Category Archives: Economics

Waste plastic can find a useful new life

Here’s what to do with all that waste plastic, the scrap, waste and flotsam: turn it back into brand-new plastic and use it again, and again.

LONDON, 1 November, 2019 – Swedish scientists say they have found a way to recycle plastic perfectly: their new process can turn any waste plastic back into new plastic of identical quality – and recover all of it.

The process can convert thrown-away plastic bottles, cups, bags, buckets and other detritus into a gas and, from that, fashion new materials. That is, complete recycling would be possible from existing, no-longer-wanted materials rather than petrochemical feedstock.

In 2015, the world generated more than 320 million tonnes of polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene and other polymers. Perhaps 200 million tonnes was neither incinerated nor recycled. As much as 12 million tonnes may have escaped into the oceans. No more than 14% was collected for recovery. Only 2% could be converted to a high-quality product, and 8% became plastic of lower quality. Around 4% was lost altogether.

“We should not forget that plastic is a fantastic material – it gives us products that we could otherwise only dream of. The problem is that it is manufactured at such low cost that it has been cheaper to produce new plastics from oil and fossil gas than reusing plastic waste,” said Henrik Thunman of Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, who with colleagues developed a way of “cracking” plastic with steam.

“Through finding the right temperature – which is around 850°C – and the right heating rate and residence time, we have been able to demonstrate the proposed method at a scale where we can turn 200kg of plastic waste an hour into a useful gas mixture. This can then be recycled at the molecular level to become new plastic materials of virgin quality.”

“Circular use would help give used plastics a true value, and thus an economic impetus for collecting it anywhere on Earth”

Professor Thunman and his fellow researchers report in the journal Sustainable Materials and Technologies that their process could be designed and integrated into existing petrochemical plants, and scaled up a hundredfold or more, ultimately to transform them into tomorrow’s recycling refineries.

It would work for all plastic waste, including detritus swept up by the tide, or unearthed from landfill.

Plastic is likely to be the enduring legacy of human occupation of the planet. Long after the species is extinguished, seemingly indestructible polymer evidence will endure in the rock strata to mark the Anthropocene, the human epoch.

Plastic waste pollution has been identified as a growing international  challenge and the polymers, sometimes in microparticle form, are finding their way to every part of the planet, and into the tissues of the great marine animals.

Creating a market

About 40% of global plastic waste in 2015 was collected in some form for incineration; about 60% was “disposed of”. Around 1% leaked into the natural world, to add to the threat to living things.

The latest demonstration of laboratory ingenuity from researchers determined to confront the Anthropocene challenge promises the possibility of a circular economy for the plastic that exists already.

“Circular use would help give used plastics a true value, and thus an economic impetus for collecting it anywhere on Earth,” said Professor Thunman.

“In turn, this would help minimise the release of plastic into nature, and create a market for collection of plastic that has already polluted the natural environment.” – Climate News Network

Here’s what to do with all that waste plastic, the scrap, waste and flotsam: turn it back into brand-new plastic and use it again, and again.

LONDON, 1 November, 2019 – Swedish scientists say they have found a way to recycle plastic perfectly: their new process can turn any waste plastic back into new plastic of identical quality – and recover all of it.

The process can convert thrown-away plastic bottles, cups, bags, buckets and other detritus into a gas and, from that, fashion new materials. That is, complete recycling would be possible from existing, no-longer-wanted materials rather than petrochemical feedstock.

In 2015, the world generated more than 320 million tonnes of polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene and other polymers. Perhaps 200 million tonnes was neither incinerated nor recycled. As much as 12 million tonnes may have escaped into the oceans. No more than 14% was collected for recovery. Only 2% could be converted to a high-quality product, and 8% became plastic of lower quality. Around 4% was lost altogether.

“We should not forget that plastic is a fantastic material – it gives us products that we could otherwise only dream of. The problem is that it is manufactured at such low cost that it has been cheaper to produce new plastics from oil and fossil gas than reusing plastic waste,” said Henrik Thunman of Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, who with colleagues developed a way of “cracking” plastic with steam.

“Through finding the right temperature – which is around 850°C – and the right heating rate and residence time, we have been able to demonstrate the proposed method at a scale where we can turn 200kg of plastic waste an hour into a useful gas mixture. This can then be recycled at the molecular level to become new plastic materials of virgin quality.”

“Circular use would help give used plastics a true value, and thus an economic impetus for collecting it anywhere on Earth”

Professor Thunman and his fellow researchers report in the journal Sustainable Materials and Technologies that their process could be designed and integrated into existing petrochemical plants, and scaled up a hundredfold or more, ultimately to transform them into tomorrow’s recycling refineries.

It would work for all plastic waste, including detritus swept up by the tide, or unearthed from landfill.

Plastic is likely to be the enduring legacy of human occupation of the planet. Long after the species is extinguished, seemingly indestructible polymer evidence will endure in the rock strata to mark the Anthropocene, the human epoch.

Plastic waste pollution has been identified as a growing international  challenge and the polymers, sometimes in microparticle form, are finding their way to every part of the planet, and into the tissues of the great marine animals.

Creating a market

About 40% of global plastic waste in 2015 was collected in some form for incineration; about 60% was “disposed of”. Around 1% leaked into the natural world, to add to the threat to living things.

The latest demonstration of laboratory ingenuity from researchers determined to confront the Anthropocene challenge promises the possibility of a circular economy for the plastic that exists already.

“Circular use would help give used plastics a true value, and thus an economic impetus for collecting it anywhere on Earth,” said Professor Thunman.

“In turn, this would help minimise the release of plastic into nature, and create a market for collection of plastic that has already polluted the natural environment.” – Climate News Network

India builds homes to resist climate-linked floods

floods

Bamboo, lime and mud are traditional materials being used innovatively in southern India to rebuild homes that can withstand the impact of recurring floods.

Chennai, October 18, 2019 – The southern India state of Kerala, having lost almost a million homes in two disastrous floods in 2018 and 2019, is trying to adapt to climate change by building homes for the poor that are flood-resistant.

In two years, one-sixth of the state’s 35 million population was affected by the floods, and 1.4 million of those had to abandon their homes. Many flimsy houses were destroyed and are being rebuilt from scratch.

Realising that floods are going to be an increasingly regular occurrence in the future as climate change continues to make the weather more extreme, the state’s plan is to design and build homes that can withstand the floods. And, according to pioneering architects, they should be built of local materials such as bamboo, lime and mud.

Severe rains

These new houses will be sited, where possible, in places that will avoid inundation, but even if they are flooded in severe rains they are designed to survive the impact of the water.

The Kerala government has announced it has signed a loan agreement with the World Bank for $250 million to enhance resilience against the impacts of natural disasters and climate change.

The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority is spreading awareness of the need to construct flood-resistant houses.

Award-winning architect Gopalan Shankar is one of those building a variety of innovative new homes from traditional local materials that will withstand the floods.

“We have to live amidst natural calamities in this century. We construct homes as low-cost efficient structures to escape from damage during disasters”

He says his aim is to help the fishermen, slum dwellers and the marginalised and tribal people who suffer most from the floods a mission that has already earned him the nickname “the people’s architect”.

“We have to live amidst natural calamities in this century,” he says. “Our organisation is involved in constructing climate-resistant shelters, residential colonies and individual houses. People can pay through the nose for a house, but we construct homes as low-cost efficient structures to escape from damage during disasters.

“Interlocking mud bricks, pillars made out of treated bamboo, mud and concrete are used. For plastering, we have used coconut shells, treated bamboo and mud tiles. Bamboo is a significant replacement for steel and would match its strength.’’

Shankar started his not-for-profit business, the Habitat Technology Group, in Kerala in 1987 as a one-man band.

It took him six months to get his first commission, but he now works with 400 architects, engineers and social workers, and has 34 regional offices and 35,000 trained workers across India.

In Kerala, he has just completed construction of 250 climate-resilient homes for flood victims.

Prone to floods

“Cost-effective buildings are the need in areas prone to floods,” he says. “Construction starts with good planning and choosing the place where the house would be constructed.

“In flood-prone areas, when there is necessity to reside there, we build the house with locally-available material that would be efficient. Damage from floods would not affect the resident, physically and financially, in a big way.’

