of our economy.

It seems that the precipitous decline in oil prices – by two-thirds over the last 18 months – has not, as many feared, encouraged increased consumption. What it has done is deal a major blow to the profits of fossil-fuel giants like Shell, BP, and Statoil.

Coal is not faring any better. Following China’s announced moratorium on new coal-fired power plants at the end of last year, Peabody, the world’s largest coal company, recently filed for bankruptcy protection in the US, after it could no longer make its debt payments, partly because of waning demand for coal.

Meanwhile, renewable energy sources are receiving record amounts of investment – some $329.3 billion last year, according to research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. As a result, a cleaner, fairer, and more sustainable future, powered entirely by renewables, is starting to become a real option.

Yet there is still a long way to go. Most governments are still clinging, to varying degrees, to destructive fossil fuels, with their volatile prices and devastating environmental impact, even as this dependence destabilizes their economies.

Read more: Project Syndicate >>

Paris signing ceremony marks milestone in journey towards fossil free future Fri, 22 Apr 2016 10:34:04 +0000 Paris signing ceremony
Paris signing ceremony

Creative Commons: UN Photo/Joao Araujo Pinto, 2005

As the world’s record warming streak moves into its 11th month, and climate impacts, continue to hit communities, nations will be using Earth Day 2016 to take their first collective step from ambition to action on the global climate deal agreed last December.

In the largest UN signing ceremony to-date, at least 168 nations will sign the historic Paris Agreement in New York this Friday against a backdrop of growing voices calling for a transition to a world powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

These collective calls helped drive the ambitious action agreed upon in Paris, and with 2016 already bringing deadly heatwaves in India, drought in southern Africa, record-breaking cyclones in the Pacific and coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, these actions are only set to get louder.

With leaders reaffirming their own commitment to the transition on Friday, attention will now shift to ensuring they implement and improve the Paris Agreement and urgently move towards a healthier, fairer, more prosperous and fossil free future for all.

Key Points

  • A record-breaking number of countries are expected to sign the Paris Agreement this Earth Day. After forging the historic deal in December, more than 168 countries are now expected to formally sign on to the deal in a single day, more than any other international agreement before it. With leaders including French President Hollande and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau in attendance, the ceremony marks a vital step towards the implementation of the agreement, while some countries – led by vulnerable nations like Fiji and the Marshall Islands – are expected to further accelerate the process by presenting their plans to cement the agreement at national level.
  • The Paris signing ceremony is a significant milestone, but there’s a long road of actions needed ahead. Indonesia and Argentina are already injecting more ambition into their national plans, but to limit global warming to 1.5DegC, urgent action is needed to align all national climate plans with a complete fossil fuel phase out. At the international level, climate needs to stay atop governments’ agendas – including when G7 countries meet next month and when G20 nations meet in China in  September G20. During these meetings nations can make progress towards fulfilling their promises to ditch fossil fuel subsidies, and provide $100 billion a year in climate finance to support the renewable transition while boosting resilience in climate vulnerable communities.
  • People power helped drive ambition in Paris, and it will keep the pressure on. Faith leaders, parenting groups, health advocates,leading investors, climate vulnerable countries and more than 13 million people are amongst those urging their governments to not just participate in Friday’s signing ceremony but to implement the Paris agreement at home as swiftly as possible. Between 4 and 15 of May, thousands more will participate in a coordinated, global wave of mass action targeting the world’s most dangerous fossil fuel projects, and carry forward the momentum for an urgent and just transition to 100% renewable energy.

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Climate warning: Coral bleaching hits 93% of Great Barrier Reef Thu, 21 Apr 2016 10:12:20 +0000 Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef

Creative Commons: Sarah Ackerman, 2009

The Great Barrier Reef is under siege from climate change and coal, with scientists confirming that 93 per cent of the world heritage area is now suffering from severe coral bleaching.

The unprecedented event, caused by climate change warming the ocean, is being called “an environmental assault on the largest coral ecosystem on Earth.” Only around 50 per cent of the impacted corals are expected to survive, and in some areas, only a mere 10 per cent may recover.

So heavy is the toll, 56 scientists have once again called on the Australian government to phase out coal, and are taking ever greater message to their warnings are heard. The expansion of Australian coal is already having dire impacts on the Reef, and will continue to drive the climate impacts that are killing Australia’s famous heritage site.

Yet despite the government’s willingness to pick up the phone about the parlous state of the reef, they seem unwilling to acknowledge that it’s way past time Australia ditched coal.

Key Points

  • This vital ecosystem can be saved, but it will take extraordinary effort. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most diverse ocean habitats, it generates more than $5 billion in tourism revenues and employs nearly 70,000 people. Despite this, the Australian government has recently approved a massive new coal mine in Queensland that will threaten the reef and see the country’s emissions skyrocket. Only an end to coal expansion and exports will allow Australia to adequately protect the Reef.
  • Governments must favour coral over fossil fuels. The world is in the midst of a global coral bleaching event on scale with the worst ever bleaching on record and scientists warn dire predictions made on coral decline could now be realised. As leaders look to re-affirm their commitment to tackling climate change, they can show they are serious about protecting this vital marine ecosystem by urgently moving towards a fossil free and 100 per cent renewable future.

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Amid Brazil’s energy corruption claims, Euro firms eye Amazon mega-dam Tue, 19 Apr 2016 16:07:56 +0000 Amazon mega-dam
Amazon mega-dam

Creative Commons: Neil Palmer/CIAT for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), 2011

While the Brazilian government fights for its political survival, European companies risk being caught up in the fall-out as it’s revealed that major energy firms plan to build and run a controversial mega-dam project in the heart of the Amazon.

French utilities EDF and Engie are among the group of companies – which also includes Brazilian firms linked to the ongoing corruption investigation – that may bid to win contracts for the Tapajos river project.

