Category Archives: Economics

Smarter renewables open up new markets

The need to stop global warming in its tracks has spurred the growth of two smarter renewables that are helping to reshape the electricity industry.

LONDON, 9 July, 2018 – It’s bad news for Old King Coal, Big Oil and their mates, but smarter renewables are helping to break new ground. The offshore wind industry and concentrated solar power have so far been tried only on a large scale, and in a few pioneer countries. But that is changing fast.

Both ways of generating electricity, from wind and sun, were once thought technically feasible but too expensive to compete with fossil fuels. Advances in technology, though, and economies of scale have meant that costs are falling quickly.

One key factor in their new success has been that surplus renewable energy can now be stored, either by batteries or heat reservoirs, and can then be used at periods of peak demand.

Offshore wind power, pioneered in Denmark in 1991, has now become a major provider of energy in the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands. Outside Europe China is also a major investor. Altogether 17 countries now have offshore wind, but more than 100 have coastlines where the technology could be deployed, so the potential is enormous.

Among the countries now considering large-scale offshore wind farms are Poland and Ireland in Europe, the US and, in the Far East, Taiwan, according to the organisers of a conference on offshore wind technology to be held in November.

Increasing efficiency

One innovation that has made a difference is the improved design of turbine blades that makes them more efficient, as well as the enormous increase in the size of offshore installations (up to 9 megawatts for each turbine), and the development of floating wind farms.

Although installing wind onshore is far cheaper than offshore, it is often far more difficult to obtain permission to build because of public opposition. Offshore, the turbines can be much larger, the wind flows are more regular, and uncertainties and costs from delays are reduced.

The second technology that is taking off is concentrated (or concentrating) solar power (CSP), a way of producing electricity that has been around for longer than offshore wind.

Till now its development has always taken second place to solar panels, which are quicker and cheaper to install. The cost of generating electricity from panels had also fallen so dramatically that they seemed to have edged out their solar rival.

But CSP is making a comeback, largely because it can now guarantee a 24-hour supply by using heat generated during the day to drive turbines at night.

“CSP has become a technology of major interest . . . the potential in the Middle East and North Africa is enormous”

Another advantage is that, unlike solar panels which lose efficiency if they get too hot, CSP thrives in such conditions – the hotter the better. This makes the Middle East, where temperatures are getting ever higher as a result of climate change, a huge potential market for CSP.

In Europe Spain, with abundant sunshine, has led the way. More recently, across the Straits of Gibraltar Morocco has become a world leader. It has a 40% target for renewable energy by 2020, rising to 52% by 2030, and already has a 160 megawatt CSP plant up and running. Three more are expected to come on line in the next few months.

So far the best form of CSP has not been settled. Some systems use parabolic troughs which concentrate the sun’s rays on a tower containing molten salt, or a combination of other substances capable of heating to a temperature of 500°C or more. The heat can then be used directly to drive turbines housed in underground reservoirs, generating electricity for later use and ensuring an uninterrupted supply.

Some systems use mirrors that follow the sun’s path to make the maximum use of its rays. Others include hybrids that use both mirrors and solar panels.

Price hopes

Currently, with the support of the World Bank, Morocco is running a competition for more hybrid CSP systems to reduce the price of the electricity. Although the first Moroccan venture produced electricity at $189 a megawatt hour, the second is already down to $140 and later proposals are expected to be between $50 and $100.

This hope of reduced costs is partly because Dubai, another desert kingdom intent on exploiting the sun’s power, is building a 200 megawatt CSP plant due to generate current at $73 a megawatt hour under a 35-year power purchase agreement with China’s Shanghai Electric.

These prices are still relatively high compared with onshore wind, but all have the advantage of removing the intermittency of other renewables by building in 24-hour supply. They also have other benefits for countries which otherwise would have to import fossil fuels, saving substantial sums.

With countries with plenty of sunshine and deserts, like Egypt, and in some cases lots of money for investment, like Saudi Arabia and China, CSP has become a technology of major interest. Like offshore wind it is currently in development in a relatively few countries, but the potential in the Middle East and North Africa is enormous. – Climate News Network

The need to stop global warming in its tracks has spurred the growth of two smarter renewables that are helping to reshape the electricity industry.

LONDON, 9 July, 2018 – It’s bad news for Old King Coal, Big Oil and their mates, but smarter renewables are helping to break new ground. The offshore wind industry and concentrated solar power have so far been tried only on a large scale, and in a few pioneer countries. But that is changing fast.

Both ways of generating electricity, from wind and sun, were once thought technically feasible but too expensive to compete with fossil fuels. Advances in technology, though, and economies of scale have meant that costs are falling quickly.

One key factor in their new success has been that surplus renewable energy can now be stored, either by batteries or heat reservoirs, and can then be used at periods of peak demand.

Offshore wind power, pioneered in Denmark in 1991, has now become a major provider of energy in the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands. Outside Europe China is also a major investor. Altogether 17 countries now have offshore wind, but more than 100 have coastlines where the technology could be deployed, so the potential is enormous.

Among the countries now considering large-scale offshore wind farms are Poland and Ireland in Europe, the US and, in the Far East, Taiwan, according to the organisers of a conference on offshore wind technology to be held in November.

Increasing efficiency

One innovation that has made a difference is the improved design of turbine blades that makes them more efficient, as well as the enormous increase in the size of offshore installations (up to 9 megawatts for each turbine), and the development of floating wind farms.

Although installing wind onshore is far cheaper than offshore, it is often far more difficult to obtain permission to build because of public opposition. Offshore, the turbines can be much larger, the wind flows are more regular, and uncertainties and costs from delays are reduced.

The second technology that is taking off is concentrated (or concentrating) solar power (CSP), a way of producing electricity that has been around for longer than offshore wind.

Till now its development has always taken second place to solar panels, which are quicker and cheaper to install. The cost of generating electricity from panels had also fallen so dramatically that they seemed to have edged out their solar rival.

But CSP is making a comeback, largely because it can now guarantee a 24-hour supply by using heat generated during the day to drive turbines at night.

“CSP has become a technology of major interest . . . the potential in the Middle East and North Africa is enormous”

Another advantage is that, unlike solar panels which lose efficiency if they get too hot, CSP thrives in such conditions – the hotter the better. This makes the Middle East, where temperatures are getting ever higher as a result of climate change, a huge potential market for CSP.

In Europe Spain, with abundant sunshine, has led the way. More recently, across the Straits of Gibraltar Morocco has become a world leader. It has a 40% target for renewable energy by 2020, rising to 52% by 2030, and already has a 160 megawatt CSP plant up and running. Three more are expected to come on line in the next few months.