The government has a scheme giving people a subsidy to repair their homes after a flood, but encourages them to build in ways that make the homes more able to withstand future impacts.

Sandhini Gopakumar is among many house-owners who, under this scheme, are repairing and rebuilding their homes as climate-resilient structures.

He had not fully recovered from the 2018 floods before the next one came. “Even before we could cope with the damage, flood waters occupied our house next year also,” he says. “We were worried about investing in the house. As of now, we have raised the frontage of our house to avoid floodwaters next year.”

He consulted experts to help make the house strong enough to resist floodwaters in the future, so saving money on future repairs if it happens again. Now, he says, his house would withstand the onslaught even if they suffered floods and disasters every year. – Climate News Network

Bamboo, lime and mud are traditional materials being used innovatively in southern India to rebuild homes that can withstand the impact of recurring floods.

Chennai, October 18, 2019 – The southern India state of Kerala, having lost almost a million homes in two disastrous floods in 2018 and 2019, is trying to adapt to climate change by building homes for the poor that are flood-resistant.

In two years, one-sixth of the state’s 35 million population was affected by the floods, and 1.4 million of those had to abandon their homes. Many flimsy houses were destroyed and are being rebuilt from scratch.

Realising that floods are going to be an increasingly regular occurrence in the future as climate change continues to make the weather more extreme, the state’s plan is to design and build homes that can withstand the floods. And, according to pioneering architects, they should be built of local materials such as bamboo, lime and mud.

Severe rains

These new houses will be sited, where possible, in places that will avoid inundation, but even if they are flooded in severe rains they are designed to survive the impact of the water.

The Kerala government has announced it has signed a loan agreement with the World Bank for $250 million to enhance resilience against the impacts of natural disasters and climate change.

The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority is spreading awareness of the need to construct flood-resistant houses.

Award-winning architect Gopalan Shankar is one of those building a variety of innovative new homes from traditional local materials that will withstand the floods.

“We have to live amidst natural calamities in this century. We construct homes as low-cost efficient structures to escape from damage during disasters”

He says his aim is to help the fishermen, slum dwellers and the marginalised and tribal people who suffer most from the floods a mission that has already earned him the nickname “the people’s architect”.

“We have to live amidst natural calamities in this century,” he says. “Our organisation is involved in constructing climate-resistant shelters, residential colonies and individual houses. People can pay through the nose for a house, but we construct homes as low-cost efficient structures to escape from damage during disasters.

“Interlocking mud bricks, pillars made out of treated bamboo, mud and concrete are used. For plastering, we have used coconut shells, treated bamboo and mud tiles. Bamboo is a significant replacement for steel and would match its strength.’’

Shankar started his not-for-profit business, the Habitat Technology Group, in Kerala in 1987 as a one-man band.

It took him six months to get his first commission, but he now works with 400 architects, engineers and social workers, and has 34 regional offices and 35,000 trained workers across India.

In Kerala, he has just completed construction of 250 climate-resilient homes for flood victims.

Prone to floods

“Cost-effective buildings are the need in areas prone to floods,” he says. “Construction starts with good planning and choosing the place where the house would be constructed.

“In flood-prone areas, when there is necessity to reside there, we build the house with locally-available material that would be efficient. Damage from floods would not affect the resident, physically and financially, in a big way.’

The government has a scheme giving people a subsidy to repair their homes after a flood, but encourages them to build in ways that make the homes more able to withstand future impacts.

Sandhini Gopakumar is among many house-owners who, under this scheme, are repairing and rebuilding their homes as climate-resilient structures.

He had not fully recovered from the 2018 floods before the next one came. “Even before we could cope with the damage, flood waters occupied our house next year also,” he says. “We were worried about investing in the house. As of now, we have raised the frontage of our house to avoid floodwaters next year.”

He consulted experts to help make the house strong enough to resist floodwaters in the future, so saving money on future repairs if it happens again. Now, he says, his house would withstand the onslaught even if they suffered floods and disasters every year. – Climate News Network

Vineyards battle to keep the Champagne cool

Champagne

As rising temperatures threaten the vines that produce Champagne, concerned growers are fighting to adapt to the very real threat of climate change.

LONDON, October 15, 2019 – With the average temperature already having risen 1.1C in the last 30 years in the Champagne region of France, the 5,000 producers of the world famous vintages fear for their future.

Earlier springs and heatwaves are affecting harvest times and, more importantly, the characteristics of the grapes – for example, less acidity and more alcohol threaten the distinctive taste of the wine.

But realising that a 2C to 3C rise in temperature could cause “catastrophic changes” to the region, and that the famous wine could eventually disappear altogether, the vintners are breeding new vines and adapting growing methods to suit the new climate in a bid to preserve their industry.

“We feel we are under very high pressure from climate change and are very concerned that we must adapt to preserve our industry,” Thibaut Le Mailloux, director of communications for the growers of the champagne region, Comité Champagne, told Climate News Network.

At the same time, he said, realising the havoc that climate change will bring, the growers have become intensely environmentally aware, dramatically changing old habits to make their industry sustainable.

With the grape harvest now beginning at the end of August, 18 days earlier than the traditional picking time, the growers have been aware for some time that serious change was under way.

At first, the better weather, earlier springs and less frosts, together with warmer summers, helped producers, and there have been more vintage years. However, champagne is a cool wine region and, as the characteristics of the grapes began to change, it was clear that maintaining the quality of the wines could be a problem.

New Champagne varieties

The growers began an intense 15-year vine-breeding programme. They planted thousands of seeds and, using modern technology as well as traditional plant breeding methods, are selecting new varieties that produce the right grapes but are also resistant to diseases so that pesticides are now longer needed.

They hope to produce five new Champagne varieties from the original 4,000 seeds.

In addition to new vines, the growers are changing the methods of tending their vines, growing them further apart and leaving more leaves on the plants to shade the grapes and so preserve the quality.

With strict rules in place banning irrigation of the limestone soils that give Champagne its character, the growers are relieved that the average rainfall in the region appears so far to be unaffected by climate change.

However, to make the most of the available moisture, new methods of growing grass between the rows of vines and ploughing between them are helping.

Apart from the efforts to save the vintages, the growers are working hard on their environmental impact, said Le Mailloux.

“Our members are more aware than most people of the impact of climate change because they feel it now”

“With a high-end product like this, consumers expect that you take care of the planet. Our members are more aware than most people of the impact of climate change because they feel it now. They are also, as growers, scientifically literate too, so they understand the problem and what needs to be done.”

With a total of 16,000 growers in the Champagne region, the statistics of their achievements so far are impressive. They have set up what they call an industrial ecology programme.

They produce 120,000 tons of vine wood a year, of which 80% is ground up and returned to the soils with humus as natural fertiliser, and the rest is burned for energy to save fossil fuels.

So far, 90% of waste is sorted and recycled or used to create energy, and 100% of by-products such as industrial alcohol are used in cosmetics, healthcare and food sector.

A 7% reduction in bottle weight of champagne has an emissions reduction of 8,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

Carbon footprint

Le Mailloux said the industry is keenly aware that the largest part of its carbon footprint is in the packaging, shipping and delivery of its bottles all over the world.

Since delivery is not time-sensitive, the industry has already experimented with delivering champagne by sailing ship across the Atlantic. They hope eventually to use a combination of sail and electric boats.

The organisation already claims to have cut their carbon footprint by 20% per bottle, and aims to reduce it by more than 75% by 2050. They have already cut herbicide use by 50% and aim to stop altogether by 2025. All champagne growers should qualify for environmental certification by 2030 – from 20% now.

“Our industry is under threat and so is the whole planet, so we want to show that we are doing our best to keep the temperature from exceeding the 1.5C threshold,” Le Mailloux said. – Climate News Network

As rising temperatures threaten the vines that produce Champagne, concerned growers are fighting to adapt to the very real threat of climate change.

LONDON, October 15, 2019 – With the average temperature already having risen 1.1C in the last 30 years in the Champagne region of France, the 5,000 producers of the world famous vintages fear for their future.