A joint venture between German firms Siemens and Voith is also thought likely to manufacture the turbines used in the dam.

The news comes as President Dilma Rousseff and other political figures are engulfed by a corruption scandal at the nearby Belo Monte dam and as new Greenpeace research shows the country’s Amazon region is under attack by uncontrolled exploitation.

Economic activities – including dams – have already seen 750,000 km² of forest cleared, risking the region’s biodiversity, driving traditional forest communities from their land and threatening the world’s climate.

Key Points

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Swedish government under pressure to end Vattenfall’s ‘dirty’ coal deal Mon, 18 Apr 2016 16:51:34 +0000 Vattenfall’s ‘dirty’ coal deal
Vattenfall’s ‘dirty’ coal deal

Creative Commons: Bert Kaufmann, 2009

The Swedish government is in the spotlight today with calls for it to stop state-owned Vattenfall’s “dirty deal” to sell its German lignite – or brown coal – assets.

Czech energy company EPH and its financial partner PPF Investments, agreed to buy Vattenfall’s loss-making lignite coal mines and associated power plants.

Vattenfall is expected to incur up to €2.9 billion in losses from the sale.

A previously strong supporter of the clean energy transition, campaigners are urging the Swedish government to block the sale, saying that “getting the dirtiest of fossil fuel off Vattenfall’s books is not going to clean Sweden’s hands”.

Instead, they urge the government to hold onto and close down its mines. Next month, thousands of people will be putting their bodies on the line for this aim, as they attempt to bring Vattenfall’s coal operations in the Lusatia region of Germany to a halt.

Key Points

  • Swedish, and European citizens are the ones paying the price for dirty coal. Last year alone, Swedish taxpayers, had to bear over €1.6 billion in losses associated with Vattenfall’s German lignite business. Meanwhile, citizens across Europe continue to pay the price for coal, including billions in clean-up and health costs. Companies continuing to bet on coal – such as the Czech company buying Vattenfall’s assets – are gambling not only their future, but that of European citizens.

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Climate threat to vulnerable islands Mon, 18 Apr 2016 11:03:02 +0000 vulnerable islands
vulnerable islands

Creative Commons: Christopher Michel, 2007

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Almost three quarters of a sample of island groups – atolls and archipelagos that are home to more than 18 million people − are expected to become increasingly more arid under a regime of climate change.

The new research implies a systematic underestimate of the plight of islanders as the world warms because of increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It also poses another threat to the survival of island communities.

Poignantly, many of the islands are too small even to be included in climate science calculations. So the communities that have, historically, contributed least to global warming could become the most immediate victims.

Kristopher Karnauskas, assistant professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder, US, and colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that they took a fresh look at the world vision of climate projections and the assumptions made in calculating the impacts of climate change.

Water stress

Overall, as the world warms, some regions will become moister, some more parched. The impact on the islands would be about half and half: 50 per cent would see more rain, 50 per cent would feel water stress.

But the scientists found the “resolution” of such projections was too coarse to include many tiny spots that have always figured on naval charts. And many islands in Polynesia are too small to register on the climate map of the world, so an estimated 18 million inhabitants are, in effect, “computationally disenfranchised”.

Even a dot on the map as famous as Easter Island a World Heritage Site in the South Pacific, and home to a set of vast, enigmatic statues that tell of a vanished culture − is deemed not to be there. The grid on the climate map that contains it is regarded as open ocean.

The islands of French Polynesia, the Marshall Islands and the Lesser Antilles are all among the most “water vulnerable” places on the planet, but they do not register at all on climate projection models.

“This shows that any rainwater they have is also vulnerable. The atmosphere is getting thirstier, and would like more of that freshwater back”

It’s not as if islanders didn’t have problems already. Coral atolls are rarely more than two metres above sea level, and many are projected to disappear altogether under water as the sea levels rise − unless the world stops burning fossil fuels and switches to renewable energy on a massive scale. .

Even with limited sea level rise, their citizens face an uncertain future. If the ocean invades the groundwater and poisons their crops, before washing away their villages, it isn’t clear if inhabitants of the islands could technically qualify as refugees deserving of international help.

And the latest research brings no comfort. Even if more rain does fall, evaporation will also increase, so perhaps 73% of the islands could become more parched as a result of increased evaporation.

Regional changes

“Islands are already dealing with sea level rise,” Dr Karnauskas says. “But this shows that any rainwater they have is also vulnerable. The atmosphere is getting thirstier, and would like more of that freshwater back.”

Climate scientists divide the world into grid boxes 240 km by 210 km to consider regional changes. If the area is almost entirely ocean, they consider it ocean and make predictions of change.

Altogether, the researchers say, there are thousands of islands too small to figure on the climate maps. The UN estimates the population of the Small Island Developing States to have been at 64 million in 2010. By 2100, it would be 80 million.

“Paper after paper in my field shows changes in drought or aridity, but my eye always looks at the maps and graphs in those papers and I wonder why we can’t see islands,” Dr Karnauskas says.

“Using models, it turns out, is much less straightforward for islands than for places where there are big chunks of land.”

BP faces pressure over climate hypocrisy Thu, 14 Apr 2016 13:43:45 +0000 climate hypocrisy
climate hypocrisy

Protesters oppose BP’s plans to drill in the Australian Bight. Courtesy of: The Wilderness Society, 2016

BP is under pressure over its increasingly bare hypocrisy on climate change this week, with the British Museum being called on to drop it as a sponsor, and protests in Australia and outside its AGM in London demanding it abandon plans to drill for vast new reserves in the formidable, inhospitable frontier of the Great Australian Bight.

Shareholders at the AGM are angry that a dramatic increase to BP Chief Bob Dudley’s pay sends the wrong message given the company is being hammered by oil market volatility, and are calling on the company to explain how it will respond to the global transition away from fossil fuels.

