Author: Kieran Cooke

About Kieran Cooke

Kieran Cooke, a founding editor of Climate News Network, is a former foreign correspondent for the BBC and Financial Times. He now focuses on environmental issues

Physicians press climate emergency button

If you were doubtful before, the news that British doctors are now acting to limit the climate emergency may prompt a rethink.

LONDON, 17 January, 2020 – The doctors are worried about the climate emergency. In recent days the UK’s Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has announced it’s halting investments in climate-changing fossil fuel and mining companies.

The RCP, the British doctors’ professional body dedicated to improving the practice of medicine, which has funds in global stock markets amounting to nearly £50 million (US$65m), says it will start divesting immediately from the worst-polluting oil and gas companies, which are mainly in the US.

As part of a phased disinvestment policy the RCP – the oldest medical college in England, with more than 35,000 members – says that within the next three years all investments in fossil fuel companies
not aligned with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change
will be withdrawn.

“The fossil fuel industry is driving the climate crisis and is responsible for a public health emergency”, says Dr Will Stableforth of the RCP.

“As physicians we have a duty to speak out against this industry and hold it accountable for the damage it is doing to human health.”

Gathering impetus

The RCP’s action forms part of a fast-growing worldwide movement involved in withdrawing investment funds from the fossil fuel industry. A growing number of health organisations – both in the UK and elsewhere – has already announced similar divestment moves.

According to the campaign group +350, investment and pension funds managing more than $11 trillion round the globe have committed to divesting from fossil fuel companies.

BlackRock, the world’s largest fund investment management company with nearly $7tn assets under its control, has announced it will withdraw funds from firms sourcing 25% or more of revenues on thermal coal, the most polluting fossil fuel.

Larry Fink, BlackRock’s head, says investors are becoming increasingly aware of climate change in assessing various companies’ long-term prospects.

“The fossil fuel industry is driving the climate crisis and is responsible for a public health emergency”

“Awareness is rapidly changing and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance”, Fink told fund managers and chief executives this week.

“In the near future – and sooner than most anticipate – there will be a significant reallocation of capital.”

The banking and insurance sectors are also being forced to confront the dangers posed by climate change. The Bank of England recently became the world’s first central bank to introduce a climate change “stress test”,  requiring the UK’s banks and insurance companies to evaluate their exposure to the risks of a warming world.

Despite the moves on divestment and tighter finance controls on climate change-related investments, investors – along with the fossil fuel companies themselves – continue to pump millions into various projects around the world.

BlackRock and other major fund management groups talk of their commitment to sustainability and helping in the fight against climate change, but remain leading fossil fuel investors.

Greenwash continues

Although investments in the coal industry have declined, multi-million dollar investments in new projects are still being made, particularly in Asia.

Carbon Tracker, an independent financial think tank, estimates that between January 2018 and September last year oil and gas companies approved $50bn worth of new projects.

“Gas and mining companies have been furiously trying to “greenwash” their images and promote false solutions to the climate crisis”, says Dr Deidre Duff of the UK-based Medact health charity.

“But in reality, these companies are devastating human and planetary health and exacerbating health inequalities around the world.” – Climate News Network

If you were doubtful before, the news that British doctors are now acting to limit the climate emergency may prompt a rethink.

LONDON, 17 January, 2020 – The doctors are worried about the climate emergency. In recent days the UK’s Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has announced it’s halting investments in climate-changing fossil fuel and mining companies.

The RCP, the British doctors’ professional body dedicated to improving the practice of medicine, which has funds in global stock markets amounting to nearly £50 million (US$65m), says it will start divesting immediately from the worst-polluting oil and gas companies, which are mainly in the US.

As part of a phased disinvestment policy the RCP – the oldest medical college in England, with more than 35,000 members – says that within the next three years all investments in fossil fuel companies
not aligned with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change
will be withdrawn.

“The fossil fuel industry is driving the climate crisis and is responsible for a public health emergency”, says Dr Will Stableforth of the RCP.

“As physicians we have a duty to speak out against this industry and hold it accountable for the damage it is doing to human health.”

Gathering impetus

The RCP’s action forms part of a fast-growing worldwide movement involved in withdrawing investment funds from the fossil fuel industry. A growing number of health organisations – both in the UK and elsewhere – has already announced similar divestment moves.

According to the campaign group +350, investment and pension funds managing more than $11 trillion round the globe have committed to divesting from fossil fuel companies.

BlackRock, the world’s largest fund investment management company with nearly $7tn assets under its control, has announced it will withdraw funds from firms sourcing 25% or more of revenues on thermal coal, the most polluting fossil fuel.

Larry Fink, BlackRock’s head, says investors are becoming increasingly aware of climate change in assessing various companies’ long-term prospects.

“The fossil fuel industry is driving the climate crisis and is responsible for a public health emergency”

“Awareness is rapidly changing and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance”, Fink told fund managers and chief executives this week.

“In the near future – and sooner than most anticipate – there will be a significant reallocation of capital.”

The banking and insurance sectors are also being forced to confront the dangers posed by climate change. The Bank of England recently became the world’s first central bank to introduce a climate change “stress test”,  requiring the UK’s banks and insurance companies to evaluate their exposure to the risks of a warming world.

Despite the moves on divestment and tighter finance controls on climate change-related investments, investors – along with the fossil fuel companies themselves – continue to pump millions into various projects around the world.

BlackRock and other major fund management groups talk of their commitment to sustainability and helping in the fight against climate change, but remain leading fossil fuel investors.

Greenwash continues

Although investments in the coal industry have declined, multi-million dollar investments in new projects are still being made, particularly in Asia.

Carbon Tracker, an independent financial think tank, estimates that between January 2018 and September last year oil and gas companies approved $50bn worth of new projects.

“Gas and mining companies have been furiously trying to “greenwash” their images and promote false solutions to the climate crisis”, says Dr Deidre Duff of the UK-based Medact health charity.

“But in reality, these companies are devastating human and planetary health and exacerbating health inequalities around the world.” – Climate News Network

Germany’s green energy quest stalls

Despite its ambitious goals and promising start, Germany’s green energy quest is faltering, and it has missed a key target.

LONDON, 8 January, 2020 – The city of Munich – one of Europe’s wealthiest urban conurbations – has expansive plans to tackle the fast-growing problems associated with climate change: its policies are a good example of Germany’s green energy quest, the Energiewende.

At the end of last year Munich, Germany’s third largest city with a population of just under one and a half million, joined a rapidly expanding group of countries, cities, towns and councils around the world in declaring a climate emergency.

Munich’s council has already announced plans to source all the city’s electricity from renewable sources by 2025. It has also pledged to make the city – its transport systems and building sector as well as its energy supplies – carbon neutral by 2035.

As the UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance and other similar organisations point out, switching energy sources away from fossil fuels, while vital for the future of the planet, is a considerable challenge. And transitions which start off at a gallop may as time passes risk slowing to a trot.

Under its Energiewende or energy transition policy unveiled 20 years ago, Germany has made substantial progress in transforming its energy sector, reducing the use of climate-changing fossil fuels and boosting energy from renewable sources.

“Critics of the Energiewende say the phase-out of nuclear power has meant that coal has continued to play a dominant role in Germany’s energy sector”

According to the latest figures, renewables – wind, hydro-power, biomass and solar – now account for just over 40% of Germany’s total energy production.

Along with this transition, there’s been a 30% drop in Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) over the last 30 years.

But, though the Energiewende policy was initially successful, making further progress on replacing fossil fuels with renewables and cutting back on GHG emissions is now proving ever more difficult.

The initial aim was to achieve an overall 40% drop in GHG emissions by the end of 2019 as compared to 1990 levels: clearly that target has not been met.

Several factors are in play: despite early progress on cutting back on coal use, Germany – which has Europe’s largest economy – has so far failed to wean itself off its dependence on what is the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

Coal burning persists

More than 25% of Germany’s total energy production comes from coal – one of the highest rates among European countries. Most of the coal burned is lignite, the most polluting form of the fossil fuel.