So far the best form of CSP has not been settled. Some systems use parabolic troughs which concentrate the sun’s rays on a tower containing molten salt, or a combination of other substances capable of heating to a temperature of 500°C or more. The heat can then be used directly to drive turbines housed in underground reservoirs, generating electricity for later use and ensuring an uninterrupted supply.

Some systems use mirrors that follow the sun’s path to make the maximum use of its rays. Others include hybrids that use both mirrors and solar panels.

Price hopes

Currently, with the support of the World Bank, Morocco is running a competition for more hybrid CSP systems to reduce the price of the electricity. Although the first Moroccan venture produced electricity at $189 a megawatt hour, the second is already down to $140 and later proposals are expected to be between $50 and $100.

This hope of reduced costs is partly because Dubai, another desert kingdom intent on exploiting the sun’s power, is building a 200 megawatt CSP plant due to generate current at $73 a megawatt hour under a 35-year power purchase agreement with China’s Shanghai Electric.

These prices are still relatively high compared with onshore wind, but all have the advantage of removing the intermittency of other renewables by building in 24-hour supply. They also have other benefits for countries which otherwise would have to import fossil fuels, saving substantial sums.

With countries with plenty of sunshine and deserts, like Egypt, and in some cases lots of money for investment, like Saudi Arabia and China, CSP has become a technology of major interest. Like offshore wind it is currently in development in a relatively few countries, but the potential in the Middle East and North Africa is enormous. – Climate News Network

Electric vehicle sales promise shock for Big Oil

If motor manufacturers are right about the prospects for electric vehicle sales, an oil price crash won’t be far behind.

LONDON, 5 July, 2018 – Oil and gas companies have underestimated probable electric vehicle sales and the effect they will have on their own businesses and profits, a new report says.

If the car manufacturers’ projections of future sales of electric cars are correct, then demand for oil will have peaked by 2027 or even earlier, sending the price of oil in a downward spiral as supply exceeds demand, says Carbon Tracker (CT), an independent financial think-tank carrying out in-depth analysis on the impact of the energy transition on capital markets.

It says fossil fuel companies have taken into account some engine fuel efficiencies and the effect they would have on oil demand, but not the expected increase in electric vehicles themselves. There is a big mismatch between forecasts of EV market penetration from vehicle manufacturers and from oil majors, says Laurence Watson, a CT data scientist.

“The oil industry is underestimating the disruptive potential of electric vehicles, which could reduce oil demand by millions of barrels a day. Increases in fuel efficiency will also eat into oil demand and the industry’s profits. The oil majors’ myopic position presents a serious investor risk,” he told the Climate News Network.

Expectations far lower

The report looks at all the projections of the oil majors, including Exxon and BP, and says their figures for electric vehicle growth in the 2020s are 75% to 250% smaller than those expected by the global car manufacturers that have announced targets.

Electric vehicle sales in China alone, a figure bolstered by government intervention, are expected to be seven million a year by 2025. These, plus the three million a year aim of Volkswagen by the same date, would exceed oil industry estimates for sales for the whole world.

There are immense variables taken into account in the report. These include the number of miles driven by the average electric vehicle and the sort of car it replaces.

These variables depend on the influence of various governments’ policies to reduce oil in transportation in order to keep global temperature rise below 2°C beyond pre-industrial levels. The need to reduce air pollution also strongly favours the introduction of electric vehicles in cities.

More demand reduction

Another of the imponderables is the increasing efficiency of the internal combustion engine, which in itself also reduces demand for oil. It follows a growing trend already well-established in several countries, including Sweden, which from 2019 will produce no more vehicles powered by internal combustion alone.

The take-up of electric vehicles is crucial to the future of the oil industry because transportation takes up 50% of total oil demand. About half of the demand from transport is from light passenger vehicles, those that are most likely in the short term to switch to electricity.

Heavy-duty transport, aviation and shipping are also beginning to switch, but it is cars that will make the early difference.

The report argues that it is not total oil demand that matters but the difference between supply and demand. The 2014 crash in the oil price was caused by a surplus of 2 million barrels of oil a day, mainly because of a boom in US shale production.

“The oil industry is underestimating the disruptive potential of electric vehicles, which could reduce oil demand by millions of barrels a day”

To get the price back up in order to improve oil company profits took the combined efforts of the OPEC oil countries and the Russian government in cutting production, a process that needed three years.

According to the CT report, demand for oil will fall by 8 million barrels of oil a day by 2030 because of the expected deployment of electric vehicles, meaning that the oil-producing countries will have to constantly reduce their production in order to keep prices up.

The report argues that although oil demand will continue to be very large, the peak demand will have been reached around 2025. Demand displacement by electric vehicles “will significantly disrupt oil and gas company business models. Furthermore, we believe that when global oil demand peaks this will fundamentally alter investors’ approach to the industry.” – Climate News Network

If motor manufacturers are right about the prospects for electric vehicle sales, an oil price crash won’t be far behind.

LONDON, 5 July, 2018 – Oil and gas companies have underestimated probable electric vehicle sales and the effect they will have on their own businesses and profits, a new report says.

If the car manufacturers’ projections of future sales of electric cars are correct, then demand for oil will have peaked by 2027 or even earlier, sending the price of oil in a downward spiral as supply exceeds demand, says Carbon Tracker (CT), an independent financial think-tank carrying out in-depth analysis on the impact of the energy transition on capital markets.

It says fossil fuel companies have taken into account some engine fuel efficiencies and the effect they would have on oil demand, but not the expected increase in electric vehicles themselves. There is a big mismatch between forecasts of EV market penetration from vehicle manufacturers and from oil majors, says Laurence Watson, a CT data scientist.

“The oil industry is underestimating the disruptive potential of electric vehicles, which could reduce oil demand by millions of barrels a day. Increases in fuel efficiency will also eat into oil demand and the industry’s profits. The oil majors’ myopic position presents a serious investor risk,” he told the Climate News Network.

Expectations far lower

The report looks at all the projections of the oil majors, including Exxon and BP, and says their figures for electric vehicle growth in the 2020s are 75% to 250% smaller than those expected by the global car manufacturers that have announced targets.

Electric vehicle sales in China alone, a figure bolstered by government intervention, are expected to be seven million a year by 2025. These, plus the three million a year aim of Volkswagen by the same date, would exceed oil industry estimates for sales for the whole world.

There are immense variables taken into account in the report. These include the number of miles driven by the average electric vehicle and the sort of car it replaces.

These variables depend on the influence of various governments’ policies to reduce oil in transportation in order to keep global temperature rise below 2°C beyond pre-industrial levels. The need to reduce air pollution also strongly favours the introduction of electric vehicles in cities.