Exxon knew, and BP knows the impact it is having on the global climate. But instead of putting their  businesses on a less destructive path, oil, gas and coal companies continue to chose to focus on denial, greenwashing and lobbying efforts, as they push for new reserves in deeper, riskier deposits, like BP’s plan to drill in the Great Australian Bight.

Six years on from the infamous Deepwater Horizon disaster, which is expected to cost the company $53 billion, the company is once again risking huge economic, reputational and environmental damage on a dire oil gamble; and is doing so at a time when most of the world has woken up to the disastrous consequences of remaining hooked on fossils, and is now racing into a clean energy future.

Key Points

  • Ending dangerous oil exploration will benefit people and planet. Despite paying out $20 billion in penalties for its Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP continues to search for new reserves in deeper, riskier locations; such as the Australian Bight, where a spill could cost South Australia’s fishing and tourism industries over $1 billion, and decimate its rich marine ecosystem. Extracting and using oil pollutes the air,the water and the environment, and spills put people, their communities and livelihoods, local plants, fish and animals in danger. Only by plugging the boreholes – and favouring clean energy sources – will companies eradicate these threats.

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Jan Vandermosten: Coal is a climate killer, whatever its efficiency Thu, 14 Apr 2016 08:59:30 +0000 climate killer
climate killer

Creative Commons: Jan Tik, 2006

Authored by Jan Vandermosten, re-posted from WWF
Jan Vandermosten is the Sustainable Finance Policy Officer for WWF’s European Policy Office.

The argument that high-efficiency coal-fired power plants are a viable solution for reducing CO2 emissions, the main cause of climate change, is still defended with vigour by the coal industry – and by governments that have a stake in the coal industry, in particular Japan, Germany, South Korea, Australia and Poland. Japan even goes as far as to counting public finance for coal plants as ‘climate finance’.

Research by consultancy Ecofys, commissioned by WWF, completely discredits these claims.

It shows that in order to achieve the emissions reductions needed to keep temperature rise under 2 degrees – an international commitment confirmed in Paris in December – power production from coal needs to reduce drastically as from today, and be completely phased out by the middle of this century. This is based on data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

An even more rapid decline will be needed in order to achieve the commitment taken at the UN climate summit in Paris in December 2015 to ‘pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’.
Coal development still continues, however.

There are currently plans to build no fewer than 2,300 new coal plants globally, equivalent to a capacity of 1,400GW. If all these plants were to be built, CO2 emissions from existing and new plants in 2030 would amount to 11 gigatonnes: this is six times higher than what a 1.5°C carbon budget would allow. According to the report equipping all new plants with even the most efficient technologies would only lead to marginal emission reductions of approximately 1 gigatonne, keeping the 1.5°C target far out of reach.

While governments prepare to come together and officially sign the global climate Paris Agreement, it is time for them to start taking their climate change commitments seriously. They should recognise what research demonstrates: that the global carbon budget and the time remaining to reduce greenhouse gas emissions simply do not allow for the replacement of retired coal plants with new more efficient coal plants, let alone capacity extensions.

Rich countries should lead the effort to phase out coal. The G7 summit to be held on 26–28 May in Japan – whose government is one of the biggest coal supports worldwide – offers an opportunity to do so. The G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and the United States – should commit to putting their money where their mouth is, and immediately end all public financial support for any type of coal plant technology, whatever its efficiency. They should also publicly commit to phase out coal plants in their country by 2035 at the latest, as a precursor to the global phase-out needed by 2050.

The Ecofys research rebuts once and for all that high-efficient coal can be a solution to climate change. As a result, it makes clear that in a post-Paris world, there is simply no role for coal anymore. More renewable energy, more energy efficiency and a giving a more central role to power consumers are the solutions we need.

Call for Saudis to be a solar power Wed, 13 Apr 2016 12:32:42 +0000 solar power
solar power

Creative Commons: Philippe Roos, 2010

Authored by Kieran Cooke, re-posted from Climate News Network

The announcement by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia sent tremors through global energy markets.

He said that the desert kingdom – the world’s biggest oil exporter – would, within 20 years, no longer be dependent on oil revenues and plans to use an estimated US$2 trillion in assets to diversify the country’s economy and invest in companies and projects around the globe.

Great news, say the renewable energy specialists. Now is the time for Saudi Arabia – for years, one of the countries most opposed to any serious global action on tackling climate change – to use its massive financial resources to invest in renewable energy, and in particular solar.

“In 2016, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a major opportunity to develop a new industry,” says Jeremy Leggett, a leading solar specialist, in an article written for Saudi’s national finance daily, Al Eqtissadaih.

Global prices

Not only have has Saudi Arabia been hit by recent declines in global oil prices, which account for more than 90% of government revenues, it is also consuming more and more of its own oil reserves to generate power.

Leggett, founder of the independent solar energy company Solarcentury, points out that there has been what he calls an “astonishing” cost reduction in solar power in recent years – with the cost of the average solar power plant falling more than 80% since 2008.

He says: “The opportunity is for Saudi Arabia, with its fuel resource – the sun – and its capital from its oil revenues, to become a major player in the new global solar industry: a hub in what is likely to become the biggest industry in the world a few decades from now.”

Whether or not there is the political will within the tightly-knit and secretive Saudi ruling circle to invest in a solar future is the big question.

The announcement by Prince Mohammed, made in the course of an interview given to the Bloomberg news agency, made no mention of developing renewable energies.

The Prince – second in line to the Saudi throne – said the aim was to sell shares in Saudi Aramco, the state-run oil company, and create what would be the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund to invest in companies and projects around the globe.

“The opportunity is for Saudi Arabia to become a major player in what is likely to become the biggest industry in the world a few decades from now”

The sale of shares, said the Prince, “will technically make investments the source of Saudi government revenue, not oil.