In 2011, in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Germany announced it would be phasing out its use of nuclear power. Since then, 11 of its 17 nuclear reactors have closed, the latest at the end of 2019.

Critics of the Energiewende say the phase-out of nuclear power has meant that coal has continued to play a dominant role in Germany’s energy sector.

The German government says it will shut its more than 100 coal-fired power stations by 2038. Some say this is far too late, while others question Germany’s increasing reliance on imported energy – particularly gas from Russia.

Other factors are hindering the Energiewende. Though many German households and small businesses are switching to solar power, a large proportion of the country’s renewable energy – about 20% – is sourced from wind power, most of it land-based.

Out of sight

In recent years there’s been growing concern about the proliferation of land-based wind turbines: more restrictions have been brought in on their construction, resulting in a drastic cut-back in wind project start-ups.

All this means that the goals of the Energiewende will be tough to achieve for Munich – and for Germany.

Munich is the capital city of the southern state of Bavaria, home to BMW and many other leading German industries.

The state has brought in some of the country’s most stringent restrictions on wind power projects: to meet its ambitious decarbonisation targets and, at the same time, ensure its energy supply, Munich is now having to invest in wind power installations abroad, some as distant as Norway.

But such enterprises carry their own set of problems. Environmental groups in Norway have raised objections to wind power turbine installations which they say threaten the beauty of the landscape. In particular they criticise the construction of such projects solely for the export of energy. – Climate News Network

* * * * *

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

Despite its ambitious goals and promising start, Germany’s green energy quest is faltering, and it has missed a key target.

LONDON, 8 January, 2020 – The city of Munich – one of Europe’s wealthiest urban conurbations – has expansive plans to tackle the fast-growing problems associated with climate change: its policies are a good example of Germany’s green energy quest, the Energiewende.

At the end of last year Munich, Germany’s third largest city with a population of just under one and a half million, joined a rapidly expanding group of countries, cities, towns and councils around the world in declaring a climate emergency.

Munich’s council has already announced plans to source all the city’s electricity from renewable sources by 2025. It has also pledged to make the city – its transport systems and building sector as well as its energy supplies – carbon neutral by 2035.

As the UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance and other similar organisations point out, switching energy sources away from fossil fuels, while vital for the future of the planet, is a considerable challenge. And transitions which start off at a gallop may as time passes risk slowing to a trot.

Under its Energiewende or energy transition policy unveiled 20 years ago, Germany has made substantial progress in transforming its energy sector, reducing the use of climate-changing fossil fuels and boosting energy from renewable sources.

“Critics of the Energiewende say the phase-out of nuclear power has meant that coal has continued to play a dominant role in Germany’s energy sector”

According to the latest figures, renewables – wind, hydro-power, biomass and solar – now account for just over 40% of Germany’s total energy production.

Along with this transition, there’s been a 30% drop in Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) over the last 30 years.

But, though the Energiewende policy was initially successful, making further progress on replacing fossil fuels with renewables and cutting back on GHG emissions is now proving ever more difficult.

The initial aim was to achieve an overall 40% drop in GHG emissions by the end of 2019 as compared to 1990 levels: clearly that target has not been met.

Several factors are in play: despite early progress on cutting back on coal use, Germany – which has Europe’s largest economy – has so far failed to wean itself off its dependence on what is the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

Coal burning persists

More than 25% of Germany’s total energy production comes from coal – one of the highest rates among European countries. Most of the coal burned is lignite, the most polluting form of the fossil fuel.

In 2011, in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Germany announced it would be phasing out its use of nuclear power. Since then, 11 of its 17 nuclear reactors have closed, the latest at the end of 2019.

Critics of the Energiewende say the phase-out of nuclear power has meant that coal has continued to play a dominant role in Germany’s energy sector.

The German government says it will shut its more than 100 coal-fired power stations by 2038. Some say this is far too late, while others question Germany’s increasing reliance on imported energy – particularly gas from Russia.

Other factors are hindering the Energiewende. Though many German households and small businesses are switching to solar power, a large proportion of the country’s renewable energy – about 20% – is sourced from wind power, most of it land-based.

Out of sight

In recent years there’s been growing concern about the proliferation of land-based wind turbines: more restrictions have been brought in on their construction, resulting in a drastic cut-back in wind project start-ups.

All this means that the goals of the Energiewende will be tough to achieve for Munich – and for Germany.

Munich is the capital city of the southern state of Bavaria, home to BMW and many other leading German industries.

The state has brought in some of the country’s most stringent restrictions on wind power projects: to meet its ambitious decarbonisation targets and, at the same time, ensure its energy supply, Munich is now having to invest in wind power installations abroad, some as distant as Norway.

But such enterprises carry their own set of problems. Environmental groups in Norway have raised objections to wind power turbine installations which they say threaten the beauty of the landscape. In particular they criticise the construction of such projects solely for the export of energy. – Climate News Network

* * * * *

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

Bank of England unveils climate stress test

Tackling climate change isn’t just about replacing fossil fuels with renewables, or planting more trees. It’s about confronting climate stress across society.

LONDON, 1 January, 2020 – The warming world means climate stress now permeates every part of society. And so an entire financial system which has underpinned the growth of a global economy largely dependent on fossil fuels must be reoriented to deal with what is fast becoming a full-blown crisis.

A campaign to halt or withdraw multi-million dollar investments from industries associated with fossil fuel use is gaining momentum. And the central banks – the institutions responsible for regulating countries’ financial systems – are now taking action.

Leading the charge is the venerable Bank of England (BOE), one of the oldest such institutions in the world. In December it became the first central bank to announce what it terms a banking stress test on climate change.

Under the BOE’s stress test framework, banks and insurance companies will be required to go through their books to evaluate their exposure to the impacts of climate change.

If, for instance, a British bank has loaned money to a company building a coal-fired power plant, the BOE will require the bank concerned to hold a substantial amount of additional capital to cover the risks of the project being abandoned because of new regulations or other climate change-related factors.

“A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer is what’s your plan on climate change”

In the same way, if an insurance group has granted cover to houses on a flood plain, or to coastal properties which could be subject to rises in sea level – or if a bank has granted mortgages on such properties – the BOE will require additional capital to be held to cover the financial risks involved.

Other financial institutions are examining ways in which their activities can be protected from the more serious impacts of a warming world.  Several insurance groups have announced plans to withdraw cover from fossil fuel projects.

Central banks are following the BOE’s lead: a body with the somewhat cumbersome title of the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) now has more than 40 members – all involved in monitoring the risks climate change poses to the finance sector.

The BOE’s action has two aims. One is to ensure the financial system can withstand the considerable financial costs posed by climate change. The other is to encourage financial institutions to invest their funds in more sustainable, environmentally friendly projects.

Mark Carney, the outgoing BOE governor who is soon to take up a post as UN special envoy for climate action and finance, describes the BOE stress test as the first comprehensive assessment of whether the financial system is on track to help deliver a transition to a sustainable future.

Worthless assets possible

“A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer is what’s your plan (on climate change)”, Carney told the BBC.

He says that unless the finance sector and large companies wake up to the scale of the climate crisis, many of the assets they now hold in fossil fuels and other enterprises will become worthless.

Some financial institutions are taking action, says the BOE governor, divesting from investments in fossil fuels and becoming involved in more sustainable projects, but progress is still far too slow. Time is of the essence.

“The climate emergency continues to build. The next year will be critical”, says Carney. – Climate News Network

Tackling climate change isn’t just about replacing fossil fuels with renewables, or planting more trees. It’s about confronting climate stress across society.

LONDON, 1 January, 2020 – The warming world means climate stress now permeates every part of society. And so an entire financial system which has underpinned the growth of a global economy largely dependent on fossil fuels must be reoriented to deal with what is fast becoming a full-blown crisis.