More demand reduction

Another of the imponderables is the increasing efficiency of the internal combustion engine, which in itself also reduces demand for oil. It follows a growing trend already well-established in several countries, including Sweden, which from 2019 will produce no more vehicles powered by internal combustion alone.

The take-up of electric vehicles is crucial to the future of the oil industry because transportation takes up 50% of total oil demand. About half of the demand from transport is from light passenger vehicles, those that are most likely in the short term to switch to electricity.

Heavy-duty transport, aviation and shipping are also beginning to switch, but it is cars that will make the early difference.

The report argues that it is not total oil demand that matters but the difference between supply and demand. The 2014 crash in the oil price was caused by a surplus of 2 million barrels of oil a day, mainly because of a boom in US shale production.

“The oil industry is underestimating the disruptive potential of electric vehicles, which could reduce oil demand by millions of barrels a day”

To get the price back up in order to improve oil company profits took the combined efforts of the OPEC oil countries and the Russian government in cutting production, a process that needed three years.

According to the CT report, demand for oil will fall by 8 million barrels of oil a day by 2030 because of the expected deployment of electric vehicles, meaning that the oil-producing countries will have to constantly reduce their production in order to keep prices up.

The report argues that although oil demand will continue to be very large, the peak demand will have been reached around 2025. Demand displacement by electric vehicles “will significantly disrupt oil and gas company business models. Furthermore, we believe that when global oil demand peaks this will fundamentally alter investors’ approach to the industry.” – Climate News Network

Rising seas’ cost may be $27tn a year by 2100

In 80 years the rising seas’ cost may be $27tn a year globally, with the oceans possibly nearing two metres above their present levels.

LONDON, 4 July, 2018 – The rising seas’ cost may be US$27tn a year for the world by 2100 if it fails to meet the UN’s 2ºC global warming limit by then, with sea level rise of, at its worst, almost six feet (nearly two metres), new research says.

A study led by the UK’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC) says the worldwide cost of flooding caused by rising sea levels, at their median level, could by 2100 be $14 trillion, if governments miss the United Nations target of keeping the rise in global temperatures, caused by unremitting fossil fuel use, to less than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. But the extent and cost could be much higher.

The target was agreed by 195 nations in Paris in 2015, with many politicians and most scientists urging them to treat 2ºC as a more modest and feasible limit while aiming if possible for 1.5°C. The cuts in greenhouse gas emissions already promised through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are not yet enough to achieve the 2ºC limit, let alone the more stringent figure, and much deeper cuts will be needed.

“These results place further emphasis on putting even greater efforts into mitigating rising global temperatures”

The researchers also found that it was upper-middle income countries such as China that would see the largest increase in flood costs, while the richest ones would suffer the least, because of the high levels of protection infrastructure they already enjoyed. The research is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Svetlana Jevrejeva of the NOC is the study’s lead author. She said: “More than 600 million people live in low-elevation coastal areas, less than 10 metres above sea level. In a warming climate, global sea level will rise due to the melting of land-based glaciers and ice sheets, and from the thermal expansion of ocean waters. So sea level rise is one of the most damaging aspects of our warming climate.”

The researchers explored the pace and consequences of global and regional sea level rise under warming limited to both 1.5 ºC and 2 ºC, and compared their findings with projections for unmitigated warming.

Using World Bank income groups (high, upper-middle, lower-middle and low income countries), they then assessed the impact of sea level rise in coastal areas from a global perspective.

Steep increase

Dr Jevrejeva said: “We found that with a temperature rise trajectory of 1.5°C, by 2100 the median sea level will have risen by 0.52m (1.7ft). But, if the 2°C target is missed, we will see a median sea level rise of 0.86m (2.8ft), and a worst-case rise of 1.8m (5.9ft).”

If warming was not mitigated the global annual flood costs without adaptation would increase to $14tn annually for the median sea level rise of 0.86m, and up to $27tn per year for 1.8m. This would account for 2.8% of global GDP in 2100.

The conclusions she and her colleagues reached sound hair-raising and possibly far-fetched. But an earlier study put the possible global cost by 2100 of coastal flooding at nearly four times more than the NOC team – $100tn.

Another group of researchers suggested that if global warming continued at its present rate it could start a process in Antarctica which would lead ultimately to sea level rise of almost three metres.

Impact on tropics

The projected difference in coastal sea levels is also likely to mean that tropical areas will see very high sea levels more often, the study says.

“These extreme sea levels will have a negative effect on the economies of developing coastal nations, and the habitability of low-lying coastlines,” said Dr Jevrejeva.

“Small, low-lying island nations such as the Maldives will be very easily affected, and the pressures on their natural resources and environment will become even greater.

“These results place further emphasis on putting even greater efforts into mitigating rising global temperatures.” – Climate News Network

In 80 years the rising seas’ cost may be $27tn a year globally, with the oceans possibly nearing two metres above their present levels.

LONDON, 4 July, 2018 – The rising seas’ cost may be US$27tn a year for the world by 2100 if it fails to meet the UN’s 2ºC global warming limit by then, with sea level rise of, at its worst, almost six feet (nearly two metres), new research says.

A study led by the UK’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC) says the worldwide cost of flooding caused by rising sea levels, at their median level, could by 2100 be $14 trillion, if governments miss the United Nations target of keeping the rise in global temperatures, caused by unremitting fossil fuel use, to less than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. But the extent and cost could be much higher.

The target was agreed by 195 nations in Paris in 2015, with many politicians and most scientists urging them to treat 2ºC as a more modest and feasible limit while aiming if possible for 1.5°C. The cuts in greenhouse gas emissions already promised through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are not yet enough to achieve the 2ºC limit, let alone the more stringent figure, and much deeper cuts will be needed.

“These results place further emphasis on putting even greater efforts into mitigating rising global temperatures”

The researchers also found that it was upper-middle income countries such as China that would see the largest increase in flood costs, while the richest ones would suffer the least, because of the high levels of protection infrastructure they already enjoyed. The research is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Svetlana Jevrejeva of the NOC is the study’s lead author. She said: “More than 600 million people live in low-elevation coastal areas, less than 10 metres above sea level. In a warming climate, global sea level will rise due to the melting of land-based glaciers and ice sheets, and from the thermal expansion of ocean waters. So sea level rise is one of the most damaging aspects of our warming climate.”

The researchers explored the pace and consequences of global and regional sea level rise under warming limited to both 1.5 ºC and 2 ºC, and compared their findings with projections for unmitigated warming.

Using World Bank income groups (high, upper-middle, lower-middle and low income countries), they then assessed the impact of sea level rise in coastal areas from a global perspective.