Earlier springs and heatwaves are affecting harvest times and, more importantly, the characteristics of the grapes – for example, less acidity and more alcohol threaten the distinctive taste of the wine.

But realising that a 2C to 3C rise in temperature could cause “catastrophic changes” to the region, and that the famous wine could eventually disappear altogether, the vintners are breeding new vines and adapting growing methods to suit the new climate in a bid to preserve their industry.

“We feel we are under very high pressure from climate change and are very concerned that we must adapt to preserve our industry,” Thibaut Le Mailloux, director of communications for the growers of the champagne region, Comité Champagne, told Climate News Network.

At the same time, he said, realising the havoc that climate change will bring, the growers have become intensely environmentally aware, dramatically changing old habits to make their industry sustainable.

With the grape harvest now beginning at the end of August, 18 days earlier than the traditional picking time, the growers have been aware for some time that serious change was under way.

At first, the better weather, earlier springs and less frosts, together with warmer summers, helped producers, and there have been more vintage years. However, champagne is a cool wine region and, as the characteristics of the grapes began to change, it was clear that maintaining the quality of the wines could be a problem.

New Champagne varieties

The growers began an intense 15-year vine-breeding programme. They planted thousands of seeds and, using modern technology as well as traditional plant breeding methods, are selecting new varieties that produce the right grapes but are also resistant to diseases so that pesticides are now longer needed.

They hope to produce five new Champagne varieties from the original 4,000 seeds.

In addition to new vines, the growers are changing the methods of tending their vines, growing them further apart and leaving more leaves on the plants to shade the grapes and so preserve the quality.

With strict rules in place banning irrigation of the limestone soils that give Champagne its character, the growers are relieved that the average rainfall in the region appears so far to be unaffected by climate change.

However, to make the most of the available moisture, new methods of growing grass between the rows of vines and ploughing between them are helping.

Apart from the efforts to save the vintages, the growers are working hard on their environmental impact, said Le Mailloux.

“Our members are more aware than most people of the impact of climate change because they feel it now”

“With a high-end product like this, consumers expect that you take care of the planet. Our members are more aware than most people of the impact of climate change because they feel it now. They are also, as growers, scientifically literate too, so they understand the problem and what needs to be done.”

With a total of 16,000 growers in the Champagne region, the statistics of their achievements so far are impressive. They have set up what they call an industrial ecology programme.

They produce 120,000 tons of vine wood a year, of which 80% is ground up and returned to the soils with humus as natural fertiliser, and the rest is burned for energy to save fossil fuels.

So far, 90% of waste is sorted and recycled or used to create energy, and 100% of by-products such as industrial alcohol are used in cosmetics, healthcare and food sector.

A 7% reduction in bottle weight of champagne has an emissions reduction of 8,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

Carbon footprint

Le Mailloux said the industry is keenly aware that the largest part of its carbon footprint is in the packaging, shipping and delivery of its bottles all over the world.

Since delivery is not time-sensitive, the industry has already experimented with delivering champagne by sailing ship across the Atlantic. They hope eventually to use a combination of sail and electric boats.

The organisation already claims to have cut their carbon footprint by 20% per bottle, and aims to reduce it by more than 75% by 2050. They have already cut herbicide use by 50% and aim to stop altogether by 2025. All champagne growers should qualify for environmental certification by 2030 – from 20% now.

“Our industry is under threat and so is the whole planet, so we want to show that we are doing our best to keep the temperature from exceeding the 1.5C threshold,” Le Mailloux said. – Climate News Network

Hurricanes wreak greater havoc as temperatures soar

hurricanes

Devastation caused by the most powerful hurricanes has increased by up to twentyfold, according to a newly-identified pattern in natural disasters.

LONDON, 11 October, 2019 – The worst things that can happen could be about to get even worse. While the economic cost of the average flood, drought, windstorm, landslide or forest fire has crept up over the decades, the price exacted by the most extreme events – such as hurricanes Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 and Dorian over the Bahamas this year – has increased drastically.

Weather-related disasters have been steadily increasing for decades, driven by rising atmospheric temperatures as a consequence of profligate use of fossil fuels and other human actions.

Although better information, advance warning systems and community preparedness have in many ways reduced or contained the loss of life, the economic costs have risen, on average.

The average count is not the only one that matters, though. According to European and US researchers, the top 5% of all disasters are proving radically more expensive.

Extreme disasters

“When we get to the top 1%, damages increased approximately twentyfold between 1970 and 2010,” says Francesa Chiaromonte, a statistician at Pennsylvania State University in the US.

“This may be due to the fact that extreme disasters are now hitting temperate areas, as well as the fact that these areas are less prepared to deal with extreme disasters compared to tropical regions.”

The most powerful hurricanes, which would have caused $500 million in losses in 1970, are now costing $10 billion.

Chiaromonte and colleagues from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy, report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they deployed statistical wizardry to tease out the unexpected patterns from a mountain of data on decades of natural disaster.

The data was compiled by international agencies and governments, and also by insurance giants that last year paid out $80 billion in insured losses. Total disaster damage was perhaps twice that figure.

Human numbers have multiplied and economies have grown, so disaster damage will anyway have become more costly. But one of the earliest predictions from climate research was that, in a hotter world, the extremes of heat, drought, rainfall, tornado, wildfire, hurricane and tropical cyclone would become more intense, or more frequent, or both – with devastating consequences.

“We observed an increasing polarisation between poor and rich areas of the world for casualties caused by storms”

Concerted international and national action, orchestrated over the decades by what is now called the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, has softened some of the impact, and has reduced loss of life in many cases.

Extreme droughts, the report’s authors say, have become less fatal. “So have extreme floods, but only in rich countries,” the report points out. “We observed an increasing polarisation between poor and rich areas of the world also for casualties caused by storms.

“Finally, and concerningly, extreme temperature events have become more deadly in poor and rich countries alike.”

In a deadpan conclusion, the authors point out that if the increase in the frequency and strength of natural disasters is in part due to climate change, then “mitigation is a logical instrument to reduce trends in damages”. – Climate News Network

Devastation caused by the most powerful hurricanes has increased by up to twentyfold, according to a newly-identified pattern in natural disasters.

LONDON, 11 October, 2019 – The worst things that can happen could be about to get even worse. While the economic cost of the average flood, drought, windstorm, landslide or forest fire has crept up over the decades, the price exacted by the most extreme events – such as hurricanes Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 and Dorian over the Bahamas this year – has increased drastically.

Weather-related disasters have been steadily increasing for decades, driven by rising atmospheric temperatures as a consequence of profligate use of fossil fuels and other human actions.

Although better information, advance warning systems and community preparedness have in many ways reduced or contained the loss of life, the economic costs have risen, on average.

The average count is not the only one that matters, though. According to European and US researchers, the top 5% of all disasters are proving radically more expensive.

Extreme disasters

“When we get to the top 1%, damages increased approximately twentyfold between 1970 and 2010,” says Francesa Chiaromonte, a statistician at Pennsylvania State University in the US.

“This may be due to the fact that extreme disasters are now hitting temperate areas, as well as the fact that these areas are less prepared to deal with extreme disasters compared to tropical regions.”

The most powerful hurricanes, which would have caused $500 million in losses in 1970, are now costing $10 billion.

Chiaromonte and colleagues from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy, report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they deployed statistical wizardry to tease out the unexpected patterns from a mountain of data on decades of natural disaster.

The data was compiled by international agencies and governments, and also by insurance giants that last year paid out $80 billion in insured losses. Total disaster damage was perhaps twice that figure.

Human numbers have multiplied and economies have grown, so disaster damage will anyway have become more costly. But one of the earliest predictions from climate research was that, in a hotter world, the extremes of heat, drought, rainfall, tornado, wildfire, hurricane and tropical cyclone would become more intense, or more frequent, or both – with devastating consequences.

“We observed an increasing polarisation between poor and rich areas of the world for casualties caused by storms”

Concerted international and national action, orchestrated over the decades by what is now called the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, has softened some of the impact, and has reduced loss of life in many cases.

Extreme droughts, the report’s authors say, have become less fatal. “So have extreme floods, but only in rich countries,” the report points out. “We observed an increasing polarisation between poor and rich areas of the world also for casualties caused by storms.