A campaign to halt or withdraw multi-million dollar investments from industries associated with fossil fuel use is gaining momentum. And the central banks – the institutions responsible for regulating countries’ financial systems – are now taking action.

Leading the charge is the venerable Bank of England (BOE), one of the oldest such institutions in the world. In December it became the first central bank to announce what it terms a banking stress test on climate change.

Under the BOE’s stress test framework, banks and insurance companies will be required to go through their books to evaluate their exposure to the impacts of climate change.

If, for instance, a British bank has loaned money to a company building a coal-fired power plant, the BOE will require the bank concerned to hold a substantial amount of additional capital to cover the risks of the project being abandoned because of new regulations or other climate change-related factors.

“A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer is what’s your plan on climate change”

In the same way, if an insurance group has granted cover to houses on a flood plain, or to coastal properties which could be subject to rises in sea level – or if a bank has granted mortgages on such properties – the BOE will require additional capital to be held to cover the financial risks involved.

Other financial institutions are examining ways in which their activities can be protected from the more serious impacts of a warming world.  Several insurance groups have announced plans to withdraw cover from fossil fuel projects.

Central banks are following the BOE’s lead: a body with the somewhat cumbersome title of the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) now has more than 40 members – all involved in monitoring the risks climate change poses to the finance sector.

The BOE’s action has two aims. One is to ensure the financial system can withstand the considerable financial costs posed by climate change. The other is to encourage financial institutions to invest their funds in more sustainable, environmentally friendly projects.

Mark Carney, the outgoing BOE governor who is soon to take up a post as UN special envoy for climate action and finance, describes the BOE stress test as the first comprehensive assessment of whether the financial system is on track to help deliver a transition to a sustainable future.

Worthless assets possible

“A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer is what’s your plan (on climate change)”, Carney told the BBC.

He says that unless the finance sector and large companies wake up to the scale of the climate crisis, many of the assets they now hold in fossil fuels and other enterprises will become worthless.

Some financial institutions are taking action, says the BOE governor, divesting from investments in fossil fuels and becoming involved in more sustainable projects, but progress is still far too slow. Time is of the essence.

“The climate emergency continues to build. The next year will be critical”, says Carney. – Climate News Network

Sun shines on Germany’s solar sector

A few years ago its future looked dim, but new technology is offering Germany’s solar sector a fast new lease of life.

LONDON, 18 December, 2019 – Not only does it promise the revival of Germany’s solar sector. It’s also the dream of any householder keen both to cut back on fuel bills and help in the fight against climate change – a combined solar and battery unit capable of supplying power to the home on a 24-hour basis.

Now the dream is being turned into reality – with Germany leading the way. Over the past five years more than 150,000 German homeowners and small businesses have installed combined solar and battery storage units.

Advances in technology mean that battery storage units for an average-sized house can be relatively small – about the dimensions of a medium-sized fridge.

Solar power for general household use is supplied from rooftop photovoltaic panels. Additional energy is fed into the battery storage unit – often placed in a basement – for use at night or on days when there is no sun.

Popularity rising

If there is more energy than battery capacity, a digital control system feeds any excess into the grid, with the owner being compensated by the grid operator.

While sales of the systems are still relatively small in comparison with Germany’s population of more than 80 million, the units – which let consumers be independent of power companies and escape increasing energy prices – are proving ever more popular.

Energy experts say that more than 50% of rooftop solar systems now being sold in Germany are installed along with a battery storage facility.

“Before 2013 such combined systems were not a commercial proposition”, says Kai-Philipp Kairies, an expert on energy storage technology at Germany’s RWTH Aachen University.

“What’s happened is that now, due to greater efficiencies, buyers are getting twice as much battery storage power for their money”

“Due to advances in battery storage capabilities and other improvements, sales in Germany over the past five years have been increasing by 100%, year on year.

“No one really anticipated this sort of growth, and German companies have been at the forefront of developments in the sector.”

The switch to small-sized combined energy systems forms another stage in Germany’s ambitious Energiewende project – a state-sponsored programme aimed at improving power efficiency and switching the country’s entire energy sector to renewables by 2050.

The UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance, which reports on programmes and projects both in the UK and worldwide that are following Energiewende-type policies, provides extensive further details.

Earlier fade-out

German companies have been piling into the combined unit sector with more than 40 enterprises at present involved.

In the past, the big power companies shied away from solar. In 2012 the head of RWE, Germany’s biggest energy company, said that giving support to the country’s solar power industry was like “farming pineapples in Alaska” – it was just not a viable proposition.

Now the giants of the power industry are entering the market: Shell, the Dutch-British energy conglomerate, recently purchased Sonnen, Germany’s leading supplier of home storage batteries. E.ON, the German power company, has teamed up with Solarwatt, another leading German renewables company. EnBW, one of the big four German utility companies, recently bought Senec, another supplier of battery storage units.

The systems are not cheap, though industry analysts say a fall in the cost of both batteries and solar panels in recent years has made such equipment far more affordable.

Rapid switch

“The units are getting cheaper at an incredible pace”, says Aachen University’s Dr Kairies. “We estimate that the relative cost of the systems has gone down by more than 50% over the past five years, though this may not be reflected in the price paid by the homeowner.

“What’s happened is that now, due to greater efficiencies, buyers are getting twice as much battery storage power for their money.”

Owners of a relatively small house would be likely to pay a total sum in the region of US$20,000 for both solar panels and batteries, though prices vary widely, dependent on actual house size, insulation and on how the building is positioned in regard to sunlight.

Sales of the units have provided a lifeline for Germany’s solar industry, which not so long ago was on its knees. Cheap solar panel imports from China had forced many domestic manufacturers out of business; a decline in the level of feed-in tariffs – the guaranteed payments consumers received for supplying energy to the grid – had further damaged the solar business.

Not so sunny

There were questions over Germany’s suitability for solar. “Germany is not exactly one of the world’s sunniest holiday destinations”, says a report on the sector by the Clean Energy Wire (CLEW),  a Germany-based journalism group which focuses on the country’s transition to renewable energy. “In fact, the central European country ranks among countries with the fewest hours of sunshine per year.”

According to CLEW, more than 150,000 people were employed in Germany’s solar sector in 2011. Six years later that number had shrunk to 36,000.

Today, according to figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA),  Germany is top of the world rankings in terms of installed solar capacity per capita, accounting for about 10% of total global installed solar capacity.

The bulk of solar panels and batteries are still manufactured in Asia, mainly in China. Retailers in Germany package the systems and make adjustments, as well as carrying out installation work and servicing. All systems come with a 10-year warranty.

Exports take off

Exports of the combined solar and battery units are rising. A recent report by Wood Mackenzie, the investment and research group, says other countries in Europe, particularly Spain and Italy, are following Germany’s example.

“Germany’s world-leading foray into the residential storage market has enabled Europe to claim the title of the largest residential storage market globally”, says the report.

“Off the back of Germany’s success, residential storage is beginning to proliferate in other European countries, particularly where market structures, prevailing power prices and disappearing feed-in tariffs create a favourable early-stage deployment landscape.”

The UK and Australia are seen as strong growth markets and – as long as the sun keeps shining – the future looks bright: McKinsey, the consultancy and research group, predicts that the costs of energy storage systems around the world will fall further – by more than 50% by 2025 – because of advances in design, more streamlined production processes and economies of scale as output is expanded. – Climate News Network

* * * * *

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

A few years ago its future looked dim, but new technology is offering Germany’s solar sector a fast new lease of life.

LONDON, 18 December, 2019 – Not only does it promise the revival of Germany’s solar sector. It’s also the dream of any householder keen both to cut back on fuel bills and help in the fight against climate change – a combined solar and battery unit capable of supplying power to the home on a 24-hour basis.

Now the dream is being turned into reality – with Germany leading the way. Over the past five years more than 150,000 German homeowners and small businesses have installed combined solar and battery storage units.