Steep increase

Dr Jevrejeva said: “We found that with a temperature rise trajectory of 1.5°C, by 2100 the median sea level will have risen by 0.52m (1.7ft). But, if the 2°C target is missed, we will see a median sea level rise of 0.86m (2.8ft), and a worst-case rise of 1.8m (5.9ft).”

If warming was not mitigated the global annual flood costs without adaptation would increase to $14tn annually for the median sea level rise of 0.86m, and up to $27tn per year for 1.8m. This would account for 2.8% of global GDP in 2100.

The conclusions she and her colleagues reached sound hair-raising and possibly far-fetched. But an earlier study put the possible global cost by 2100 of coastal flooding at nearly four times more than the NOC team – $100tn.

Another group of researchers suggested that if global warming continued at its present rate it could start a process in Antarctica which would lead ultimately to sea level rise of almost three metres.

Impact on tropics

The projected difference in coastal sea levels is also likely to mean that tropical areas will see very high sea levels more often, the study says.

“These extreme sea levels will have a negative effect on the economies of developing coastal nations, and the habitability of low-lying coastlines,” said Dr Jevrejeva.

“Small, low-lying island nations such as the Maldives will be very easily affected, and the pressures on their natural resources and environment will become even greater.

“These results place further emphasis on putting even greater efforts into mitigating rising global temperatures.” – Climate News Network

British app traps Peru’s illegal goldminers

A smartphone app devised by a British campaign group has brought to justice illegal goldminers in Peru, and is also being tested in African forests.

LONDON, 3 July, 2018 – An indigenous community in the Peruvian Amazon has helped to catch illegal goldminers red-handed using a smartphone app developed by a London-based environmental group, the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK).

The app employs smartphones linked to satellites, and by involving communities in monitoring provides a tool which connects local people with national law enforcement, in an attempt to stop deforestation.

Rachel Agnew, the Foundation’s head of communications, says: “The beauty of it is that it’s adaptable to a wide range of contexts. The tech actually evolved from a large mapping project when we discovered that it was possible to transmit small pockets of data from remote parts of the forest, via satellite, in real time.”

Using RFUK’s specially designed ForestLink system,  remote communities can send alerts and evidence of threats to the forest, including illegal mining and oil spills, to law enforcement agencies, even from areas with no mobile or internet connectivity.

“Local people . . . are on the frontlines of the fight against deforestation”

The forest group involved in the miners’ detention, the Masenawa community in Peru’s Madre de Dios region, has been working with RFUK and another local organisation, Federación Nativa del Rio Madre de Dios y Afluentes  (Fenamad), since 2016 to monitor illegal activity, using ForestLink.

The miners were caught in June just a few kilometres from the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve. They had set up a temporary camp as they searched for gold using heavy machinery, which attracted the attention of the Masenawa, who were on a monitoring mission.

Using a satellite uplink-fitted smartphone, the monitors promptly sent evidence of the mining to Fenamad, which reported it to the Peruvian authorities. The government’s environmental police force then intervened, destroying the miners’ machines, vehicles and other equipment in a series of controlled explosions. Five suspects were detained, and charges are now pending.

“Communities are the natural guardians of the Amazon. Technologies like ForestLink are helping indigenous peoples to protect the rainforest from illegal mining, even in areas outside their titled lands,” explained Fenamad’s real-time monitoring coordinator, Rosa Baca, in a statement.

Threats and beatings

The president of the Masenawa community, Carmen Irey Cameno, is a vocal opponent of goldmining. Since denouncing the illegal activity several members of the community have been threatened and two members of Cameno’s own family have been beaten up in retaliation.

“It’s alarming to see environmental defenders threatened and intimidated in this way”, said RFUK’s Peru and Andean Amazon coordinator, Aldo Soto. “At the same time, the determination of Carmen and her people in protecting their environment is truly inspiring.

“What this intervention shows is the power of harnessing technology for social good and putting it in the hands of local people, who are on the frontlines of the fight against deforestation.”

Madre de Dios is considered the capital of biodiversity in Peru, home to several natural reserves as well as the Manu National Park. In recent years illegal goldmining has become one of the leading drivers of deforestation in the region.

Grave threat

Goldmining, whether legal or not, has also become one of the most serious environmental and human rights problems across Peru, with an estimated US$15 billion-worth produced illegally between 2003 and 2014.

Research elsewhere in Latin America, published in 2017, has shown that when the price of gold rises, deforestation increases, while a price drop reduces the threat to the trees. Other researchers have found evidence showing a link between metals mined in Peru and Colombia and smelters in the European Union.

By 2015, there were an estimated 30,000 artisanal goldminers (all of whom needed a permit, RFUK says) operating in Madre de Dios alone.

The RFUK Real-Time Monitoring project is in use not only in Peru, but also in three African states: Ghana, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In one of the most recent reprisal attacks on environmental protection groups reported worldwide, five wildlife rangers and a driver involved in safeguarding the gorillas of the Virunga national park in the DRC were killed in an ambush in April 2018. More than 170 rangers have been killed in the park while protecting animals in the last 20 years. – Climate News Network

A smartphone app devised by a British campaign group has brought to justice illegal goldminers in Peru, and is also being tested in African forests.

LONDON, 3 July, 2018 – An indigenous community in the Peruvian Amazon has helped to catch illegal goldminers red-handed using a smartphone app developed by a London-based environmental group, the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK).

The app employs smartphones linked to satellites, and by involving communities in monitoring provides a tool which connects local people with national law enforcement, in an attempt to stop deforestation.

Rachel Agnew, the Foundation’s head of communications, says: “The beauty of it is that it’s adaptable to a wide range of contexts. The tech actually evolved from a large mapping project when we discovered that it was possible to transmit small pockets of data from remote parts of the forest, via satellite, in real time.”

Using RFUK’s specially designed ForestLink system,  remote communities can send alerts and evidence of threats to the forest, including illegal mining and oil spills, to law enforcement agencies, even from areas with no mobile or internet connectivity.

“Local people . . . are on the frontlines of the fight against deforestation”

The forest group involved in the miners’ detention, the Masenawa community in Peru’s Madre de Dios region, has been working with RFUK and another local organisation, Federación Nativa del Rio Madre de Dios y Afluentes  (Fenamad), since 2016 to monitor illegal activity, using ForestLink.

The miners were caught in June just a few kilometres from the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve. They had set up a temporary camp as they searched for gold using heavy machinery, which attracted the attention of the Masenawa, who were on a monitoring mission.

Using a satellite uplink-fitted smartphone, the monitors promptly sent evidence of the mining to Fenamad, which reported it to the Peruvian authorities. The government’s environmental police force then intervened, destroying the miners’ machines, vehicles and other equipment in a series of controlled explosions. Five suspects were detained, and charges are now pending.