At successive climate change negotiations, Saudi Arabia has generally been opposed to any global action that might have a negative impact on its oil exports.

However, the fall in the price of oil has seriously affected the Saudi economy. Last year, the country recorded a budget deficit of US$98 billion, the highest ever.

Reduced subsidies

As a result, generous fuel, water and electricity subsidies have been reduced, and there are indications that taxes on fossil fuels will be raised.

In the course of last December’s Paris climate conference, Saudi officials told Climate News Network that while the kingdom planned to diversify its energy sources, frequent dust storms in the country’s deserts could inhibit the workings of solar installations.

Solar experts disagree, pointing out that solar plants have been built and operate successfully in several desert areas. Earlier this year, one of the world’s biggest solar installations began operations in the desert of Morocco.

Other solar plants operate in the Gulf States of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And a Saudi company, ACWA Power, played a major role in the construction of the plants in Morocco and Dubai.

World’s largest private coal company files for bankruptcy Wed, 13 Apr 2016 11:55:26 +0000 coal company
coal company

Creative Commons: Paul Sableman, 2013

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest privately-owned coal company, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US, becoming the 50th coal company to do so since 2012.

The company blames “prolonged industry downturn” on its predicament, hinting at the structural decline the coal industry is in, but fails to admit how its willful denial of climate change and refusal to move with the rest of the world towards a low carbon economy has destroyed its business.

Investment in renewables has outstripped fossil fuels in recent years, with more and more clean energy coming online.

When combined with the historic Paris Agreement last year, it is becoming abundantly clear that there is no place in a low carbon future for companies like Peabody Energy, and strong questions are now being raised around whether it and others like it can fulfill their obligations to workers and affected communities and clean up the mess their mines have left behind.

Key Points

  • Renewables are the future, and it’s a healthier, wealthier future for all. Renewable energy is already far outstripping coal in investment and new capacity globally; and this trend will continue as technology improves and countries increase climate action, boosting GDP, creating new jobs, saving millions of lives and increasing access to energy. . Coal’s only answer has been the misnomer of “clean coal” but this fails to solve the many issues it comes bundled with, such as human rights abuses, and health impacts.
  • The zero carbon transition is inevitable, and happening increasingly fast. As Peabody’s case makes clear, some fossil fuel companies are delusional about the change happening before their eyes, and are at risk of absconding from their responsibilities. As governments look to turn their Paris pledges in action, their first step should be urgent measures to keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground and ensure a smooth transition that protects workers, communities and taxpayers.

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Countries urged to turn Paris promises into action, ratify swiftly Tue, 12 Apr 2016 14:53:32 +0000 Paris promises
Paris promises

Creative Commons: UNFCCC, 2015

As many nations make calls for the swift ratification of the Paris Agreement, the profound impacts of climate change is hitting home, 2016 is forecast to be the hottest on record and more extreme weather events hit across the globe.

55 countries – representing 55 per cent of global emissions – need to ratify the agreement for it to formally take effect, and early support is in countries’ interest according to a UN aid.

Failing to ratify could leave countries out in the cold when it comes to deciding just how the new agreement will work, potentially putting them at a diplomatic and economic disadvantage.

As over 130 countries prepare to head to New York for the biggest ever UN signing ceremony – a symbolic first step towards fully implementing the agreement – calls are growing for countries to urgently adopt the deal and enact national laws and policies in line with the rapid global decarbonisation and the 1.5DegC temperature limit agreed in Paris.

Key Points

  • Delivering on Paris means turning promises into action. Four small island states have already passed laws in support of the Agreement and countries from China to Germany and the UK are examining new legislation to take them closer to their Paris pledges. The sooner all governments move towards implementation and action the sooner they will embark on their collective abandonment of dirty energy.

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Drought-hit California feels pressure Mon, 11 Apr 2016 12:10:42 +0000 Drought-hit California
Drought-hit California

Creative Commons: Joe Shlabotnik, 2005

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

California is being sheltered from stormy weather by what climate scientists have dubbed a Ridiculously Resilient Ridge – a band of high pressure that disrupts wind patterns.

But the discovery is not welcomed, as storms are what normally deliver the rainfall that California desperately needs to alleviate its crippling drought conditions.

Daniel Swain, a PhD student in environmental earth system science at Stanford University, and colleagues report in Science Advances journal that they analysed the atmospheric circulation patterns that have been coincident with rainfall and temperature extremes in the Golden State’s history.

Water availability

“California’s driest and warmest years are almost always associated with some sort of persistent high pressure region, which can deflect the Pacific storm track away from California,” Swain says.

“Since California depends on a relatively small number of heavy precipitation events to make up the bulk of the annual total, missing out on even one or two of these can have significant implications for water availability.”

California has been in the grip of a prolonged and remorseless drought that is one of the worst in history, with immediate and long-term threats to the supply of water for agriculture and the crowded cities of the region.

And researchers − including Noah Diffenbaugh, associate professor of earth system science at Stanford University, who is one of the co-authors of the new study − have linked the drought to global climate change resulting from the release of greenhouse gases worldwide as human economies burn ever more fossil fuel. Which means that Californians can expect more of the same.

“We find clear evidence that atmospheric patterns that look like what we’ve seen during this extreme drought have in fact become more common in recent decades”

“The current record-breaking drought has arisen from both extremely low precipitation and extremely warm temperature,” Professor Diffenbaugh says.

“In this new study, we find clear evidence that atmospheric patterns that look like what we’ve seen during this extreme drought have in fact become more common in recent decades.”

Surface melting

The scientists found that the blocking ridge of high pressure was deflecting storms northward, and that the phenomenon had become more common in recent decades.

Blocking high pressure systems affect all regions of the planet, and a team from Rutgers University recently reported in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate that such blocking highs could stop cold Canadian air from reaching Greenland, and thus accelerate the surface melting of the Arctic’s largest ice cap.