Advances in technology mean that battery storage units for an average-sized house can be relatively small – about the dimensions of a medium-sized fridge.

Solar power for general household use is supplied from rooftop photovoltaic panels. Additional energy is fed into the battery storage unit – often placed in a basement – for use at night or on days when there is no sun.

Popularity rising

If there is more energy than battery capacity, a digital control system feeds any excess into the grid, with the owner being compensated by the grid operator.

While sales of the systems are still relatively small in comparison with Germany’s population of more than 80 million, the units – which let consumers be independent of power companies and escape increasing energy prices – are proving ever more popular.

Energy experts say that more than 50% of rooftop solar systems now being sold in Germany are installed along with a battery storage facility.

“Before 2013 such combined systems were not a commercial proposition”, says Kai-Philipp Kairies, an expert on energy storage technology at Germany’s RWTH Aachen University.

“What’s happened is that now, due to greater efficiencies, buyers are getting twice as much battery storage power for their money”

“Due to advances in battery storage capabilities and other improvements, sales in Germany over the past five years have been increasing by 100%, year on year.

“No one really anticipated this sort of growth, and German companies have been at the forefront of developments in the sector.”

The switch to small-sized combined energy systems forms another stage in Germany’s ambitious Energiewende project – a state-sponsored programme aimed at improving power efficiency and switching the country’s entire energy sector to renewables by 2050.

The UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance, which reports on programmes and projects both in the UK and worldwide that are following Energiewende-type policies, provides extensive further details.

Earlier fade-out

German companies have been piling into the combined unit sector with more than 40 enterprises at present involved.

In the past, the big power companies shied away from solar. In 2012 the head of RWE, Germany’s biggest energy company, said that giving support to the country’s solar power industry was like “farming pineapples in Alaska” – it was just not a viable proposition.

Now the giants of the power industry are entering the market: Shell, the Dutch-British energy conglomerate, recently purchased Sonnen, Germany’s leading supplier of home storage batteries. E.ON, the German power company, has teamed up with Solarwatt, another leading German renewables company. EnBW, one of the big four German utility companies, recently bought Senec, another supplier of battery storage units.

The systems are not cheap, though industry analysts say a fall in the cost of both batteries and solar panels in recent years has made such equipment far more affordable.

Rapid switch

“The units are getting cheaper at an incredible pace”, says Aachen University’s Dr Kairies. “We estimate that the relative cost of the systems has gone down by more than 50% over the past five years, though this may not be reflected in the price paid by the homeowner.

“What’s happened is that now, due to greater efficiencies, buyers are getting twice as much battery storage power for their money.”

Owners of a relatively small house would be likely to pay a total sum in the region of US$20,000 for both solar panels and batteries, though prices vary widely, dependent on actual house size, insulation and on how the building is positioned in regard to sunlight.

Sales of the units have provided a lifeline for Germany’s solar industry, which not so long ago was on its knees. Cheap solar panel imports from China had forced many domestic manufacturers out of business; a decline in the level of feed-in tariffs – the guaranteed payments consumers received for supplying energy to the grid – had further damaged the solar business.

Not so sunny

There were questions over Germany’s suitability for solar. “Germany is not exactly one of the world’s sunniest holiday destinations”, says a report on the sector by the Clean Energy Wire (CLEW),  a Germany-based journalism group which focuses on the country’s transition to renewable energy. “In fact, the central European country ranks among countries with the fewest hours of sunshine per year.”

According to CLEW, more than 150,000 people were employed in Germany’s solar sector in 2011. Six years later that number had shrunk to 36,000.

Today, according to figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA),  Germany is top of the world rankings in terms of installed solar capacity per capita, accounting for about 10% of total global installed solar capacity.

The bulk of solar panels and batteries are still manufactured in Asia, mainly in China. Retailers in Germany package the systems and make adjustments, as well as carrying out installation work and servicing. All systems come with a 10-year warranty.

Exports take off

Exports of the combined solar and battery units are rising. A recent report by Wood Mackenzie, the investment and research group, says other countries in Europe, particularly Spain and Italy, are following Germany’s example.

“Germany’s world-leading foray into the residential storage market has enabled Europe to claim the title of the largest residential storage market globally”, says the report.

“Off the back of Germany’s success, residential storage is beginning to proliferate in other European countries, particularly where market structures, prevailing power prices and disappearing feed-in tariffs create a favourable early-stage deployment landscape.”

The UK and Australia are seen as strong growth markets and – as long as the sun keeps shining – the future looks bright: McKinsey, the consultancy and research group, predicts that the costs of energy storage systems around the world will fall further – by more than 50% by 2025 – because of advances in design, more streamlined production processes and economies of scale as output is expanded. – Climate News Network

* * * * *

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Glacial melt creates Andes time bomb

The speed of glacial melt in parts of Latin America is threatening water supplies – and life and limb in cities downstream.

LONDON, 16 December, 2019 – Rising regional temperatures in the Andes and the warming of waters in the Pacific Ocean, off Latin America’s west coast, are driving the mountains’ glacial melt to alarming new speeds.

Long-term water supplies to many millions of people are under threat. Capital cities like Lima in Peru and La Paz in Bolivia, largely dependent on water from glacier melt flows, face an uncertain future.

The prospects for agriculture – a mainstay of the economies of countries in the region – will be imperilled as land dries up.

There is another, potentially lethal consequence of the melting of the Andes’ glaciers. In 1941, large chunks of ice breaking off a glacier and falling into Lake Palcacocha, more than 4,500 metres up in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range in the Peruvian Andes, are said to have triggered what’s known as a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF).

“As temperatures in the region continue to rise, the danger level increases”

The sudden influx of ice caused the lake to burst, its waters racing down a canyon to burst another glacial lake below and then on to flood the city of Huarez, more than 20 kilometres away. It’s estimated that more than 4,000 people – about a third of the city’s population at the time – were killed.

Rising temperatures caused by climate change in mountain ranges around the world are leading to an ever-increasing number of GLOF incidents. Mountainous countries like Peru and Nepal, in the Himalayas, are particularly vulnerable to the sudden flooding caused when glacial lakes burst.

In the aftermath of the 1941 flood, a dam was built on Lake Palcacocha: at first the lake slowly refilled, but in recent years the process accelerated due to increased temperatures and more glacial melt.

Flexible pipes have been used to siphon waters off from the lake but experts say it’s only a matter of time before Lake Palcacocha again bursts its banks. The dam, they say, will be swept away. The consequences would be devastating as a wave up to 30 metres tall is unleashed.

Increased population

The city of Huarez has become a big tourist destination and its population has grown to more than 120,000. Large numbers of farmers have moved onto lands below Lake Palcacocha. Mine workers are also active in the area, searching for valuable minerals in ground uncovered by the melting of the glaciers.

Various safety measures are being installed. After years of wrangling and bureaucratic delays, a flood early warning system is about to be activated in the area.

Installation of the system has also been subject to sabotage by local farmers who say that the introduction of the technology has somehow interfered with natural weather patterns.

Monitoring systems have improved – with often daily glacial avalanches being recorded. Inaigem, the national research institute on glaciers and mountain ecosystems, provides a live video of Lake Palcacocha water flows. But as temperatures in the region continue to rise, the danger level increases. – Climate News Network

The speed of glacial melt in parts of Latin America is threatening water supplies – and life and limb in cities downstream.

LONDON, 16 December, 2019 – Rising regional temperatures in the Andes and the warming of waters in the Pacific Ocean, off Latin America’s west coast, are driving the mountains’ glacial melt to alarming new speeds.

Long-term water supplies to many millions of people are under threat. Capital cities like Lima in Peru and La Paz in Bolivia, largely dependent on water from glacier melt flows, face an uncertain future.

The prospects for agriculture – a mainstay of the economies of countries in the region – will be imperilled as land dries up.