“Communities are the natural guardians of the Amazon. Technologies like ForestLink are helping indigenous peoples to protect the rainforest from illegal mining, even in areas outside their titled lands,” explained Fenamad’s real-time monitoring coordinator, Rosa Baca, in a statement.

Threats and beatings

The president of the Masenawa community, Carmen Irey Cameno, is a vocal opponent of goldmining. Since denouncing the illegal activity several members of the community have been threatened and two members of Cameno’s own family have been beaten up in retaliation.

“It’s alarming to see environmental defenders threatened and intimidated in this way”, said RFUK’s Peru and Andean Amazon coordinator, Aldo Soto. “At the same time, the determination of Carmen and her people in protecting their environment is truly inspiring.

“What this intervention shows is the power of harnessing technology for social good and putting it in the hands of local people, who are on the frontlines of the fight against deforestation.”

Madre de Dios is considered the capital of biodiversity in Peru, home to several natural reserves as well as the Manu National Park. In recent years illegal goldmining has become one of the leading drivers of deforestation in the region.

Grave threat

Goldmining, whether legal or not, has also become one of the most serious environmental and human rights problems across Peru, with an estimated US$15 billion-worth produced illegally between 2003 and 2014.

Research elsewhere in Latin America, published in 2017, has shown that when the price of gold rises, deforestation increases, while a price drop reduces the threat to the trees. Other researchers have found evidence showing a link between metals mined in Peru and Colombia and smelters in the European Union.

By 2015, there were an estimated 30,000 artisanal goldminers (all of whom needed a permit, RFUK says) operating in Madre de Dios alone.

The RFUK Real-Time Monitoring project is in use not only in Peru, but also in three African states: Ghana, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In one of the most recent reprisal attacks on environmental protection groups reported worldwide, five wildlife rangers and a driver involved in safeguarding the gorillas of the Virunga national park in the DRC were killed in an ambush in April 2018. More than 170 rangers have been killed in the park while protecting animals in the last 20 years. – Climate News Network

Urban trees match rainforests as carbon stores

Not just decorative, urban trees do much more: they enrich civic life, moderate climate change and save the taxpayer millions.

LONDON, 29 June, 2018 – London researchers have identified a new reason for preserving urban trees. Woodland in the world’s great cities, originally intended to enhance the streets, can store as much carbon as a comparable stand of tropical rainforest.

Great concentrations of people in rapidly expanding cities are both driving climate change and at the same time increasingly vulnerable to the extremes of heat threatened by runaway global warming. So the finding is another reminder of the impact that megacities have both on climate change and on the answers to climate change.

Other research teams have already emphasised the direct value of green canopy in crowded urban streets: one study has calculated that megacities benefit to the value of around $500 million a year just by having tree-lined streets and shaded parks.

Another has matched the foliage in the avenues with real estate prices to find that, in California at least, street trees add up to $1 billion to property values.

“The approach has been really successful so far, so we’re extending it across London, to other cities in the UK and internationally”

And, for once, urban foresters gain something from the increasingly warm and sometimes stifling conditions in the cities: street, garden and park trees flourish as the temperatures creep up.

London geographers report in the journal Carbon Balance and Management that they used airborne LiDAR data – the acronym is short for light detection and ranging – and ground measurements to generate a map of the carbon stored in 85,000 trees in just one area of London, the borough of Camden.

They found that parkland such as Hampstead Heath – a famous London open space – stored up to 178 metric tons of carbon per hectare: this is comparable with the 190 tonnes that are typically stored in tropical rainforests.

Trees have value: they provide shade, absorb rainwater, filter the air, and offer habitat for other creatures. One calculation suggests that the services delivered by London’s planes, oaks and horse chestnuts are worth $175 million (£133 m) a year in total: the carbon storage capacity alone is valued at $6.3m (£4.8m) a year. The next step is to take the technique beyond the boundaries of one local authority.

Vital resource

“An important outcome of our work was to highlight the value of urban trees, in their various and very different settings. The approach has been really successful so far, so we’re extending it across London, to other cities in the UK and internationally,” said Mat Disney, an author, and leader of the University College London geography LiDAR research group.

And his co-author Phil Wilkes, also at UCL, said: “Urban trees are a vital resource for our cities that people walk past every day. We were able to map the size and shape of every tree in Camden, from forests in large parks to individual trees in back gardens.

“This not only allows us to measure how much carbon is stored in these trees but also assess other important services they provide, such as habitat for birds and insects.” – Climate News Network

Not just decorative, urban trees do much more: they enrich civic life, moderate climate change and save the taxpayer millions.

LONDON, 29 June, 2018 – London researchers have identified a new reason for preserving urban trees. Woodland in the world’s great cities, originally intended to enhance the streets, can store as much carbon as a comparable stand of tropical rainforest.

Great concentrations of people in rapidly expanding cities are both driving climate change and at the same time increasingly vulnerable to the extremes of heat threatened by runaway global warming. So the finding is another reminder of the impact that megacities have both on climate change and on the answers to climate change.

Other research teams have already emphasised the direct value of green canopy in crowded urban streets: one study has calculated that megacities benefit to the value of around $500 million a year just by having tree-lined streets and shaded parks.

Another has matched the foliage in the avenues with real estate prices to find that, in California at least, street trees add up to $1 billion to property values.

“The approach has been really successful so far, so we’re extending it across London, to other cities in the UK and internationally”

And, for once, urban foresters gain something from the increasingly warm and sometimes stifling conditions in the cities: street, garden and park trees flourish as the temperatures creep up.

London geographers report in the journal Carbon Balance and Management that they used airborne LiDAR data – the acronym is short for light detection and ranging – and ground measurements to generate a map of the carbon stored in 85,000 trees in just one area of London, the borough of Camden.

They found that parkland such as Hampstead Heath – a famous London open space – stored up to 178 metric tons of carbon per hectare: this is comparable with the 190 tonnes that are typically stored in tropical rainforests.

Trees have value: they provide shade, absorb rainwater, filter the air, and offer habitat for other creatures. One calculation suggests that the services delivered by London’s planes, oaks and horse chestnuts are worth $175 million (£133 m) a year in total: the carbon storage capacity alone is valued at $6.3m (£4.8m) a year. The next step is to take the technique beyond the boundaries of one local authority.

Vital resource

“An important outcome of our work was to highlight the value of urban trees, in their various and very different settings. The approach has been really successful so far, so we’re extending it across London, to other cities in the UK and internationally,” said Mat Disney, an author, and leader of the University College London geography LiDAR research group.

And his co-author Phil Wilkes, also at UCL, said: “Urban trees are a vital resource for our cities that people walk past every day. We were able to map the size and shape of every tree in Camden, from forests in large parks to individual trees in back gardens.