The take-home message from the Stanford research is that climate change research should embrace large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns, as well as the patterns of temperature rise and precipitation.

Paradoxically, the resilience of the pressure ridge doesn’t mean the end of heavy rain in California − just a shift in the balance of dry and wet seasons.

“What seems to be happening is that we are having fewer ‘average’ years, and instead we’re seeing more extremes on both sides,” Swain says. “This means California is indeed experiencing more warm and dry periods, punctuated by wet conditions.”

Energy East ‘threatens’ drinking water for millions of Canadians Fri, 08 Apr 2016 12:47:22 +0000 energy east
energy east

Creative Commons: 2010

A proposed TransCanada pipeline could contaminate the drinking water sources for up to five million Canadians, a new report suggests.

According to Environmental Defence, TransCanada’s Energy East project – which would pump 1.1 billion barrels of crude from Alberta’s tar sands to coastal seaports – places nearly 3,000 drinkable water sources at risk of oil contamination if the pipeline were to rupture.

TransCanada has a history of their oil infrastructure failing in the past, with one of its pipelines transporting Alberta crude bursting earlier this week in the US.

As reports continue to magnify the dangers of sustaining a fossil fuel economy, Canada’s leaders face surmounting pressure to phase out any prospects of a dirty energy economy, and to instead make room for a 100 per cent renewable future.

Key Points

  • Energy East could devastate communities. Not only would this pipeline risk contaminating the drinking water for millions of Canadians, Energy East – the largest proposed pipeline in North America – would cut through major cities and First Nations living along its proposed route. Energy East could also generate up to 32 million tonnes in additional greenhouse gas emissions each year in Canada, once again placing frontline communities at the forefront of its devastating impacts.
  • TransCanada has a history of being reckless. At the end of last summer, TransCanada drilled boreholes in the Bay of Fundy for pipeline exploration without consulting nearby communities, while just this week, the oil giant is caught up in another scandal with its Keystone pipeline rupture in South Dakota. By allowing TransCanada to build Energy East, the federal government would be placing people’s safety in the hands of a company that has continuously failed to protect the interests of communities.
  • Fossil fuels no longer make sense for Canada’s economy. The oil price slump has created economic instability in provinces like Alberta, which was highly dependent on the volatile commodity, and projects like Energy East won’t alleviate that situation since it would create few permanent jobs. At a time where leading experts agree that switching to renewables could stimulate growth, a full transition towards a 100 per cent clean energy future could be within Canada’s reach as early as 2050.

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Global wealth faces higher climate risk Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:20:38 +0000 global wealth
global wealth

Creative Commons: Kamyar Adl, 2015

Authored by Alex Kirby, re-posted from Climate News Network

Do you want to know how much climate change could cost the global economy? UK-based researchers have come up with an answer, which they present with some surprising qualifications.

If global average surface temperature rises by 2.5C over its pre-industrial level by 2100, they say, then an average of US$2.5 trillion, or 1.8%, of the world’s financial assets would be at risk from the impacts of climate change.

The researchers found that limiting warming to 2C in 2100 would significantly reduce the “climate Value at Risk” (VaR), which measures the risk to investments, estimating how much they might lose  given normal market conditions  in a set time period.

The average value of global financial assets at risk would be $1.7 trillion, with a one per cent chance of $13.2 trillion being at risk, they add.

Inevitable uncertainties

At the UN climate conference in Paris last December, 195 countries agreed to work to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2C, and to drive efforts to limit the increase even further, to only 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. So this estimate sounds fairly reassuring.

But suppose the world overshoots the Paris target and ends up above 2C by the end of the century? Estimating VaR is by no means an exact science, and the researchers found that the inevitable uncertainties in trying to establish it mean the average risk fails again to tell the whole story.

They say there is a one per cent chance that, in a world 2.5C warmer, the total level of global financial assets at risk in 2100 could reach $24 trillion, or 16.9% of assets.

The authors point out that this total is almost five times greater than the estimates of $5 trillion for the total stock market capitalisation of fossil fuel companies today.

“Our results may surprise investors, but they will not surprise many economists working on climate change” 

The researchers, from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Vivid Economics, publish their findings in Nature Climate Change journal.

The lead author, Professor Simon Dietz, says: “Our results may surprise investors, but they will not surprise many economists working on climate change, because economic models have over the past few years been generating increasingly pessimistic estimates of the impacts of global warming on future economic growth. 

Financial assets

“When we take into account the financial impacts of efforts to cut emissions, we still find the expected value of financial assets is higher in a world that limits warming to 2°C. This means risk-neutral investors would choose to cut emissions, and risk-averse investors would be even more keen to do so.

“Our research illustrates the risks of climate change to investment returns in the long run and shows why it should be an important issue for all long-term investors, such as pension funds, as well as financial regulators.” 

Of the uncertainties in estimating the climate VaR, he says: “Although we are the first to produce a comprehensive estimate of the climate Value at Risk using an economic model, it is important to remember there are huge uncertainties and difficulties in performing economic modelling of climate change, so this should be seen as the first word on the topic, not the last.”

White House weighs in on health risks of climate change Wed, 06 Apr 2016 08:13:27 +0000 health risks of climate change
health risks of climate change

Creative Commons: 2012

Evidence of the health risks of climate change is stronger than ever, according to US federal researchers.

In a new report, the US Global Climate Change Research Program shows the strong correlations between global warming and the prevalence of health problems in the country, like asthma, allergies and the West Nile virus.

While this isn’t the first time that scientists have drawn such conclusions, this latest public health warning offers “the strongest evidence to date that links climate change to health risks,” according to the US surgeon general.