There is another, potentially lethal consequence of the melting of the Andes’ glaciers. In 1941, large chunks of ice breaking off a glacier and falling into Lake Palcacocha, more than 4,500 metres up in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range in the Peruvian Andes, are said to have triggered what’s known as a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF).

“As temperatures in the region continue to rise, the danger level increases”

The sudden influx of ice caused the lake to burst, its waters racing down a canyon to burst another glacial lake below and then on to flood the city of Huarez, more than 20 kilometres away. It’s estimated that more than 4,000 people – about a third of the city’s population at the time – were killed.

Rising temperatures caused by climate change in mountain ranges around the world are leading to an ever-increasing number of GLOF incidents. Mountainous countries like Peru and Nepal, in the Himalayas, are particularly vulnerable to the sudden flooding caused when glacial lakes burst.

In the aftermath of the 1941 flood, a dam was built on Lake Palcacocha: at first the lake slowly refilled, but in recent years the process accelerated due to increased temperatures and more glacial melt.

Flexible pipes have been used to siphon waters off from the lake but experts say it’s only a matter of time before Lake Palcacocha again bursts its banks. The dam, they say, will be swept away. The consequences would be devastating as a wave up to 30 metres tall is unleashed.

Increased population

The city of Huarez has become a big tourist destination and its population has grown to more than 120,000. Large numbers of farmers have moved onto lands below Lake Palcacocha. Mine workers are also active in the area, searching for valuable minerals in ground uncovered by the melting of the glaciers.

Various safety measures are being installed. After years of wrangling and bureaucratic delays, a flood early warning system is about to be activated in the area.

Installation of the system has also been subject to sabotage by local farmers who say that the introduction of the technology has somehow interfered with natural weather patterns.

Monitoring systems have improved – with often daily glacial avalanches being recorded. Inaigem, the national research institute on glaciers and mountain ecosystems, provides a live video of Lake Palcacocha water flows. But as temperatures in the region continue to rise, the danger level increases. – Climate News Network

Coal is now too hot for insurers to handle

Empires were once built on it, but coal is now too hot for many former backers as more insurers withdraw.

LONDON, 5 December, 2019 − It’s rapidly running out of friends in the financial world: coal is now too hot for many big insurers to want anything more to do with it. The burning of coal is one of the key factors behind rising emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Now insurance companies, which play a vital role in the financing of coal plants, are announcing plans to withdraw from the sector, saying that backing organisations seeking to expand coal operations is incompatible with the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

AXA, the French insurance and financial services conglomerate, is the latest to announce its withdrawal from coal projects, though this divesting programme will in some cases be phased in over a number of years.

“The fight against climate change requires engagement in a global collective action”, says Thomas Buberl, AXA’s chief executive officer.

“A plus 4°C world is not insurable. As a global insurer and investor, we know that we have a key role to play. In the spirit of the Paris Agreement, we want to accelerate our commitment and confirm our leadership in the fight against global warming”.

European phase-out

AXA says it will stop insuring any new coal construction projects. It will also totally phase out its existing insurance and investments in coal in the European Union countries by 2030, and by 2040 everywhere else.

It’s estimated that approximately 400 companies with coal plant and mine expansion plans will be affected by AXA’s action.

In 2015 AXA announced it would begin withdrawing its investments and insurance from coal projects. Two years later it said it was divesting and ending insurance in oil tar sands projects in Canada, and withdrawing insurance from a number of pipelines in the US transporting tar sands-derived oil.

A number of other large insurance and investment companies have made similar moves on coal. Allianz, the Germany-based company which is Europe’s largest insurer, announced last year that it would end insurance for all coal-fuelled power plants and for coal mines: it would also completely withdraw from the sector by 2040.

“A plus 4°C world is not insurable. As a global insurer and investor, we know that we have a key role to play. We want to accelerate our commitment in the fight against global warming”

“Banks, investors and insurers are now under great pressure to up their game on climate with new coal policy announcements”, says Kaarina Kolle of Europe Beyond Coal, a group linking various non-governmental organisations across the EU.

“This is the minimum standard for any financial institution committed to the Paris Climate Agreement’s 1.5°C warming limit.”

While climate scientists have welcomed moves to limit coal use, many nations are still heavily dependent on what is the most polluting of fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that coal accounts for nearly 40% of electricity at present generated worldwide.

The IEA says demand rose by 1% in 2017, with a similar rise last year.  Latest statistics indicate coal use worldwide has dropped slightly this year, though total greenhouse gas emissions are still rising.

Economic slowdown

Coal consumption is forecast to drop by 11% in the US in 2019 while China, which accounts for half of total world coal consumption, is expected to use about 1% less of the fuel this year, mainly due to a slowdown in its economy.

Coal use within the EU dropped by nearly 20% in the first six months of this year.

Germany is responsible for about a third of total coal-generated power in the EU. Lignite, the most polluting coal, forms a substantial part of Germany’s energy mix.

Many countries in eastern Europe, including Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, are still heavily dependent on coal for power generation.

Eight EU countries have pledged to phase out coal use by 2030: industry analysts say other heavy coal users in the EU have to follow suit. If not, EU emissions reductions targets set under the Paris Agreement will not be met. − Climate News Network

Empires were once built on it, but coal is now too hot for many former backers as more insurers withdraw.

LONDON, 5 December, 2019 − It’s rapidly running out of friends in the financial world: coal is now too hot for many big insurers to want anything more to do with it. The burning of coal is one of the key factors behind rising emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Now insurance companies, which play a vital role in the financing of coal plants, are announcing plans to withdraw from the sector, saying that backing organisations seeking to expand coal operations is incompatible with the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

AXA, the French insurance and financial services conglomerate, is the latest to announce its withdrawal from coal projects, though this divesting programme will in some cases be phased in over a number of years.

“The fight against climate change requires engagement in a global collective action”, says Thomas Buberl, AXA’s chief executive officer.

“A plus 4°C world is not insurable. As a global insurer and investor, we know that we have a key role to play. In the spirit of the Paris Agreement, we want to accelerate our commitment and confirm our leadership in the fight against global warming”.

European phase-out

AXA says it will stop insuring any new coal construction projects. It will also totally phase out its existing insurance and investments in coal in the European Union countries by 2030, and by 2040 everywhere else.

It’s estimated that approximately 400 companies with coal plant and mine expansion plans will be affected by AXA’s action.

In 2015 AXA announced it would begin withdrawing its investments and insurance from coal projects. Two years later it said it was divesting and ending insurance in oil tar sands projects in Canada, and withdrawing insurance from a number of pipelines in the US transporting tar sands-derived oil.

A number of other large insurance and investment companies have made similar moves on coal. Allianz, the Germany-based company which is Europe’s largest insurer, announced last year that it would end insurance for all coal-fuelled power plants and for coal mines: it would also completely withdraw from the sector by 2040.

“A plus 4°C world is not insurable. As a global insurer and investor, we know that we have a key role to play. We want to accelerate our commitment in the fight against global warming”

“Banks, investors and insurers are now under great pressure to up their game on climate with new coal policy announcements”, says Kaarina Kolle of Europe Beyond Coal, a group linking various non-governmental organisations across the EU.

“This is the minimum standard for any financial institution committed to the Paris Climate Agreement’s 1.5°C warming limit.”

While climate scientists have welcomed moves to limit coal use, many nations are still heavily dependent on what is the most polluting of fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that coal accounts for nearly 40% of electricity at present generated worldwide.

The IEA says demand rose by 1% in 2017, with a similar rise last year.  Latest statistics indicate coal use worldwide has dropped slightly this year, though total greenhouse gas emissions are still rising.

Economic slowdown

Coal consumption is forecast to drop by 11% in the US in 2019 while China, which accounts for half of total world coal consumption, is expected to use about 1% less of the fuel this year, mainly due to a slowdown in its economy.

Coal use within the EU dropped by nearly 20% in the first six months of this year.