“Finally, and concerningly, extreme temperature events have become more deadly in poor and rich countries alike.”

In a deadpan conclusion, the authors point out that if the increase in the frequency and strength of natural disasters is in part due to climate change, then “mitigation is a logical instrument to reduce trends in damages”. – Climate News Network

Nuclear cannot help against climate crisis

With new plants costing from five to ten times more than renewable options, and taking far longer to build, nuclear cannot help against global warming.

LONDON, 30 September, 2019 − Finding a way to head off the galloping climate crisis, although it’s taxing the world’s best brains, leaves one clear and inescapable conclusion, reiterated not only by researchers but acknowledged implicitly by the industry: nuclear cannot help.

Last week the French builders of the nuclear reactors being built in the United Kingdom announced a startling rise in construction costs. The news came on the day a report was published which said nuclear generation worldwide is now hopelessly uncompetitive in cost compared with renewable power.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2019 also stresses that as far as climate change is concerned nuclear power has another huge disadvantage. Wind and solar power stations take only months to build before they produce power, so they quickly start to displace fossil fuels and save emissions of carbon dioxide.

Nuclear reactors, on the other hand, take at least five years to build and very often more than a decade and so the fossil fuel plants they are designed to replace continue to pump out greenhouse gases. With the need to cut carbon emissions increasingly urgent, this makes nuclear power the wrong solution to climate change, the report says.

The announcement by the French nuclear giant Électricité de France (EDF) of the rise in costs of the twin reactors being built at Hinkley Point C in the West of England put the cost of construction at up to £22.5 billion (US$27.9bn) an increase of up to £2.9bn ($3.6bn) from its last estimate in 2017.

“Nuclear new-build costs many times more per kilowatt hour, so it buys many times less climate solution per dollar”

With the construction of the station still in its initial stages, costs are expected to rise further before the first power is generated in late 2025 – even if there are no further delays.

Two similar pressurised water reactors close to completion in France and Finland have taken more than twice as long to construct as originally estimated and are still not producing power. Both projects have recently announced yet more delays.

The 2019 status report, produced by a group of independent energy consultants and academics, makes grim reading for the nuclear industry because it compares the cost of producing electricity from renewables – particularly wind and solar – with nuclear. It says nuclear now costs between five and ten times as much as solar and wind power.

The report says: “Nuclear new-build thus costs many times more per kilowatt hour, so it buys many times less climate solution per dollar, than these major low-carbon competitors. That reality could usefully guide policy and investment decisions if the objective is to save money or the climate or both.”

Existing plants affected

This gap is widening as nuclear costs keep rising and renewable costs falling. The report quotes the International Energy Agency which says: “Solar PV costs fell by 65 percent between 2012 and 2017, and are projected to fall by a further 50% by 2040; onshore wind costs fell by 15% over the same period and are projected to fall by another 10–20% to 2040.”

But the report also makes clear that it is not just in new build that renewables are a much better option than nuclear in combating climate change.

In many nuclear countries, especially the US, the largest nuclear energy producer, new renewables now compete with existing nuclear plants. If the money spent on operating expensive nuclear plants were invested instead in cheaper renewables, or in energy efficiency projects, then that would displace more fossil fuel generation than keeping nuclear plants running.

The report catalogues the dismal record of delays in nuclear new build across the world. At the beginning of 2018, 15 reactors were scheduled for startup during the year; seven of these made it, plus two that were expected in 2019; of these nine startups, seven were in China and two in Russia. Of the 13 reactors scheduled to start up in 2019, four have already been postponed to 2020.

The problem for the industry is that the capital cost of new stations is so great that outside totalitarian regimes the finance cannot be found without massive subsidies from the taxpayer or levies on electricity consumers.

Plans abandoned

Even in the UK, where the government has enthusiastically endorsed new nuclear power station projects, most planned projects for new stations have been abandoned.

Even before the latest cost escalation for Hinkley Point was announced, the Nuclear Status report was casting doubt that EDF’s follow-on project for another giant nuclear station on the UK’s east coast, Sizewell C, was likely to come to fruition.

The report says: “Given the problems EDF is having financing Hinkley, this makes the Sizewell project appear implausible.

“Over the past decade the extraordinary cost of the UK’s proposed nuclear power program has become apparent to a wider academic community and public bodies. Even when the Government was willing to invest directly into the project, nuclear costs were prohibitive.” − Climate News Network

With new plants costing from five to ten times more than renewable options, and taking far longer to build, nuclear cannot help against global warming.

LONDON, 30 September, 2019 − Finding a way to head off the galloping climate crisis, although it’s taxing the world’s best brains, leaves one clear and inescapable conclusion, reiterated not only by researchers but acknowledged implicitly by the industry: nuclear cannot help.

Last week the French builders of the nuclear reactors being built in the United Kingdom announced a startling rise in construction costs. The news came on the day a report was published which said nuclear generation worldwide is now hopelessly uncompetitive in cost compared with renewable power.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2019 also stresses that as far as climate change is concerned nuclear power has another huge disadvantage. Wind and solar power stations take only months to build before they produce power, so they quickly start to displace fossil fuels and save emissions of carbon dioxide.

Nuclear reactors, on the other hand, take at least five years to build and very often more than a decade and so the fossil fuel plants they are designed to replace continue to pump out greenhouse gases. With the need to cut carbon emissions increasingly urgent, this makes nuclear power the wrong solution to climate change, the report says.

The announcement by the French nuclear giant Électricité de France (EDF) of the rise in costs of the twin reactors being built at Hinkley Point C in the West of England put the cost of construction at up to £22.5 billion (US$27.9bn) an increase of up to £2.9bn ($3.6bn) from its last estimate in 2017.

“Nuclear new-build costs many times more per kilowatt hour, so it buys many times less climate solution per dollar”

With the construction of the station still in its initial stages, costs are expected to rise further before the first power is generated in late 2025 – even if there are no further delays.

Two similar pressurised water reactors close to completion in France and Finland have taken more than twice as long to construct as originally estimated and are still not producing power. Both projects have recently announced yet more delays.

The 2019 status report, produced by a group of independent energy consultants and academics, makes grim reading for the nuclear industry because it compares the cost of producing electricity from renewables – particularly wind and solar – with nuclear. It says nuclear now costs between five and ten times as much as solar and wind power.

The report says: “Nuclear new-build thus costs many times more per kilowatt hour, so it buys many times less climate solution per dollar, than these major low-carbon competitors. That reality could usefully guide policy and investment decisions if the objective is to save money or the climate or both.”

Existing plants affected

This gap is widening as nuclear costs keep rising and renewable costs falling. The report quotes the International Energy Agency which says: “Solar PV costs fell by 65 percent between 2012 and 2017, and are projected to fall by a further 50% by 2040; onshore wind costs fell by 15% over the same period and are projected to fall by another 10–20% to 2040.”

But the report also makes clear that it is not just in new build that renewables are a much better option than nuclear in combating climate change.

In many nuclear countries, especially the US, the largest nuclear energy producer, new renewables now compete with existing nuclear plants. If the money spent on operating expensive nuclear plants were invested instead in cheaper renewables, or in energy efficiency projects, then that would displace more fossil fuel generation than keeping nuclear plants running.

The report catalogues the dismal record of delays in nuclear new build across the world. At the beginning of 2018, 15 reactors were scheduled for startup during the year; seven of these made it, plus two that were expected in 2019; of these nine startups, seven were in China and two in Russia. Of the 13 reactors scheduled to start up in 2019, four have already been postponed to 2020.

The problem for the industry is that the capital cost of new stations is so great that outside totalitarian regimes the finance cannot be found without massive subsidies from the taxpayer or levies on electricity consumers.

Plans abandoned

Even in the UK, where the government has enthusiastically endorsed new nuclear power station projects, most planned projects for new stations have been abandoned.

Even before the latest cost escalation for Hinkley Point was announced, the Nuclear Status report was casting doubt that EDF’s follow-on project for another giant nuclear station on the UK’s east coast, Sizewell C, was likely to come to fruition.

The report says: “Given the problems EDF is having financing Hinkley, this makes the Sizewell project appear implausible.