With Americans already reaping benefits to their health and the economy by shifting to renewables, this new study acts as yet another stark reminder for US leaders requiring further affirmation that a 100 per cent renewable future is inevitable, and needs to be accelerated.

Key Points

  • Embracing renewables is beneficial to people’s health and the economy. In 2015, AWEA reported that US wind farms contributed to a reduction of 132 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in the electric power sector, slashing respiratory issues and saving billions of dollars in healthcare costs. By adopting smart and steady energy policies, communities that are ahead of the curve are healthier, safer and more prosperous than ever.
  • A renewables-only future is the only way to keep people safe from a warming planet. Around the world, hospitals have divested from fossil fuels, while an alliance of 13 million doctors, nurses and health workers issued a strong declaration urging leaders to put health at the forefront of climate action. Health professionals have and will continue to stand behind strong legislation that protects people from the impacts linked to rising temperatures and polluting fossil fuels.

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Coal plant closures becoming the new normal for Europe? Tue, 05 Apr 2016 12:28:18 +0000 coal plant closures
coal plant closures

Creative Commons: 2012

The downward spiral for Europe’s coal industry continued this week, with Belgium becoming the latest country to rid itself of the dirty energy source.

With the closure of the country’s last coal-fired power station, Langerlo, on 30 March, the once coal-dependant Belgium is hot-on-the-heels of Scotland’s abandonment of coal, becoming the seventh EU nation to kick the dirty habit.

With a heavy nuclear dependency and proposals to converting Langerlo into a biomass-plant, the spotlight is now on the country to support its bustling renewables industry.

From China to the US, countries are increasingly moving to phase-out coal, leaving those clinging to it at a disadvantage both economically and politically.

Australia, for example, continues to pursue new mines at drastic cost to taxpayers, while Poland, Turkey and Japan look to burn even more coal, risking growing international condemnation, and facing years of dealing with the inevitable damage to their economy, health and communities.

Key Points

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Antarctic ice melt may be happening faster than feared Mon, 04 Apr 2016 15:11:03 +0000 Antarctica ice melt
Antarctica ice melt

Creative Commons: Oliver Dodd, 2012

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network 

Climate scientists may have collectively underestimated the hazards of sea level rise. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at their present rate, then, in Antarctica alone, enough ice will have run into the sea by the end of the century to raise the high tide mark worldwide by a metre.

And if the process continues, then by 2500 enough of Antarctica’s massive ice cap will have melted to raise sea levels by 15 metres.

The new finding focuses only on revised calculations for Antarctica. It does not count the melting from all the world’s mountain glaciers, the permafrost, or the Greenland ice cap, and it is concerned principally with the immediate impact of global warming. But the consequences are ominous enough.

“This could spell disaster for many low-lying cities,” says Robert DeConto, professor of climatology  at  the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. “For example, Boston could see more than 1.5 metres of sea level rise in the next 100 years. But the good news is that an aggressive reduction in emissions will limit the risk of major Antarctic ice retreat.”

Professor DeConto and co-author David Pollard, senior scientist at Penn State University’s Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, publish their new simulations in Nature and begin by thinking about sea level rise long before the emergence of humankind, let alone human civilisation.

Waiting for action

“We looked at the long-standing problem posed by geological evidence that suggests sea level rose dramatically in the past, possibly by up to 10 to 20 metres around 3 million years ago in the Pliocene,” Dr Pollard says. “Existing models couldn’t simulate enough ice sheet melting to explain that.”

The scientists’ warning comes with an important proviso: this is what could happen if humans continue to burn fossil fuels at the present rate, to increase the carbon dioxide composition of the atmosphere, and to drive global warming. In Paris in December 195 nations vowed to take steps to contain climate change.

But promises have yet to become sustained action. And the predictions of climate change on which the Paris judgment was based were essentially compromise: a consensus around a median between the most and least hopeful calculations.

“We regard the results as worst-case envelopes of possible future behaviour, and the mechanisms should be considered seriously in future work”

The two US scientists are not the only ones to see heightened dangers of south polar melting or to suggest that warming is happening fasteror thatAntarctica’s glacial ice is running more swiftly into the sea than the consensus predicts.

They started with an exquisitely detailed model that embraced the physical processes that conserve ice or lead to its loss.

These include the fine detail of atmospheric warming and ice dynamics – what rainwater might do to the ice sheet that floats on the Southern Ocean and blocks the glacial flow from the land, for instance, and what makes ice cliffs collapse into the sea – along with a lot of lessons from the past.

Warmer ocean

Right now, what pushes the loss of ice is a warmer ocean, thinning the ice sheet from below. Melting water from the surface will penetrate the ice and cause it to crack.

When the ice shelves are gone, the glaciers can accelerate. But the continent bears a massive burden of ice: the remaining ice cliffs would be so huge they could not support their own weight, and these too would collapse at an increasing rate. Once the process begins, then atmospheric warming will prevent the formation of more ice.

“Although the future sea-level contribution in our model is greater than previously thought, it is based on credible mechanisms and is consistent with geologic evidence of past sea-level rise,” Dr Pollard says. “We regard the results as worst-case envelopes of possible future behaviour, and the mechanisms should be considered seriously in future work.”

Health benefits surge as US clean tech soars Fri, 01 Apr 2016 09:50:17 +0000 US clean tech
US clean tech

Creative Common: Edith Maracle (Berghout), 2009

As renewable jobs skyrocket in the US, so do their immense health benefits. According to a recent report from Environmental Entrepreneurs, the clean energy industry currently employs more than 2.5 million Americans in sectors like energy efficiency and renewable energy.

These findings come at a time where the health benefits of renewables are increasingly apparent – the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported $7.3 billion in savings for 2015 on healthcare costs, such as respiratory issues caused by polluting emissions.

Despite the significant benefits brought on by a burgeoning clean energy industry, there’s still plenty of progress to be made – according to conservation policy analysts, oil production on public lands increased by more than 11 per cent between 2014 and 2015.