Germany is responsible for about a third of total coal-generated power in the EU. Lignite, the most polluting coal, forms a substantial part of Germany’s energy mix.

Many countries in eastern Europe, including Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, are still heavily dependent on coal for power generation.

Eight EU countries have pledged to phase out coal use by 2030: industry analysts say other heavy coal users in the EU have to follow suit. If not, EU emissions reductions targets set under the Paris Agreement will not be met. − Climate News Network

Building with bamboo can cool the climate

If you want to cut global temperatures try building with bamboo, say UK-based researchers studying its thermal properties.

LONDON, 20 November, 2019 – There could be a way of countering one key aspect of the climate emergency by making much greater use of a widely-available plant: by building with bamboo.

Bamboo is already one of the most widely-used and versatile natural materials on the planet; foods, medicines and cooking utensils, musical instruments, clothes and furniture are made from it. It’s used as well for scaffolding, floor coverings, bicycle frames, promoting fertility in cattle – and for brewing beer.

Now researchers say increasing the use of bamboo in the building sector could play a big role in fighting climate change.

A study by researchers at Cambridge University in the UK and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria, published in the journal Scientific Reports, examined bamboo’s structure and how heat flows through it, a process known as thermal conductivity.

It’s estimated that the building sector in the UK accounts for between 30% and 40% of the country’s climate-changing carbon emissions.

“Renewable, plant-based materials such as bamboo have huge potential for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings”

This is due both to the production and use of energy-intensive materials – mainly steel and cement – and the energy required to heat and cool buildings.

“Renewable, plant-based materials such as bamboo have huge potential for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings”, says the study.

“Their use could dramatically reduce emissions compared to traditional materials, helping to mitigate the human impact of climate change.”

Using advanced scanning thermal microscopy, researchers looked at heat flows across bamboo cell walls and examined the plant’s vascular tissue, which transports fluid and nutrients within it.

The resulting images revealed an intricate fibre structure with alternating layers of thick and thin cell walls: it was found that the thicker walls generate the best thermal conductivity and are also responsible for bamboo’s strength and stiffness.

Fast-growing

“Nature is an amazing architect”, says Darshil Shah of the department of architecture at Cambridge, who led the study. “Bamboo is structured in a really clever way. It grows by one millimetre every 90 seconds, making it one of the fastest-growing plant materials.”

The study says the amount of heating and cooling required in buildings is fundamentally related to the properties of the material they are made from, particularly how much heat the materials used can conduct and store.

The researchers say that a better understanding of the thermal properties of bamboo could lead to the plant being more widely used – not just for flooring materials as at present, but also as part of the actual structure of buildings.

“People may worry about the fire safety of bamboo buildings”, says Shah. “To address this properly we have to understand the thermal properties of the building material.

“Through our work we can see that heat travels along the structure-supporting thick cell wall fibres in bamboo, so if exposed to the heat of a fire the bamboo might soften more quickly in the direction of those fibres. This helps us work out how to reinforce the building appropriately.” – Climate News Network

If you want to cut global temperatures try building with bamboo, say UK-based researchers studying its thermal properties.

LONDON, 20 November, 2019 – There could be a way of countering one key aspect of the climate emergency by making much greater use of a widely-available plant: by building with bamboo.

Bamboo is already one of the most widely-used and versatile natural materials on the planet; foods, medicines and cooking utensils, musical instruments, clothes and furniture are made from it. It’s used as well for scaffolding, floor coverings, bicycle frames, promoting fertility in cattle – and for brewing beer.

Now researchers say increasing the use of bamboo in the building sector could play a big role in fighting climate change.

A study by researchers at Cambridge University in the UK and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria, published in the journal Scientific Reports, examined bamboo’s structure and how heat flows through it, a process known as thermal conductivity.

It’s estimated that the building sector in the UK accounts for between 30% and 40% of the country’s climate-changing carbon emissions.

“Renewable, plant-based materials such as bamboo have huge potential for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings”

This is due both to the production and use of energy-intensive materials – mainly steel and cement – and the energy required to heat and cool buildings.

“Renewable, plant-based materials such as bamboo have huge potential for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings”, says the study.

“Their use could dramatically reduce emissions compared to traditional materials, helping to mitigate the human impact of climate change.”

Using advanced scanning thermal microscopy, researchers looked at heat flows across bamboo cell walls and examined the plant’s vascular tissue, which transports fluid and nutrients within it.

The resulting images revealed an intricate fibre structure with alternating layers of thick and thin cell walls: it was found that the thicker walls generate the best thermal conductivity and are also responsible for bamboo’s strength and stiffness.

Fast-growing

“Nature is an amazing architect”, says Darshil Shah of the department of architecture at Cambridge, who led the study. “Bamboo is structured in a really clever way. It grows by one millimetre every 90 seconds, making it one of the fastest-growing plant materials.”

The study says the amount of heating and cooling required in buildings is fundamentally related to the properties of the material they are made from, particularly how much heat the materials used can conduct and store.

The researchers say that a better understanding of the thermal properties of bamboo could lead to the plant being more widely used – not just for flooring materials as at present, but also as part of the actual structure of buildings.

“People may worry about the fire safety of bamboo buildings”, says Shah. “To address this properly we have to understand the thermal properties of the building material.

“Through our work we can see that heat travels along the structure-supporting thick cell wall fibres in bamboo, so if exposed to the heat of a fire the bamboo might soften more quickly in the direction of those fibres. This helps us work out how to reinforce the building appropriately.” – Climate News Network

Climate threat from inhalers can prove costly

The climate threat from inhalers used by millions of people to combat asthma and other breathing problems can also waste scarce resources.

LONDON, 5 November, 2019 – Many people affected by breathing conditions like asthma may be unwittingly adding to global heating, because of the climate threat from inhalers often used to relieve their suffering.

Many of the appliances used at present – termed metered-dose inhalers – contain propellants that are potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) which contribute to the problems of climate change.

A new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK says that if health services switched to prescribing “green” inhalers instead, big cuts would be possible in the output of the climate-damaging gases.

The study, published in the BMJ Open journal, says that by switching from expensive brand-named drugs and inhalers to alternative products, there’d also be considerable cost savings.

It’s estimated that more than 330 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, with a substantial proportion of that number having to use inhalers.

Ozone damage

Commonly-used metered-dose inhalers contain liquefied compressed gases that act as a propellant, atomising the drug in the inhaler and pumping it out to the user.

At one stage chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs – potent greenhouse gases which also damage the Earth’s ozone layer) were used in inhalers. Their use is now banned, and another gas called hydrofluoroalkane, or HFA, acts as the propellant instead.

The Cambridge study says that though HFAs do not damage the ozone layer, they are nonetheless potent greenhouse gases and contribute to overall global warming.

It recommends a switch from metered-dose inhalers containing HFAs to what it describes as effective alternatives such as dry powder inhalers or aqueous mist inhalers.

“Climate change is a huge and present threat to health that will disproportionately impact the poorest and most vulnerable on the planet”

The researchers were mainly examining the use of inhalers in the UK and the costs to the country’s National Health Service (NHS). Some countries have already switched to non-HFA inhalers.

“In 2017, around 50 million inhalers were prescribed in England, of which seven out of ten were metered-dose inhalers, compared to only one in ten in Sweden”, says the study.

The researchers say they found that the output of greenhouse gases from metered-dose inhalers was between 10 and 37 times that of dry powder inhalers.

“At 2017 prescription levels, replacing one in ten metered-dose inhalers in England with the cheapest equivalent dry powder inhalers could lead to a reduction in drug costs of £8.2 million (US$10.6m) annually and would reduce carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions by 58 kilotonnes.”

“At the individual level each metered-dose inhaler replaced by a dry powder inhaler could save the equivalent of between 150 and 400kg of CO2 annually, which is similar to many actions that environmentally-concerned individuals are taking at home already, such as installing wall insulation, recycling or cutting out meat.”