“Over the past decade the extraordinary cost of the UK’s proposed nuclear power program has become apparent to a wider academic community and public bodies. Even when the Government was willing to invest directly into the project, nuclear costs were prohibitive.” − Climate News Network

Extremes of global heat bring tipping points closer

It makes good business sense to contain planetary warming to 1.5°C. Passing the Paris target spells disaster, with more extremes of global heat.

LONDON, 23 September, 2019 – Urgent action on climate change will be costly. But inaction could be four or five times more expensive, according to new climate accounting: extremes of global heat are on the increase.

Submarine heatwaves happen three times more often that they did in 1980. Ocean warming events can devastate coral reefs and trigger even more damage from more intense acidification and oxygen loss in the seas, with disastrous consequences for fishery and seafood.

The ecosystems on which all living things – including humans – depend are shifting away from the tropics at up to 40kms a year. Extremes of torrential rainfall, drought and tropical cyclones are becoming measurably more intense.

And all this has happened because global mean surface temperatures have risen in the last century by about 1°C, thanks to ever more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a consequence of profligate use of fossil fuels to drive human expansion.

“People from small island states and low-lying countries are in the immediate crosshairs of climate change. I am very concerned about the future for these people”

Forecasts suggest humans could tip the planet to a rise of 1.5°C as early as 2030. This is the limit proposed by 195 nations in Paris in 2015 when they promised to keep global heating to “well below” 2°C by the end of the century.

And now researchers once again warn in the journal Science that even the seemingly small gap between 1.5°C and 2°C could spell a colossal difference in long-term outcomes. Right now, the planet is on track to hit or surpass 3°C by 2100. The case for drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is now more compelling and urgent than ever.

“First, we have under-estimated the sensitivity of natural and human systems to climate change and the speed at which these things are happening. Second, we have under-appreciated the synergistic nature of climate threats – with outcomes tending to be worse than the sum of the parts,” said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland in Australia, who led the study.

“This is resulting in rapid and comprehensive climate impacts, with growing damage to people, ecosystems and livelihoods.”

Harder to forecast

And Daniela Jacob, who directs Germany’s Climate Service Centre, added: “We are already in new territory. The ‘novelty’ of the weather is making our ability to forecast and respond to weather-related phenomena very difficult.”

The two scientists were part of a much larger world-wide team of researchers who looked at the risks that arrive with rapid change: damage to forests, farms and wildlife; to coastal communities as sea levels rise and storms multiply.

Their message is clear. There would be huge benefits to containing average global temperature rise to no more than 1.5C above the long-term average for most of human history.

“This is not an academic issue, it is a matter of life and death for people everywhere.” said Michael Taylor, dean of science at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.

Weak commitments

“That said, people from small island states and low-lying countries are in the immediate crosshairs of climate change. I am very concerned about the future for these people.”

So far, the commitments made by most nations are simply too feeble. That risks condemning many nations to chaos and harm, and, as usual, those most vulnerable would be the poorest.

“To avoid this, we must accelerate action and tighten emission reduction targets so that they fall in line with the Paris Agreement. As we show, this is much less costly than suffering the impacts of 2°C or more of climate change,” said Professor Hoegh-Guldberg.

“Tackling climate change is a tall order. However, there is no alternative from the perspective of human well-being − and too much at stake not to act urgently on this issue.” − Climate News Network

It makes good business sense to contain planetary warming to 1.5°C. Passing the Paris target spells disaster, with more extremes of global heat.

LONDON, 23 September, 2019 – Urgent action on climate change will be costly. But inaction could be four or five times more expensive, according to new climate accounting: extremes of global heat are on the increase.

Submarine heatwaves happen three times more often that they did in 1980. Ocean warming events can devastate coral reefs and trigger even more damage from more intense acidification and oxygen loss in the seas, with disastrous consequences for fishery and seafood.

The ecosystems on which all living things – including humans – depend are shifting away from the tropics at up to 40kms a year. Extremes of torrential rainfall, drought and tropical cyclones are becoming measurably more intense.

And all this has happened because global mean surface temperatures have risen in the last century by about 1°C, thanks to ever more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a consequence of profligate use of fossil fuels to drive human expansion.

“People from small island states and low-lying countries are in the immediate crosshairs of climate change. I am very concerned about the future for these people”

Forecasts suggest humans could tip the planet to a rise of 1.5°C as early as 2030. This is the limit proposed by 195 nations in Paris in 2015 when they promised to keep global heating to “well below” 2°C by the end of the century.

And now researchers once again warn in the journal Science that even the seemingly small gap between 1.5°C and 2°C could spell a colossal difference in long-term outcomes. Right now, the planet is on track to hit or surpass 3°C by 2100. The case for drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is now more compelling and urgent than ever.

“First, we have under-estimated the sensitivity of natural and human systems to climate change and the speed at which these things are happening. Second, we have under-appreciated the synergistic nature of climate threats – with outcomes tending to be worse than the sum of the parts,” said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland in Australia, who led the study.

“This is resulting in rapid and comprehensive climate impacts, with growing damage to people, ecosystems and livelihoods.”

Harder to forecast

And Daniela Jacob, who directs Germany’s Climate Service Centre, added: “We are already in new territory. The ‘novelty’ of the weather is making our ability to forecast and respond to weather-related phenomena very difficult.”

The two scientists were part of a much larger world-wide team of researchers who looked at the risks that arrive with rapid change: damage to forests, farms and wildlife; to coastal communities as sea levels rise and storms multiply.

Their message is clear. There would be huge benefits to containing average global temperature rise to no more than 1.5C above the long-term average for most of human history.

“This is not an academic issue, it is a matter of life and death for people everywhere.” said Michael Taylor, dean of science at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.

Weak commitments

“That said, people from small island states and low-lying countries are in the immediate crosshairs of climate change. I am very concerned about the future for these people.”

So far, the commitments made by most nations are simply too feeble. That risks condemning many nations to chaos and harm, and, as usual, those most vulnerable would be the poorest.

“To avoid this, we must accelerate action and tighten emission reduction targets so that they fall in line with the Paris Agreement. As we show, this is much less costly than suffering the impacts of 2°C or more of climate change,” said Professor Hoegh-Guldberg.

“Tackling climate change is a tall order. However, there is no alternative from the perspective of human well-being − and too much at stake not to act urgently on this issue.” − Climate News Network

Poor and rich face economic loss as world warms

Yet another study predicts economic loss as the world gets hotter. And the richer nations will also feel the pain.

LONDON, 23 August, 2019 – By the close of the century, the United States could be more than 10% poorer, thanks to the economic loss that climate change will impose.

There is bad news too for Japan, India and New Zealand, which will also be 10% worse off in a world that could be 3°C hotter than any temperatures experienced since humans began to build cities, civilisations and complex economies.

And the news is even worse for Canada, a northern and Arctic nation that could reasonably have expected some things to improve as the thermometer rose: under a “business as usual” scenario in which nations go on burning fossil fuels at ever increasing rates, the Canadian economy could shrink by 13%.

A new study by the US National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts warns that overall the global economy will shrink by 7%, unless the world’s nations meet the target they set themselves at an historic meeting in Paris in 2015, when they agreed an ambition to keep global warming to no more than 2°C above the levels maintained until the Industrial Revolution.

“The idea that rich, temperate nations are economically immune to climate change, or could even double or triple their wealth as a result, just seems implausible”

The factor that tends to govern how bad an economy may be hit is not the global average thermometer rise, but the level of deviation from the historical normal: farmers, business people and government planners tend to bank on more or less foreseeable conditions. But conditions in a hotter world are less predictable.

“Whether cold snaps or heat waves, droughts or floods or natural disasters, all deviations of climate conditions from their historical norms have adverse economic effects,” said Kamiar Mohaddes, a co-author based at the faculty of economics at the other Cambridge, in the UK.

“Without mitigation and adaptation policies, many countries are likely to experience sustained temperature increases relative to historical norms and suffer major income losses as a result. This holds for both rich and poor countries as well as hot and cold regions.

“Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. There are risks to its physical infrastructure, coastal and northern communities, human health and wellness, ecosystems and fisheries – all of which has had a cost.”