“This not only allows us to measure how much carbon is stored in these trees but also assess other important services they provide, such as habitat for birds and insects.” – Climate News Network

New fuel from CO2 can slow climate change

New fuel from CO2, the source of all fossil fuels, can help to slow climate change. And maybe the carbon dioxide would not need burying for so long.

LONDON, 27 June, 2018 – North American scientists may be one step nearer the dream solution to low-carbon energy, new fuel from CO2, if they can suck it straight from the air and convert it directly into gasoline, diesel or jet fuel.

That is, they could deliver instant fossil fuels. They could do what nature has done – all coal, oil and natural gas began with carbon dioxide absorbed by living tissue – without the time and expense of deep burial for a hundred million years or so.

In principle, they could also use their direct air capture technology to draw the greenhouse gas from the air, turn it into liquid and store it in a secure geological formation for 100,000 years.

Since the search for low-carbon technologies is driven by the environmental and climate costs of global warming and climate change as a consequence of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, the trick of converting atmospheric carbon into fuel directly would go some way to limiting climate change.

“Making fuels that are easy to store and transport eases the challenge of integrating renewables into the energy system”

As ever, the only barrier to such ingenuity would be the cost and the challenge of turning the technology from laboratory prototype to commercial success on an industrial scale.

David Keith, a Harvard researcher who founded a Canadian start-up called Carbon Engineering, and colleagues report in the journal Joule that they have a design for a process that could capture a million tons of carbon dioxide a year in a continuous process, using a fan system and some clever chemistry to absorb and concentrate the captured CO2.

They also calculate that the cost per ton captured will work out somewhere between $94 a ton of carbon dioxide and $232.

And from that point, the captured carbon dioxide could become a feedstock for the manufacture of liquid fuel. Scientists have argued for nearly a decade that the exhausts from power stations and combustion engines should be considered as an asset to be exploited, and researchers around the world have been racing to find ways to take surplus atmospheric carbon and turn it into something that will power a truck or tractor or get a commercial flight airborne.

Argument persists

They have shown in principle that atmospheric carbon dioxide can be converted to rock, potentially for burial, but although other groups have shown that long-term storage of captured carbon dioxide should be possible, there is still argument over whether such storage is either practical or economic.

Some researchers are convinced that the world’s needs could be delivered entirely by renewable energy such as wind and sunlight, but wheeled transport needs portable fuel. So other groups have looked closely at the idea of deriving energy from natural resources.

Others have explored the “bionic leaf” that could mechanically turn atmospheric carbon dioxide into biofuel or fertiliser; or into jet fuel.

The latest study offers another way to close the loop, by “inhaling” air, trapping the carbon dioxide with an absorbent liquid, and turning it, with hydrogen, into fuel, using technologies and techniques already commercially in use. But, of course, it requires energy – from natural gas or direct electricity – to power the process that will turn carbon dioxide from spent fossil fuel back into fuel again and keep levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide down.

Reductions possible

Something like one-fifth of the global carbon dioxide emissions that are changing the atmosphere and heating the globe are from transport. If the direct-air capture technique could be linked directly to wind or solar energy, those emissions could be reduced.

“Electricity from solar and wind is intermittent; we can take this energy straight from big solar or wind institutions at great sites where it is cheap and apply it to reclaim and recycle carbon dioxide into new fuel,” said Professor Keith.

“Making fuels that are easy to store and transport eases the challenge of integrating renewables into the energy system.” – Climate News Network

New fuel from CO2, the source of all fossil fuels, can help to slow climate change. And maybe the carbon dioxide would not need burying for so long.

LONDON, 27 June, 2018 – North American scientists may be one step nearer the dream solution to low-carbon energy, new fuel from CO2, if they can suck it straight from the air and convert it directly into gasoline, diesel or jet fuel.

That is, they could deliver instant fossil fuels. They could do what nature has done – all coal, oil and natural gas began with carbon dioxide absorbed by living tissue – without the time and expense of deep burial for a hundred million years or so.

In principle, they could also use their direct air capture technology to draw the greenhouse gas from the air, turn it into liquid and store it in a secure geological formation for 100,000 years.

Since the search for low-carbon technologies is driven by the environmental and climate costs of global warming and climate change as a consequence of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, the trick of converting atmospheric carbon into fuel directly would go some way to limiting climate change.

“Making fuels that are easy to store and transport eases the challenge of integrating renewables into the energy system”

As ever, the only barrier to such ingenuity would be the cost and the challenge of turning the technology from laboratory prototype to commercial success on an industrial scale.

David Keith, a Harvard researcher who founded a Canadian start-up called Carbon Engineering, and colleagues report in the journal Joule that they have a design for a process that could capture a million tons of carbon dioxide a year in a continuous process, using a fan system and some clever chemistry to absorb and concentrate the captured CO2.

They also calculate that the cost per ton captured will work out somewhere between $94 a ton of carbon dioxide and $232.

And from that point, the captured carbon dioxide could become a feedstock for the manufacture of liquid fuel. Scientists have argued for nearly a decade that the exhausts from power stations and combustion engines should be considered as an asset to be exploited, and researchers around the world have been racing to find ways to take surplus atmospheric carbon and turn it into something that will power a truck or tractor or get a commercial flight airborne.

Argument persists

They have shown in principle that atmospheric carbon dioxide can be converted to rock, potentially for burial, but although other groups have shown that long-term storage of captured carbon dioxide should be possible, there is still argument over whether such storage is either practical or economic.

Some researchers are convinced that the world’s needs could be delivered entirely by renewable energy such as wind and sunlight, but wheeled transport needs portable fuel. So other groups have looked closely at the idea of deriving energy from natural resources.

Others have explored the “bionic leaf” that could mechanically turn atmospheric carbon dioxide into biofuel or fertiliser; or into jet fuel.

The latest study offers another way to close the loop, by “inhaling” air, trapping the carbon dioxide with an absorbent liquid, and turning it, with hydrogen, into fuel, using technologies and techniques already commercially in use. But, of course, it requires energy – from natural gas or direct electricity – to power the process that will turn carbon dioxide from spent fossil fuel back into fuel again and keep levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide down.

Reductions possible

Something like one-fifth of the global carbon dioxide emissions that are changing the atmosphere and heating the globe are from transport. If the direct-air capture technique could be linked directly to wind or solar energy, those emissions could be reduced.

“Electricity from solar and wind is intermittent; we can take this energy straight from big solar or wind institutions at great sites where it is cheap and apply it to reclaim and recycle carbon dioxide into new fuel,” said Professor Keith.