Zero carbon aim

The researchers stress that patients shouldn’t stop using inhalers, but should discuss their treatment with their doctor. Patients should ensure inhalers are used correctly and properly disposed of.

“Climate change is a huge and present threat to health that will disproportionately impact the poorest and most vulnerable on the planet, including people with pre-existing lung disease”, says Dr James Smith, consultant in public health at the University of Cambridge.

“Our study shows that switching to inhalers which are better for the environment could help individuals and the NHS as a whole, and reduce their impact on the climate significantly.

“This is an important step towards creating a zero carbon healthcare system fit for the 21st century.” – Climate News Network

The climate threat from inhalers used by millions of people to combat asthma and other breathing problems can also waste scarce resources.

LONDON, 5 November, 2019 – Many people affected by breathing conditions like asthma may be unwittingly adding to global heating, because of the climate threat from inhalers often used to relieve their suffering.

Many of the appliances used at present – termed metered-dose inhalers – contain propellants that are potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) which contribute to the problems of climate change.

A new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK says that if health services switched to prescribing “green” inhalers instead, big cuts would be possible in the output of the climate-damaging gases.

The study, published in the BMJ Open journal, says that by switching from expensive brand-named drugs and inhalers to alternative products, there’d also be considerable cost savings.

It’s estimated that more than 330 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, with a substantial proportion of that number having to use inhalers.

Ozone damage

Commonly-used metered-dose inhalers contain liquefied compressed gases that act as a propellant, atomising the drug in the inhaler and pumping it out to the user.

At one stage chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs – potent greenhouse gases which also damage the Earth’s ozone layer) were used in inhalers. Their use is now banned, and another gas called hydrofluoroalkane, or HFA, acts as the propellant instead.

The Cambridge study says that though HFAs do not damage the ozone layer, they are nonetheless potent greenhouse gases and contribute to overall global warming.

It recommends a switch from metered-dose inhalers containing HFAs to what it describes as effective alternatives such as dry powder inhalers or aqueous mist inhalers.

“Climate change is a huge and present threat to health that will disproportionately impact the poorest and most vulnerable on the planet”

The researchers were mainly examining the use of inhalers in the UK and the costs to the country’s National Health Service (NHS). Some countries have already switched to non-HFA inhalers.

“In 2017, around 50 million inhalers were prescribed in England, of which seven out of ten were metered-dose inhalers, compared to only one in ten in Sweden”, says the study.

The researchers say they found that the output of greenhouse gases from metered-dose inhalers was between 10 and 37 times that of dry powder inhalers.

“At 2017 prescription levels, replacing one in ten metered-dose inhalers in England with the cheapest equivalent dry powder inhalers could lead to a reduction in drug costs of £8.2 million (US$10.6m) annually and would reduce carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions by 58 kilotonnes.”

“At the individual level each metered-dose inhaler replaced by a dry powder inhaler could save the equivalent of between 150 and 400kg of CO2 annually, which is similar to many actions that environmentally-concerned individuals are taking at home already, such as installing wall insulation, recycling or cutting out meat.”

Zero carbon aim

The researchers stress that patients shouldn’t stop using inhalers, but should discuss their treatment with their doctor. Patients should ensure inhalers are used correctly and properly disposed of.

“Climate change is a huge and present threat to health that will disproportionately impact the poorest and most vulnerable on the planet, including people with pre-existing lung disease”, says Dr James Smith, consultant in public health at the University of Cambridge.

“Our study shows that switching to inhalers which are better for the environment could help individuals and the NHS as a whole, and reduce their impact on the climate significantly.

“This is an important step towards creating a zero carbon healthcare system fit for the 21st century.” – Climate News Network

Cocaine traffickers fuel climate change

cocaine

An ever-expanding US market for cocaine is leading to drug traffickers destroying swathes of tropical forest to create new transport routes.

LONDON, October 17, 2019 – Having a cocaine habit is bad for your health – and for the planet’s too, as it turns out that the growing use of the drug is also contributing to global warming.

A series of recent reports examining the cocaine trade in Central America say traffickers seeking out new smuggling routes are destroying large areas of tropical forest in order to build roads and landing strips to transport supplies of cocaine bound for an ever-expanding market in the US.

Forests are vital “carbon sinks”, soaking up large amounts of climate-changing greenhouse gases. When they are destroyed, the stores of carbon are released into the atmosphere. And the smoke from forest fires adds to problem.

Drug convoys

Authors of the series of papers describe what’s going on as “narco-deforestation”. Jennifer Devine, an assistant professor of geography at Texas State University and co-author of two of the studies, says: “Narco-deforestation now affects large tropical forests in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, and is beginning to affect Costa Rica as well.”

Drug traffickers are moving into national parks, forest reserves and special conservation areas in order to elude the authorities. Trees are being chopped down not only to build roads for drug convoys; the researchers found that vast areas of forest are being cleared for ranches and crop growing – through which the traffickers launder their drug money.

Earlier studies looking at drug-related activities on the Caribbean coast of Honduras found that the clearing of forests by the drug cartels has also caused extensive flooding in the region.

“Narco-related activities undermine traditional forest uses and resource governance, producing significant social and ecological cost”

Bernardo Aguilar-González, a director of the Fundación Neotrópica NGO and a co-author of one of the reports, says: “Narco-related activities undermine traditional forest uses and resource governance, producing significant social and ecological costs.”

The reports strongly criticise a long-running, US-backed “War on Drugs” being waged in Central America. They conclude that funds provided by the US for a heavily-militarised anti-drug campaign “have ultimately pushed drug trafficking and the laundering of spectacular profits into remote, biodiverse spaces, where they threaten both ecosystems and people, and undermine conservation goals and local livelihoods”.

Other studies say the campaign has resulted in people being forced off their lands, and this has contributed to a growth in migration – with people trying to cross the border into the US.

Indigenous land rights

The researchers say a key way of tackling deforestation by the traffickers is to give local communities more control over the forests; indigenous land rights must be recognised and enforced across the region.

Areas managed by local communities have very low forest losses say the reports.

“Investing in community land rights and participatory governance in protected areas is a key strategy to combat drug trafficking and climate change simultaneously,” Aguilar-González told the Reuters news agency.

“Taken together, these papers confirm just how vital it is to ensure that local forest communities have long-term control over their land and forest resources,” says David Wrathall, assistant professor of geography at Oregon State University and a report author.

“If we are to reduce the risk of emissions caused when forests are destroyed and to safeguard the carbon in forests, such rights will be key in order to avoid dangerous human interference in the atmosphere.” – Climate News Network

An ever-expanding US market for cocaine is leading to drug traffickers destroying swathes of tropical forest to create new transport routes.

LONDON, October 17, 2019 – Having a cocaine habit is bad for your health – and for the planet’s too, as it turns out that the growing use of the drug is also contributing to global warming.

A series of recent reports examining the cocaine trade in Central America say traffickers seeking out new smuggling routes are destroying large areas of tropical forest in order to build roads and landing strips to transport supplies of cocaine bound for an ever-expanding market in the US.

Forests are vital “carbon sinks”, soaking up large amounts of climate-changing greenhouse gases. When they are destroyed, the stores of carbon are released into the atmosphere. And the smoke from forest fires adds to problem.

Drug convoys

Authors of the series of papers describe what’s going on as “narco-deforestation”. Jennifer Devine, an assistant professor of geography at Texas State University and co-author of two of the studies, says: “Narco-deforestation now affects large tropical forests in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, and is beginning to affect Costa Rica as well.”

Drug traffickers are moving into national parks, forest reserves and special conservation areas in order to elude the authorities. Trees are being chopped down not only to build roads for drug convoys; the researchers found that vast areas of forest are being cleared for ranches and crop growing – through which the traffickers launder their drug money.