Familiar refrain

The planet has already warmed by around 1°C in the last century, with ever more intense and frequent extremes of heat, drought and rainfall. The news that climate change could impose massive costs is not a surprise.

Researchers have been warning for decades that although the switch away from fossil fuels – along with other steps – will be costly, doing nothing will be even more expensive and, for many regions, ruinous.

Studies have warned that both Europe and the United States will pay a heavy price for failing to meet the Paris targets, and the poor in America will pay an even heavier price.

In the latest study, researchers from California, Washington DC, the UK and Taiwan started with data from 174 nations going back to 1960 to find a match between variations from normal temperatures and income levels. They then made computer simulations of what could happen under two scenarios.

Paris makes sense

They made the assumption that nations would adapt to change, but that such adaptations would take 30 years to complete. They then looked at 10 sectors of the US economy in particular, and found that across 48 states, every sector in every state suffered economically from at least one aspect of climate change.

They also found that the Paris Agreement of 2015 – which President Trump proposes to abandon – offers the best business sense. Were nations to contain global warming to the ideal of 1.5°C, both the US and Canada could expect their wealth to dwindle by no more than 2%.

“The economics of climate change stretch far beyond the impact on growing crops. Heavy rainfall prevents mountain access for mining and affects commodity prices. Cold snaps raise heating bills and high street spending drops. Heat waves cause transport networks to shut down. All these things add up,” Dr Mohaddes said.

“The idea that rich, temperate nations are economically immune to climate change, or could even double or triple their wealth as a result, just seems implausible.” – Climate News Network

Yet another study predicts economic loss as the world gets hotter. And the richer nations will also feel the pain.

LONDON, 23 August, 2019 – By the close of the century, the United States could be more than 10% poorer, thanks to the economic loss that climate change will impose.

There is bad news too for Japan, India and New Zealand, which will also be 10% worse off in a world that could be 3°C hotter than any temperatures experienced since humans began to build cities, civilisations and complex economies.

And the news is even worse for Canada, a northern and Arctic nation that could reasonably have expected some things to improve as the thermometer rose: under a “business as usual” scenario in which nations go on burning fossil fuels at ever increasing rates, the Canadian economy could shrink by 13%.

A new study by the US National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts warns that overall the global economy will shrink by 7%, unless the world’s nations meet the target they set themselves at an historic meeting in Paris in 2015, when they agreed an ambition to keep global warming to no more than 2°C above the levels maintained until the Industrial Revolution.

“The idea that rich, temperate nations are economically immune to climate change, or could even double or triple their wealth as a result, just seems implausible”

The factor that tends to govern how bad an economy may be hit is not the global average thermometer rise, but the level of deviation from the historical normal: farmers, business people and government planners tend to bank on more or less foreseeable conditions. But conditions in a hotter world are less predictable.

“Whether cold snaps or heat waves, droughts or floods or natural disasters, all deviations of climate conditions from their historical norms have adverse economic effects,” said Kamiar Mohaddes, a co-author based at the faculty of economics at the other Cambridge, in the UK.

“Without mitigation and adaptation policies, many countries are likely to experience sustained temperature increases relative to historical norms and suffer major income losses as a result. This holds for both rich and poor countries as well as hot and cold regions.

“Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. There are risks to its physical infrastructure, coastal and northern communities, human health and wellness, ecosystems and fisheries – all of which has had a cost.”

Familiar refrain

The planet has already warmed by around 1°C in the last century, with ever more intense and frequent extremes of heat, drought and rainfall. The news that climate change could impose massive costs is not a surprise.

Researchers have been warning for decades that although the switch away from fossil fuels – along with other steps – will be costly, doing nothing will be even more expensive and, for many regions, ruinous.

Studies have warned that both Europe and the United States will pay a heavy price for failing to meet the Paris targets, and the poor in America will pay an even heavier price.

In the latest study, researchers from California, Washington DC, the UK and Taiwan started with data from 174 nations going back to 1960 to find a match between variations from normal temperatures and income levels. They then made computer simulations of what could happen under two scenarios.

Paris makes sense

They made the assumption that nations would adapt to change, but that such adaptations would take 30 years to complete. They then looked at 10 sectors of the US economy in particular, and found that across 48 states, every sector in every state suffered economically from at least one aspect of climate change.

They also found that the Paris Agreement of 2015 – which President Trump proposes to abandon – offers the best business sense. Were nations to contain global warming to the ideal of 1.5°C, both the US and Canada could expect their wealth to dwindle by no more than 2%.

“The economics of climate change stretch far beyond the impact on growing crops. Heavy rainfall prevents mountain access for mining and affects commodity prices. Cold snaps raise heating bills and high street spending drops. Heat waves cause transport networks to shut down. All these things add up,” Dr Mohaddes said.

“The idea that rich, temperate nations are economically immune to climate change, or could even double or triple their wealth as a result, just seems implausible.” – Climate News Network

Cheap renewables will price out oil on roads

Petrol- and diesel-driven cars will soon vanish, as oil-based fuel already costs three times more than cheap renewables.

LONDON, 16 August, 2019 − The days of oil as a fuel for cars, whether petrol or diesel, are numbered − because the economies offered by wind and solar energy and other cheap renewables, combined with electric vehicles, are irresistible, a French bank says.

BNP Paribas Asset Management calculates that oil majors like Exxon, BP and Shell will have to produce petrol from oil at $10 a barrel (the current price is $58) to compete with electricity on price, while for diesel, it says, oil can cost no more than $19 a barrel.

“The oil industry has never before in its history faced the kind of threat that renewable electricity in tandem with electric vehicles poses to its business model,” the bank says. Electric vehicles (EVs) could easily replace 40% of the current market for crude oil.

The far lower cost of driving electric vehicles, plus the environmental benefits of cleaner air and the reduction in carbon emissions, will make it overwhelmingly attractive to governments to switch from fossil fuels to renewables for powering the world’s light vehicles.

“The economics of oil for gasoline and diesel vehicles versus wind- and solar-powered EVs are now in relentless and irreversible decline”

Warnings that Big Oil’s position is precarious have been sounding for several years. Some see the global industry reaching its peak within the next decade. In several countries car plants are being converted to all-electric production, a move perhaps prompted by a wish to regain market share after a less than happy episode in consumer relations.

But the bank’s report for professional investors, Wells, Wires, and Wheels, will certainly make bleak reading for the oil industry. Its conclusions are based on the bank’s calculations of how much it costs to get energy to the car wheels.

Its analysis concludes that “after adjusting for all of the costs and all of the energy losses of delivering oil from the well to the wheels on the one hand, and renewable electricity to the wheels of EVs on the other, new wind and solar projects combined with EVs would deliver 6.2 to 7 times more useful energy than petrol”.

This is with oil at its current market price of $60 a barrel. Renewables would also provide 3.2 to 3.6 times more power than diesel for the same cost.

Rising efficiency

The report says: “Moreover, this is on the basis of the costs and efficiency rates of the renewable electricity technologies as they exist today. Yet, over time, the costs of renewables will only continue to fall, while their efficiency rates will continue to rise.”

The report concedes that at the moment the oil industry has huge advantages of scale, because it is already servicing the world’s vehicle fleet. To take its business away, renewables have to scale up and provide the quantity of electricity and the number of charging points required for a mass electric vehicle market.

It argues, however, that oil has a major disadvantage. For every dollar spent at the pump on petrol, nearly half that cost has already gone on refining the oil, transporting it to the pump, marketing and tax. Electricity on the other hand is delivered to cars along wires at only a tiny fraction of the cost of oil-based fuels.

The bank concludes that the oil industry also has another huge disadvantage. It has to decide on future investments in new oil fields without knowing in advance the occasional wild fluctuations in oil price.

Declining oil yield

Each year the oil majors have to make such decisions about fields which need to be added to production to replace the 10% annual decline in the yield from old fields, leaving them working 10 years in advance.

By the bank’s calculations, unless the new oil can be brought on stream at $10 a barrel or less, the oil companies will have to sell petrol and diesel at a loss to compete on price with electric cars running on renewables.

Investment decisions made now on the basis of an oil price of $60 a barrel risk creating assets that cannot be sold profitably and would have to be left in the ground.