Following today’s joint announcement from the US and China that they would both sign the Paris Agreement on 22 April, all eyes will be on federal leaders to implement policies that break free from fossil fuels “as early as possible” for a safer and healthier future.

Key Points

  • Clean energy growth creates jobs nationwide. The American solar industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the American economy, now employing more people than coal mining, while the US continues to be the world leader in the wind energy sector. As renewable energy becomes more affordable and abundant, the sector will continue to surge.
  • Communities that embrace renewables are reaping the benefits. In 2015, AWEA reported that US wind farms contributed to a reduction of 132 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in the electric power sector, slashing respiratory issues and saving billions of dollars in healthcare costs. By adopting smart and steady energy policies, communities that are ahead of the curve are healthier, safer and more prosperous than ever.
  • Climate action and fossil fuel growth are mutually exclusive. Over the past few months, US President Barack Obama has worked to cement his climate legacy before leaving office. With the US and China announcing today that they would indeed move forward with the Paris Agreement, all eyes will be on the Obama administration to roll out the historic climate agreement “as early as possible” by moving away from dangerous fossil fuels for good.

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Bleak outlook for coal as UK closes three plants Thu, 31 Mar 2016 15:22:26 +0000 coal pollution
UK coal plants

Creative Commons: Tobias Scheck, 2011

The UK has put the world another step closer to ridding itself of coal with the closure of three more polluting power stations. Last week, Longannet – Scotland’s last coal-fired power station – and Ferrybridge shut its doors.

Today, Yorkshire based Eggborough follows suit, remaining available only for emergency back-up.

Another station Fiddlers Ferry was also due to shutdown this week, but obtained an additional contract to keep some of its units open, while this spring Rugeley power plant in Staffordshire is expected to join the list of closures.

Together, the three closures will save 20 million tonnes of CO2, take UK government closer to its target to phase out unabated coal use by 2025, and set an example for Europe’s other coal-hungry government’s to follow.

With a growing appetite from renewables and increasing evidence to show that getting out of coal will protect lives, shield governments from an increasingly volatile coal market, and help them meet their emission reduction targets, there is little argument left for any country to continue investing in this dirtiest of energy sources.

Key Points

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Arctic sea ice shrinks to record low Wed, 30 Mar 2016 11:28:54 +0000 Arctic sea ice
Arctic sea ice

Creative Commons: NASA/Kathryn Hansen, 2011

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Researchers in the US say that Arctic sea ice has reached a record low winter maximum for the second year running.

Data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and the US space agency NASA shows that the sea ice peaked on 24 March at 5.607 million square miles, or 14.52 million square kilometres. This is the lowest maximum since satellite measurements began in 1979.

“I’ve never seen such a warm, crazy winter in the Arctic,” says the NSIDC director, Mark Serreze. “The heat was relentless.”

The extent of the ice is only slightly smaller than the 2015 measurement of 5.612 million square miles, or 14.54 million square kilometres. The 13 smallest maximum extents of ice have all been recorded in the last 13 years.

Warmest year

The steady shrinking of the winter ice in the last four decades means that the Arctic has lost ice over 1.6 million square kilometres or 620,000 square miles  an area as big as the Xinjiang region in China, or twice the size of Texas.

The finding is no great surprise: 2015 was the warmest year ever recorded, and both around the planet and in the Arctic, December, January and February all broke monthly temperature records. Air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean for those three months of were 2° to 6° C above average in nearly every region.

And not only were air temperatures at the edge of the ice significantly warmer than usual in the last century, warm winds from the south prevented the growth of the ice pack, and warming ocean waters continued to contain the sea ice extent.

“Although the maximum reach of the sea ice can vary a lot each year, we’re seeing a significant downward trend”

The Arctic ice cap plays a powerful role in maintaining polar temperatures. Ice and snow reflect 60% of incoming solar radiation back into space, while blue seas absorb sunlight and accelerate warming.

So as the ice caps get smaller, they are likely to go on getting smaller. But what climate scientists call the albedo effect matters most in summer, when the sun is higher in the Arctic sky.

Summer melting

Ironically, the latest measurements come only months after researchers expressed hopes that, for the moment, the steady shrinking of the ice caps may have faltered.

The dwindling extent of winter ice also suggests that the summer melting could continue over time to be more extensive. The year 2012 saw the summer pack ice shrink to its lowest ever, and researchers now confidently expect the Arctic Ocean to become increasingly open to shipping for at least part of the year.

“It is likely that we’re going to keep seeing smaller wintertime maximums in the future because, in addition to a warmer atmosphere, the ocean has also warmed up,” says Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland. “That warmer ocean will not let the ice edge expand as far south as it used to.” 

“Although the maximum reach of the sea ice can vary a lot each year, depending on winter weather conditions, we’re seeing a significant downward trend, and that’s ultimately related to the warming atmosphere and oceans.”


Are Australian taxpayers to fund Adani’s zombie coal project? Wed, 30 Mar 2016 11:16:59 +0000 Adani’s zombie coal project
Adani’s zombie coal project

Creative Commons: John Englart, 2014

With over dozen financial institutions essentially ruling out funding Indian coal conglomerate Adani’s Carmichael mine in Queensland, Australian taxpayers are now being asked to open their wallets for the project.

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is in the country this week, seeking a handout from Australia’s Future Fund for the economically disastrous project, which has been described as financially unviable, as well as an environmental and climate disaster.

While the project appears to be walking dead, if Australia’s sovereign wealth fund ignores the neon warning signs – such as ANZ’s almost billion-dollar writedown of coal loans, the halt of coal plant construction in China, Peabody Energy’s imminent demise, and a new report out today showing that coal plants are increasingly sitting idle around the world on the back of drastic consumption declines – then the Future Fund will be risking red on its balance sheet on the scale of the white currently bleaching the Great Barrier Reef.