“Making fuels that are easy to store and transport eases the challenge of integrating renewables into the energy system.” – Climate News Network

Cost of fossil fuel investment is too high

Fossil fuel investment is not just bad for the global climate. It could also be dangerous for investors, and for national economies.

LONDON, 12 June, 2018 – European and Chinese scientists have identified a simple new way to become poor: fossil fuel investment. Not only could it leave you without a penny to your name. It could perhaps precipitate a global financial crash within one generation.

Coal, oil and natural gas are already huge investments. The International Energy Agency foresees price rises until 2040, and investor confidence is high. But researchers from the Netherlands, the UK and Macao don’t see it that way.
They warn in the journal Nature Climate Change that, whatever the markets think, and whatever governments do, change is on the way.

Other forces are now driving global power and transportation in directions that suggest a dramatic decline in demand for fossil reserves. These will become what the money markets call “stranded assets”, and their value will slump some time before 2035.

And this bursting of what researchers call “the carbon bubble” – a reference to a three-centuries old financial disaster known to historians as the South Sea Bubble – could wipe between one and four trillion US dollars off the global economy. The financial crash of 2008  was triggered by a loss of a mere $0.25 trillion.

“Our analysis suggests that, contrary to investor expectations, the stranding of fossil fuel assets may happen even without new climate policies”

The scientists base their conclusion on a computer simulation known by the migraine-inducing acronym E3ME-FTT-GENIE, which is short for Energy-Environment-Economy Macroeconomic-Future Technology Transformations Grid Enabled Integrated Earth. They say it is the only such model that looks at the big picture: the macroeconomy, energy, the environment and global energy and transport systems according to both sector and geography.

Their argument is that the world is heading towards greater fuel efficiencies, renewable energy and low carbon technologies, whatever governments and the money markets may think.

In 2015, in Paris, 195 nations vowed to contain global warming – driven by greenhouse gases emitted from fossil fuel combustion – to “well below” 2°C above the historic levels. Economists and climate scientists have repeatedly warned that fossil fuels would be a bad bet. There has been evidence since the Paris Agreement that national and international action so far taken is not enough: the world could be heading for at least a 3°C rise this century.

The implication of the latest study is that, unless the world faces this reality, and switches to low-carbon investments, the global economy could suddenly collapse.
“Our analysis suggests that, contrary to investor expectations, the stranding of fossil fuel assets may happen even without new climate policies. This suggests a carbon bubble is forming and is likely to burst,” said Jorge Viñuales, of the University of Cambridge, and one of the authors.

“Individual nations cannot avoid the situation by ignoring the Paris Agreement or burying their heads in coal and tar sands. For too long, global climate policy has been seen as a prisoner’s dilemma game, where some nations can do nothing and get a free ride on the efforts of others. Our results show this is no longer the case.”

$4tn time-bomb

There is a catch: suppose nations become aware of the danger. A sudden push to fulfil the 2°C promise, combined with declines in fossil fuel demand but continued high output of fossil fuels, could trigger a collapse that would wipe $4 trillion off the global balance sheets.

Canada, Russia and the US would see their fossil fuel industries collapse. Fuel-importing nations such Japan, China and most EU countries might gain, especially if they had invested in low-carbon technologies to create jobs and boost gross domestic product.

“If we are to defuse this time-bomb in the global economy, we need to move promptly but cautiously. The carbon bubble must be deflated before it becomes too big, but progress must also be carefully managed,” said Hector Pollitt, of the University of Cambridge, and another of the authors.

“If countries keep investing in equipment to search for, extract, process and transport fossil fuels, even though their demand declines, they will end up losing money on these investments on top of their losses due to limited exports,” said Jean-François Mercure of Radboud University at Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and of Cambridge, who led the study. “Divestment from fossil fuels is both a prudent and necessary thing to do.” – Climate News Network

Fossil fuel investment is not just bad for the global climate. It could also be dangerous for investors, and for national economies.

LONDON, 12 June, 2018 – European and Chinese scientists have identified a simple new way to become poor: fossil fuel investment. Not only could it leave you without a penny to your name. It could perhaps precipitate a global financial crash within one generation.

Coal, oil and natural gas are already huge investments. The International Energy Agency foresees price rises until 2040, and investor confidence is high. But researchers from the Netherlands, the UK and Macao don’t see it that way.
They warn in the journal Nature Climate Change that, whatever the markets think, and whatever governments do, change is on the way.

Other forces are now driving global power and transportation in directions that suggest a dramatic decline in demand for fossil reserves. These will become what the money markets call “stranded assets”, and their value will slump some time before 2035.

And this bursting of what researchers call “the carbon bubble” – a reference to a three-centuries old financial disaster known to historians as the South Sea Bubble – could wipe between one and four trillion US dollars off the global economy. The financial crash of 2008  was triggered by a loss of a mere $0.25 trillion.

“Our analysis suggests that, contrary to investor expectations, the stranding of fossil fuel assets may happen even without new climate policies”

The scientists base their conclusion on a computer simulation known by the migraine-inducing acronym E3ME-FTT-GENIE, which is short for Energy-Environment-Economy Macroeconomic-Future Technology Transformations Grid Enabled Integrated Earth. They say it is the only such model that looks at the big picture: the macroeconomy, energy, the environment and global energy and transport systems according to both sector and geography.

Their argument is that the world is heading towards greater fuel efficiencies, renewable energy and low carbon technologies, whatever governments and the money markets may think.

In 2015, in Paris, 195 nations vowed to contain global warming – driven by greenhouse gases emitted from fossil fuel combustion – to “well below” 2°C above the historic levels. Economists and climate scientists have repeatedly warned that fossil fuels would be a bad bet. There has been evidence since the Paris Agreement that national and international action so far taken is not enough: the world could be heading for at least a 3°C rise this century.

The implication of the latest study is that, unless the world faces this reality, and switches to low-carbon investments, the global economy could suddenly collapse.
“Our analysis suggests that, contrary to investor expectations, the stranding of fossil fuel assets may happen even without new climate policies. This suggests a carbon bubble is forming and is likely to burst,” said Jorge Viñuales, of the University of Cambridge, and one of the authors.

“Individual nations cannot avoid the situation by ignoring the Paris Agreement or burying their heads in coal and tar sands. For too long, global climate policy has been seen as a prisoner’s dilemma game, where some nations can do nothing and get a free ride on the efforts of others. Our results show this is no longer the case.”

$4tn time-bomb

There is a catch: suppose nations become aware of the danger. A sudden push to fulfil the 2°C promise, combined with declines in fossil fuel demand but continued high output of fossil fuels, could trigger a collapse that would wipe $4 trillion off the global balance sheets.