The report says: “We conclude that the economics of oil for gasoline and diesel vehicles versus wind- and solar-powered EVs are now in relentless and irreversible decline, with far-reaching implications for both policymakers and the oil majors.” − Climate News Network

Petrol- and diesel-driven cars will soon vanish, as oil-based fuel already costs three times more than cheap renewables.

LONDON, 16 August, 2019 − The days of oil as a fuel for cars, whether petrol or diesel, are numbered − because the economies offered by wind and solar energy and other cheap renewables, combined with electric vehicles, are irresistible, a French bank says.

BNP Paribas Asset Management calculates that oil majors like Exxon, BP and Shell will have to produce petrol from oil at $10 a barrel (the current price is $58) to compete with electricity on price, while for diesel, it says, oil can cost no more than $19 a barrel.

“The oil industry has never before in its history faced the kind of threat that renewable electricity in tandem with electric vehicles poses to its business model,” the bank says. Electric vehicles (EVs) could easily replace 40% of the current market for crude oil.

The far lower cost of driving electric vehicles, plus the environmental benefits of cleaner air and the reduction in carbon emissions, will make it overwhelmingly attractive to governments to switch from fossil fuels to renewables for powering the world’s light vehicles.

“The economics of oil for gasoline and diesel vehicles versus wind- and solar-powered EVs are now in relentless and irreversible decline”

Warnings that Big Oil’s position is precarious have been sounding for several years. Some see the global industry reaching its peak within the next decade. In several countries car plants are being converted to all-electric production, a move perhaps prompted by a wish to regain market share after a less than happy episode in consumer relations.

But the bank’s report for professional investors, Wells, Wires, and Wheels, will certainly make bleak reading for the oil industry. Its conclusions are based on the bank’s calculations of how much it costs to get energy to the car wheels.

Its analysis concludes that “after adjusting for all of the costs and all of the energy losses of delivering oil from the well to the wheels on the one hand, and renewable electricity to the wheels of EVs on the other, new wind and solar projects combined with EVs would deliver 6.2 to 7 times more useful energy than petrol”.

This is with oil at its current market price of $60 a barrel. Renewables would also provide 3.2 to 3.6 times more power than diesel for the same cost.

Rising efficiency

The report says: “Moreover, this is on the basis of the costs and efficiency rates of the renewable electricity technologies as they exist today. Yet, over time, the costs of renewables will only continue to fall, while their efficiency rates will continue to rise.”

The report concedes that at the moment the oil industry has huge advantages of scale, because it is already servicing the world’s vehicle fleet. To take its business away, renewables have to scale up and provide the quantity of electricity and the number of charging points required for a mass electric vehicle market.

It argues, however, that oil has a major disadvantage. For every dollar spent at the pump on petrol, nearly half that cost has already gone on refining the oil, transporting it to the pump, marketing and tax. Electricity on the other hand is delivered to cars along wires at only a tiny fraction of the cost of oil-based fuels.

The bank concludes that the oil industry also has another huge disadvantage. It has to decide on future investments in new oil fields without knowing in advance the occasional wild fluctuations in oil price.

Declining oil yield

Each year the oil majors have to make such decisions about fields which need to be added to production to replace the 10% annual decline in the yield from old fields, leaving them working 10 years in advance.

By the bank’s calculations, unless the new oil can be brought on stream at $10 a barrel or less, the oil companies will have to sell petrol and diesel at a loss to compete on price with electric cars running on renewables.

Investment decisions made now on the basis of an oil price of $60 a barrel risk creating assets that cannot be sold profitably and would have to be left in the ground.

The report says: “We conclude that the economics of oil for gasoline and diesel vehicles versus wind- and solar-powered EVs are now in relentless and irreversible decline, with far-reaching implications for both policymakers and the oil majors.” − Climate News Network

Global warming tips scales against the poor

The richest nations got richer through rising investment in fossil fuels – and the global warming they caused has made the poorest nations measurably poorer.

LONDON, 24 April, 2019 − Global warming has increased global economic inequality. Some countries have profited from climate change while the same rise in average planetary temperatures has dragged down economic growth in the warmer countries.

The gap between those groups of nations with the highest and lowest economic output per person is now around 25% larger than it would have been had there been no climate change.

“Our results show that most of the poorest countries on Earth are considerably poorer than they would have been without global warming,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University in California. “At the same time the majority of rich countries are richer than they would have been.”

He and his co-author, Marshall Burke, an earth system scientist at Stanford, report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they combed through 50 years of annual temperature readings and measurements of gross domestic product (GDP) for 165 nations, to tease out the effects of temperature fluctuation on economic growth.

“Many poor countries have been significantly harmed by the warming arising from wealthy countries’ energy consumption”

They found that during warmer than average years growth was accelerated in those nations with normally cool climates – such as Norway and Sweden – but was slowed significantly in those countries with tropical or subtropical climates such as India or Nigeria.

And between 1961 and 2010, they found that global warming depressed the wealth per person in the poorest nations by between 17% and 30%.

“The historical data clearly show that crops are more productive, people are healthier and we are more productive at work when temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold,” said Dr Burke. “This means that in cold countries, a little bit of warming can help. The opposite is true in places that are already hot.”

The two scientists put the message of climate injustice bluntly in their paper: “Our results show that, in addition to not sharing equally in the direct benefits of fossil fuel use, many poor countries have been significantly harmed by the warming arising from wealthy countries’ energy consumption.”

What if … ?

All such research is tortured by uncertainties, and none greater than what historians call counter-factual comparison: that is, what would have happened if global average temperatures had not risen by around 1°C in the last century.

To make their case, the researchers calculated 20,000 versions of what each separate country’s economic growth rate would have been without global warming, and based their estimates on the range of outcomes. So, they concede, there are uncertainties.

But their findings are in line with other separate studies. Geographers, economists and climate scientists have repeatedly pointed out that global warming consistently threatens the poorest people in any society and that economic inequalities tend to stoke conflict and drive migration while at the same time economic inequalities continue to ensure that the poorest will suffer even more.

And national studies of specific climate events have confirmed the link between temperature and output. Dr Burke has in an earlier study separately made the connection between rising temperatures and social conflict, and the Stanford two have already argued that even a small reduction in global warming would return huge economic benefits.

Renewable remedy

In effect, the latest research provides a kind of national climate audit. If greenhouse emissions are a measure of economic output, then the richest 10% produce atmospheric carbon dioxide almost as much as the bottom 90% together.

The Stanford study offers an estimate of the costs and benefits the richest and poorest have borne as a consequence of emissions. It also makes it clear that the poorer nations would benefit more from investment in renewable energy: that is, they could create more wealth in ways that did not intensify costly climate change.

“Our study makes the first accounting of exactly how much each country has been impacted economically by global warming, relative to historical greenhouse gas emissions,” said Professor Diffenbaugh.

“Historically, rapid economic development has been powered by fossil fuels. Our finding that global warming has exacerbated economic inequality suggests that there is an added economic benefit of energy sources that don’t contribute to further warming.” − Climate News Network

The richest nations got richer through rising investment in fossil fuels – and the global warming they caused has made the poorest nations measurably poorer.

LONDON, 24 April, 2019 − Global warming has increased global economic inequality. Some countries have profited from climate change while the same rise in average planetary temperatures has dragged down economic growth in the warmer countries.

The gap between those groups of nations with the highest and lowest economic output per person is now around 25% larger than it would have been had there been no climate change.

“Our results show that most of the poorest countries on Earth are considerably poorer than they would have been without global warming,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University in California. “At the same time the majority of rich countries are richer than they would have been.”

He and his co-author, Marshall Burke, an earth system scientist at Stanford, report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they combed through 50 years of annual temperature readings and measurements of gross domestic product (GDP) for 165 nations, to tease out the effects of temperature fluctuation on economic growth.

“Many poor countries have been significantly harmed by the warming arising from wealthy countries’ energy consumption”

They found that during warmer than average years growth was accelerated in those nations with normally cool climates – such as Norway and Sweden – but was slowed significantly in those countries with tropical or subtropical climates such as India or Nigeria.

And between 1961 and 2010, they found that global warming depressed the wealth per person in the poorest nations by between 17% and 30%.