Key Points

  • Australians are not only being asked to sign a death warrant for the Great Barrier Reef with Adani’s new coal mine, they are now being asked to pay for it too. Every bank within cooee is backing away from coal, so Adani is looking to Future Fund chairman and former Howard Government Treasurer Peter Costello to put taxpayer money where his mouth is. Costello has already been called out on willful blindness and a breach of fiduciary duty for his continued support for fossil fuel investments, but even considering investing taxpayer money in Adani’s zombie project – as ANZ issues almost a billion dollar writedown for coal loans – would be the definition of “ludicrous”, as former Liberal Leader John Hewson put it in late 2015.
  • This is the face of the Coalition government’s climate policy. If it can schizophrenically push coal expansion while pretending to act on climate change, say coal is “good for humanity” while the new coal plants in the pipeline alone will result in an estimated 130,000 more premature deaths per year, then it isn’t hard to believe that it will allow taxpayer money to be hastily gambled on a coal project that both directly and indirectly threatens Australia’s multi-billion dollar Great Barrier Reef tourism industry on its watch.
  • New coal is good for no one. The economic case for Adani’s Carmichael mine is dire, but it does not stack up in any other way either.The coal industry is deepening the world’s water crisis and hurting the vulnerable, but in turn the water crisis in India has left coal struggling too, with coal plants forced to sit idle due to lack of water. Not only is the coal industry putting greater pressure on water flows badly needed for people and food and risking the health of millions globally, the almost US$1 trillion that could be spent on the current expansion of coal plants is 2.5 times the amount needed to end energy poverty for 1.2 billion people.

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UK doctors: Climate change ‘gravest threat’ to human health Wed, 30 Mar 2016 11:00:17 +0000 human health
human health

Flooding at the River Severn, UK in November 2012. Creative Commons: 2012

The UK’s leading health institutions are today calling for greater action to tackle one of the “the gravest threats to health”.

The newly formed UK Health Alliance on Climate Change warns that more frequent extreme weather events like flooding and heatwaves pose direct risks to health and systemic threats to hospitals and health services, while climate change will also bring untold impacts for human health, including the spread of diseases and malnutrition.

As with other risks before it, such as tobacco, HIV/AIDS and polio, the alliance aims to address the “unacceptable threat to wellbeing” caused by climate change, and add their weight to growing calls for a cleaner, safer, healthier future.

Responding to climate change will have real benefits for health, with the alliance stressing that strong action would put the UK at the centre of the “greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.

Key Points

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Asia loses its appetite for coal Tue, 29 Mar 2016 12:35:40 +0000 appetite for coal
appetite for coal

Creative Commons: Gustavo M, 2008

Authored by Kieran Cooke, re-posted from Climate News Network

Asia, the world’s biggest coal market by far, is showing signs of turning its back on what is the most polluting of fuels, shelving or cancelling a large number of coal-fired power plant construction projects.

Four Asian countries – China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam – together account for about 75% of an estimated 2,457 coal-fired power stations at present planned or under construction around the world.

A study published by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a UK-based non-profit organisation, says a combination of factors – including slowing economic growth and a rapid growth in renewables – means that a large percentage of these plants will never be built.

That’s good news for people living in cities such as New Delhi andBeijing, where coal-burning power plants are major contributors to health-threatening levels of air pollution.

It’s also good news for the planet: the burning of coal accounts for nearly 50% of global energy-related carbon emissions and is a main driver of climate change

The ECIU says that in both India and China existing coal-fired power plants are under-utilised. In China – at present the world’s biggest coal producer and consumer – a faltering economy, over-optimistic projections of electricity demand and rapidly falling costs for renewable power are among the factors slowing coal demand

Scaleback likely

In India, the world’s second biggest coal consumer, severe infrastructure problems are one factor hampering full use of existing coal plants.

In both countries, says the study, this may make new plants progressively less profitable, and less attractive to investors. Also, both countries are “massively expanding” renewable and nuclear generation.

Though both Vietnam and Indonesia have ambitious coal plant construction plans, the ECIU says these are likely to be scaled back in the years ahead.

After the global climate meeting in Paris late last year, Vietnam announced it was reviewing all new coal plant projects in order to implement “international agreements to cut emissions.” 

Indonesia remains focused on expanding its coal-fired power sector, though projects on Java – one of the most densely populated islands on earth – are meeting strong opposition from those worried about air pollution

Indonesia has also announced plans to source 23% of its energy from renewables by 2025 – up from 6% at present.

“The argument that there is no point in Western nations decarbonising because their emission cuts will be dwarfed by emission gains from Asia is based on shaky ground”

Gerard Wynn, founder of the UK’s GWG Energy consultancy and author of the ECIU study, says the idea that a coal boom in Asia will undermine climate change pledges made at the Paris summit is exaggerated.

“In fact, the evidence suggests that the shift away from the dirtiest fossil fuels in favour of cleaner forms of energy is happening much faster than anyone could have expected”, says Wynn.

“The report’s assessment of new capacity that will be built may even be an over-estimate once the Paris Agreement comes into effect, as it will further restrict financing for new coal projects.” 

China’s electricity demand last year grew at its slowest rate since at least 1970, at 0.5%. Wynn says: “That slowing power demand growth explains why the country doesn’t need new coal power plants. And it contradicts the official headline rate of 6.9% GDP growth last year.”

The report says it is far too soon to signal the end of coal in Asia, but the case for building new coal plants is quickly shrinking. “In our estimation, the number of new coal-fired power plants built across Asia is likely to be in the hundreds, probably the low hundreds”, says the study.

“As such, the argument that there is no point in Western nations decarbonising because their emission cuts will be dwarfed by emission gains from Asia is based on shaky ground.”