Earlier studies looking at drug-related activities on the Caribbean coast of Honduras found that the clearing of forests by the drug cartels has also caused extensive flooding in the region.

“Narco-related activities undermine traditional forest uses and resource governance, producing significant social and ecological cost”

Bernardo Aguilar-González, a director of the Fundación Neotrópica NGO and a co-author of one of the reports, says: “Narco-related activities undermine traditional forest uses and resource governance, producing significant social and ecological costs.”

The reports strongly criticise a long-running, US-backed “War on Drugs” being waged in Central America. They conclude that funds provided by the US for a heavily-militarised anti-drug campaign “have ultimately pushed drug trafficking and the laundering of spectacular profits into remote, biodiverse spaces, where they threaten both ecosystems and people, and undermine conservation goals and local livelihoods”.

Other studies say the campaign has resulted in people being forced off their lands, and this has contributed to a growth in migration – with people trying to cross the border into the US.

Indigenous land rights

The researchers say a key way of tackling deforestation by the traffickers is to give local communities more control over the forests; indigenous land rights must be recognised and enforced across the region.

Areas managed by local communities have very low forest losses say the reports.

“Investing in community land rights and participatory governance in protected areas is a key strategy to combat drug trafficking and climate change simultaneously,” Aguilar-González told the Reuters news agency.

“Taken together, these papers confirm just how vital it is to ensure that local forest communities have long-term control over their land and forest resources,” says David Wrathall, assistant professor of geography at Oregon State University and a report author.

“If we are to reduce the risk of emissions caused when forests are destroyed and to safeguard the carbon in forests, such rights will be key in order to avoid dangerous human interference in the atmosphere.” – Climate News Network

Rugby stars are losing their Pacific islands

Whatever happens on the pitches, rugby stars from the Pacific islands face a battle back home to save their ancestral lands from rising sea levels.

LONDON, 1 October, 2019 – Players from the Pacific islands are performing a prominent role in the intense battles at present going on at the rugby world cup in Japan.

Away from the rough and tumble on the pitch, the players are facing an even bigger challenge back home as their island nations come under increasing threat from climate change, in particular from ever-rising sea levels.

A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns of the catastrophic effect rising sea levels – mainly caused by the melting of ice at the poles – will have on billions of people living in coastal areas and in island states around the world.

In the low-lying island nations of the Pacific, climate change is already having an impact. Coastal communities are frequently inundated by rising seas. Salty seawater poisons precious supplies of fresh water.

Crops are lost and homes damaged. Warming seas are killing off coral reefs, a key source of fish and an industry on which many islanders depend for their living.

Exploited

A report by the charity Christian Aid, focusing on the rugby world cup, says that while Pacific island teams Fiji, Tonga and Samoa are playing a central role in the tournament in Japan, they are, at the same time, being exploited and harmed by the actions of bigger and richer nations involved, including Australia, New Zealand and England.

The report points out that Pacific island states are among the lowest emitters of climate-changing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Yet they are among those suffering most from a warming world.

Samoa emits 0.7 tonnes of CO2 per capita each year. The equivalent figure for Australia is 16.5 tonnes and for host Japan is 10.4 tonnes.

Jonny Fa’amatuainu is a former Samoan international who has also played for rugby clubs in England, Wales and Japan.

“As a Pacific Island rugby player, tackling the climate crisis is close to my heart. My grandparents and other families who lived in a village on the coast of Samoa moved inland two years ago because of climate change”, he says.

“The island nations in the Pacific are some of the most vulnerable in the world and they have done almost nothing to cause their plight”

“The Pacific Islands are the soul of our sport and we have produced some of the most dynamic and exciting players on the planet … climate change is a crisis these countries did not cause yet it’s a fight they are suffering from the most.

“It’s a fight they need the help of the rugby community to win.”

The Christian Aid report says climate change threatens to undermine the Pacific Islands’ economies. Tourists will stop visiting and young people will be forced to leave, with up to 1.7 million likely to move from their homes in the region over the next 30 years.

Cyclone Gita, which devastated many parts of Tonga last year, was the strongest storm to hit the nation since records began. The report says global warming means such storms will be more frequent across the region in the years ahead.

The study also highlights the way in which many Pacific island rugby players are treated, being paid wages only a fraction of those earned by their counterparts in richer countries. The teams are also often excluded from various international tournaments.

Foot-dragging

“Climate change is the ultimate injustice issue and nowhere is that captured more clearly than among the nations taking part in the rugby world cup”, says Katherine Kramer of Christian Aid, the author of the report.

“The island nations in the Pacific are some of the most vulnerable in the world and they have done almost nothing to cause their plight.

“The main culprits for causing the climate crisis are European nations as well as major coal burners like Australia, the US and Japan.

“Not only have they caused the current dire situation, but they are dragging their feet on making the needed transition to a zero-carbon economy.” – Climate News Network

Whatever happens on the pitches, rugby stars from the Pacific islands face a battle back home to save their ancestral lands from rising sea levels.

LONDON, 1 October, 2019 – Players from the Pacific islands are performing a prominent role in the intense battles at present going on at the rugby world cup in Japan.

Away from the rough and tumble on the pitch, the players are facing an even bigger challenge back home as their island nations come under increasing threat from climate change, in particular from ever-rising sea levels.

A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns of the catastrophic effect rising sea levels – mainly caused by the melting of ice at the poles – will have on billions of people living in coastal areas and in island states around the world.

In the low-lying island nations of the Pacific, climate change is already having an impact. Coastal communities are frequently inundated by rising seas. Salty seawater poisons precious supplies of fresh water.

Crops are lost and homes damaged. Warming seas are killing off coral reefs, a key source of fish and an industry on which many islanders depend for their living.

Exploited

A report by the charity Christian Aid, focusing on the rugby world cup, says that while Pacific island teams Fiji, Tonga and Samoa are playing a central role in the tournament in Japan, they are, at the same time, being exploited and harmed by the actions of bigger and richer nations involved, including Australia, New Zealand and England.

The report points out that Pacific island states are among the lowest emitters of climate-changing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Yet they are among those suffering most from a warming world.

Samoa emits 0.7 tonnes of CO2 per capita each year. The equivalent figure for Australia is 16.5 tonnes and for host Japan is 10.4 tonnes.

Jonny Fa’amatuainu is a former Samoan international who has also played for rugby clubs in England, Wales and Japan.

“As a Pacific Island rugby player, tackling the climate crisis is close to my heart. My grandparents and other families who lived in a village on the coast of Samoa moved inland two years ago because of climate change”, he says.

“The island nations in the Pacific are some of the most vulnerable in the world and they have done almost nothing to cause their plight”

“The Pacific Islands are the soul of our sport and we have produced some of the most dynamic and exciting players on the planet … climate change is a crisis these countries did not cause yet it’s a fight they are suffering from the most.

“It’s a fight they need the help of the rugby community to win.”

The Christian Aid report says climate change threatens to undermine the Pacific Islands’ economies. Tourists will stop visiting and young people will be forced to leave, with up to 1.7 million likely to move from their homes in the region over the next 30 years.

Cyclone Gita, which devastated many parts of Tonga last year, was the strongest storm to hit the nation since records began. The report says global warming means such storms will be more frequent across the region in the years ahead.

The study also highlights the way in which many Pacific island rugby players are treated, being paid wages only a fraction of those earned by their counterparts in richer countries. The teams are also often excluded from various international tournaments.

Foot-dragging

“Climate change is the ultimate injustice issue and nowhere is that captured more clearly than among the nations taking part in the rugby world cup”, says Katherine Kramer of Christian Aid, the author of the report.

“The island nations in the Pacific are some of the most vulnerable in the world and they have done almost nothing to cause their plight.

“The main culprits for causing the climate crisis are European nations as well as major coal burners like Australia, the US and Japan.

“Not only have they caused the current dire situation, but they are dragging their feet on making the needed transition to a zero-carbon economy.” – Climate News Network