“The historical data clearly show that crops are more productive, people are healthier and we are more productive at work when temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold,” said Dr Burke. “This means that in cold countries, a little bit of warming can help. The opposite is true in places that are already hot.”

The two scientists put the message of climate injustice bluntly in their paper: “Our results show that, in addition to not sharing equally in the direct benefits of fossil fuel use, many poor countries have been significantly harmed by the warming arising from wealthy countries’ energy consumption.”

What if … ?

All such research is tortured by uncertainties, and none greater than what historians call counter-factual comparison: that is, what would have happened if global average temperatures had not risen by around 1°C in the last century.

To make their case, the researchers calculated 20,000 versions of what each separate country’s economic growth rate would have been without global warming, and based their estimates on the range of outcomes. So, they concede, there are uncertainties.

But their findings are in line with other separate studies. Geographers, economists and climate scientists have repeatedly pointed out that global warming consistently threatens the poorest people in any society and that economic inequalities tend to stoke conflict and drive migration while at the same time economic inequalities continue to ensure that the poorest will suffer even more.

And national studies of specific climate events have confirmed the link between temperature and output. Dr Burke has in an earlier study separately made the connection between rising temperatures and social conflict, and the Stanford two have already argued that even a small reduction in global warming would return huge economic benefits.

Renewable remedy

In effect, the latest research provides a kind of national climate audit. If greenhouse emissions are a measure of economic output, then the richest 10% produce atmospheric carbon dioxide almost as much as the bottom 90% together.

The Stanford study offers an estimate of the costs and benefits the richest and poorest have borne as a consequence of emissions. It also makes it clear that the poorer nations would benefit more from investment in renewable energy: that is, they could create more wealth in ways that did not intensify costly climate change.

“Our study makes the first accounting of exactly how much each country has been impacted economically by global warming, relative to historical greenhouse gas emissions,” said Professor Diffenbaugh.

“Historically, rapid economic development has been powered by fossil fuels. Our finding that global warming has exacerbated economic inequality suggests that there is an added economic benefit of energy sources that don’t contribute to further warming.” − Climate News Network

Rapidly rising heat will cut maize harvests

Soon the corn could roast on the cob long before the maize harvests are due. That could be far sooner than anyone expects.

LONDON, 3 April, 2019 − European scientists have bad news for the world’s farmers: within a decade, maize harvests will suffer as global temperatures will have reached a level that will turn the once-in-a-decade extremes of heat and drought into the new normal.

That will mean that the worst production losses ever felt by the maize farmers will happen with increasing frequency, if global planetary temperatures reach 1.5°C above the long-term average for almost all human history.

The world is already 1°C hotter on average than it was before the Industrial Revolution and its increasing dependence on fossil fuels to power the global economies.

And if the temperature reaches 2°C, researchers warn, farmlands where maize once flourished will be hit by heat and drought events never before experienced. The big agribusiness giants will be hurt – and so will the small subsistence farmers who depend on their crop to keep their families alive.

“At the 2°C warning level . . . our projections suggest that global maize production will suffer from unprecedented losses”

Already the warming in the last few decades has begun to hit yields: the scientists reckon that maize yield within the 28 European member states is 290,000 tonnes a year lower than it would have been without global warming.

Significantly, 195 nations met in Paris in 2015 to agree to co-operate to keep average global warming down to if possible “well below” 2°C by 2100. Their target was a rise of no more than 1.5°C.

At the present rate of action – to switch to solar and wind power, to restore the world’s forests – the planet is on course to warm by 3°C by the close of the century.

But a new study by the European Union’s Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, published in the journal Earth’s Future, is not worried about the average, but about the extremes that, over the course of a year, make up that average, and drive up the loss of one particular crop: maize.

Vulnerabilities

Maize is now the world’s biggest single crop: the US is the most important producer but the EU ranks fourth in the world, producing an average of 65 million tonnes a year for food and cattle fodder. This warm climate crop is at certain points in its growing season vulnerable to heat stress and to drought. And heat stress seems increasingly  certain.

Researchers have warned, repeatedly, that higher average planetary or regional temperatures will mean increasingly intense, frequent, prolonged and potentially dangerous extremes of heat. And those areas already vulnerable to drought are likely to see much more of it, while other regions will become more at risk of catastrophic flood.

Agricultural scientists have already confirmed that untimely spells of heat and drought have started to slash cereal yields as measured across whole regions, or per field.

Hunger warning

And although the US has increased production, this too will be vulnerable to further warming. The World Meteorological Organisation has just warned of an already warmer, hungrier world.

The European researchers report that their analysis of past and future maize production surveys a range of outcomes: in one of these, the worst could start to happen as early as 2020. They suggest greater efforts to meet the goals set in Paris but even with those, farmers and agriculture ministries will need to find ways to adapt.

Their report ends bluntly. “We found that global warming will substantially increase the risk of maize production losses in most world regions, including the United States. The climatic events affecting historical global maize production once every 10 years will become normal at the 1.5°C global warming level, which is reached in the 2020s in most of the analysed climate model simulations,” they write.

“At the 2°C warning level (approximately late 2030s) our projections suggest that global maize production will suffer from unprecedented losses.” − Climate News Network

Soon the corn could roast on the cob long before the maize harvests are due. That could be far sooner than anyone expects.

LONDON, 3 April, 2019 − European scientists have bad news for the world’s farmers: within a decade, maize harvests will suffer as global temperatures will have reached a level that will turn the once-in-a-decade extremes of heat and drought into the new normal.

That will mean that the worst production losses ever felt by the maize farmers will happen with increasing frequency, if global planetary temperatures reach 1.5°C above the long-term average for almost all human history.

The world is already 1°C hotter on average than it was before the Industrial Revolution and its increasing dependence on fossil fuels to power the global economies.

And if the temperature reaches 2°C, researchers warn, farmlands where maize once flourished will be hit by heat and drought events never before experienced. The big agribusiness giants will be hurt – and so will the small subsistence farmers who depend on their crop to keep their families alive.

“At the 2°C warning level . . . our projections suggest that global maize production will suffer from unprecedented losses”

Already the warming in the last few decades has begun to hit yields: the scientists reckon that maize yield within the 28 European member states is 290,000 tonnes a year lower than it would have been without global warming.

Significantly, 195 nations met in Paris in 2015 to agree to co-operate to keep average global warming down to if possible “well below” 2°C by 2100. Their target was a rise of no more than 1.5°C.

At the present rate of action – to switch to solar and wind power, to restore the world’s forests – the planet is on course to warm by 3°C by the close of the century.

But a new study by the European Union’s Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, published in the journal Earth’s Future, is not worried about the average, but about the extremes that, over the course of a year, make up that average, and drive up the loss of one particular crop: maize.

Vulnerabilities

Maize is now the world’s biggest single crop: the US is the most important producer but the EU ranks fourth in the world, producing an average of 65 million tonnes a year for food and cattle fodder. This warm climate crop is at certain points in its growing season vulnerable to heat stress and to drought. And heat stress seems increasingly  certain.

Researchers have warned, repeatedly, that higher average planetary or regional temperatures will mean increasingly intense, frequent, prolonged and potentially dangerous extremes of heat. And those areas already vulnerable to drought are likely to see much more of it, while other regions will become more at risk of catastrophic flood.

Agricultural scientists have already confirmed that untimely spells of heat and drought have started to slash cereal yields as measured across whole regions, or per field.

Hunger warning

And although the US has increased production, this too will be vulnerable to further warming. The World Meteorological Organisation has just warned of an already warmer, hungrier world.

The European researchers report that their analysis of past and future maize production surveys a range of outcomes: in one of these, the worst could start to happen as early as 2020. They suggest greater efforts to meet the goals set in Paris but even with those, farmers and agriculture ministries will need to find ways to adapt.

Their report ends bluntly. “We found that global warming will substantially increase the risk of maize production losses in most world regions, including the United States. The climatic events affecting historical global maize production once every 10 years will become normal at the 1.5°C global warming level, which is reached in the 2020s in most of the analysed climate model simulations,” they write.

“At the 2°C warning level (approximately late 2030s) our projections suggest that global maize production will suffer from unprecedented losses.” − Climate News Network