Canada, Russia and the US would see their fossil fuel industries collapse. Fuel-importing nations such Japan, China and most EU countries might gain, especially if they had invested in low-carbon technologies to create jobs and boost gross domestic product.

“If we are to defuse this time-bomb in the global economy, we need to move promptly but cautiously. The carbon bubble must be deflated before it becomes too big, but progress must also be carefully managed,” said Hector Pollitt, of the University of Cambridge, and another of the authors.

“If countries keep investing in equipment to search for, extract, process and transport fossil fuels, even though their demand declines, they will end up losing money on these investments on top of their losses due to limited exports,” said Jean-François Mercure of Radboud University at Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and of Cambridge, who led the study. “Divestment from fossil fuels is both a prudent and necessary thing to do.” – Climate News Network

Global green vision is do-able, with an effort

The global green vision can become reality, with warming held to 1.5°C. Energy efficiency, radical changes to diet, and renewable energy can together save the planet.

LONDON, 7 June, 2018 – The world could be about to change, turning the ambitious global green vision into fact. Even as the poorest nations go on developing, the population climbs and demand for food increases, energy-efficient technologies could make the world a better place, an international team of scientists says.

Innovations already in use could expand to reduce energy demand in buildings and transport, and new smart technologies – together with a shift in diets worldwide – could reduce global energy demand by 40% by 2050.

That would mean a switch from fossil fuels and towards the goal of global warming of no more than 1.5°C above historic averages, without the use of as-yet-unproven technologies to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in deep caverns.

And – entirely separately – two independent studies in two other journals support hope for the globe: British and Swiss researchers have taken a detailed look at food and farming choices that could – if nations selected the best and adopted them wholeheartedly – reduce the total of global agricultural land by more than 70%, to release more space for natural ecosystems that support all the teeming species on the planet.

And European scientists have taken a fresh look at an old question – can renewable energies such as wind and solar power actually supply 100% of the world’s energy needs? They have delivered a firm answer: yes, they could.

“Now let’s get back to the business of modelling low-cost scenarios to eliminate fossil fuels from our energy system”

The first study, in the journal Nature Energy, outlines a global scenario in which energy demand becomes low: it does so because a number of shifts in thinking have begun to drive change.

One of these is a worldwide push for higher living standards, cleaner local environments and widely accessible services. Another push for change is the trend towards urbanisation: more than half of all people now live in cities, and the proportion will rise.

A third is the increasing sophistication of technologies, as instanced by the smartphone – in which communications, entertainment, navigation, news and other services are all managed in one low-energy handheld device. Another is the change in the way people – traders, consumers, producers, designers, citizens and so on – now use energy.

These together could within the next three decades direct the world to the 1.5°C maximum target agreed in Paris in 2015 – with a global final energy demand around 40% lower than today, despite a dramatic increase in global population and in global income.

Individual changes

“Changes in the ways that we as the final users of energy go about our daily lives have knock-on effects on the ways that goods are manufactured and transported around, offices and malls are built, and food is grown,” said Arnulf Grübler of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, who led the study.

Such changes would require unprecedented action by policymakers, as well as sweeping changes in individual appetites: even so, a switch to much less use of red meat could, the researchers argue, return agricultural land to the wild forests over an area the size of Italy and Bangladesh together.

“The global community from world leaders and multinational corporations down to individual consumers and citizens need to act in concert to avoid dangerous climate change while improving human wellbeing. Our scenario offers a roadmap as to how this can be achieved,” Professor Grübler said.

And while the IIASA team were considering global energy demand, a team from Oxford were testing the rewards of potential changes in human appetite. They report in the journal Science that they analysed 570 studies of around 38,000 farms and 1,600 food processors, packers and retailers in 123 countries to take the measure of the environmental impact of 40 different food products.

Plant-based diets

They found huge differences: to deliver 100 grams of beef protein, some producers released more than 105 kilograms of greenhouse gases and required 370 square metres of land; other beef producers could do the same with 50 times less impact on the environment.

But the “efficient” beef producers still used 36 times more land and produced six times more emissions than it took to put 100 grams of peas on the dinner table.

“Two things that look the same in the shops can have very different impacts on the planet. We don’t currently know this when we make choices about what to eat. Further, this variability isn’t recognised in strategies and policy aimed at reducing the impacts of farmers,” said Joseph Poore, a zoologist at the University of Oxford, who led the Science study.

This is a case that has been made before. But Poore and his Swiss colleague suggest new and more ambitious rewards: they have calculated that plant-based diets could cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 73%, and reduce up to 3.1 billion hectares of global agricultural land, a cut of 76%. “This could take pressure off the world’s tropical forests and release land back to nature,” said Joseph Poore.

Renewable energy delivers

But even as humankind reduces greenhouse gas emissions by dietary change, German, Finnish, Danish and South African scientists have returned to an argument that has continued at national and international levels for years.

They write in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews  – which publishes both sides of this debate – that energy systems based on renewables “are not only feasible, but already economically viable and decreasing in cost every year.”

One of the researchers, Brian Vad Mathiesen of Aalborg University in Denmark, said: “There are some persistent myths that 100% renewable systems are not possible. Our contribution deals with these myths one by one, using all the latest research.

“Now let’s get back to the business of modelling low-cost scenarios to eliminate fossil fuels from our energy system, so we can tackle the climate and health challenges they pose.” – Climate News Network

The global green vision can become reality, with warming held to 1.5°C. Energy efficiency, radical changes to diet, and renewable energy can together save the planet.

LONDON, 7 June, 2018 – The world could be about to change, turning the ambitious global green vision into fact. Even as the poorest nations go on developing, the population climbs and demand for food increases, energy-efficient technologies could make the world a better place, an international team of scientists says.

Innovations already in use could expand to reduce energy demand in buildings and transport, and new smart technologies – together with a shift in diets worldwide – could reduce global energy demand by 40% by 2050.

That would mean a switch from fossil fuels and towards the goal of global warming of no more than 1.5°C above historic averages, without the use of as-yet-unproven technologies to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in deep caverns.

And – entirely separately – two independent studies in two other journals support hope for the globe: British and Swiss researchers have taken a detailed look at food and farming choices that could – if nations selected the best and adopted them wholeheartedly – reduce the total of global agricultural land by more than 70%, to release more space for natural ecosystems that support all the teeming species on the planet.

And European scientists have taken a fresh look at an old question – can renewable energies such as wind and solar power actually supply 100% of the world’s energy needs? They have delivered a firm answer: yes, they could.

“Now let’s get back to the business of modelling low-cost scenarios to eliminate fossil fuels from our energy system”

The first study, in the journal Nature Energy, outlines a global scenario in which energy demand becomes low: it does so because a number of shifts in thinking have begun to drive change.

One of these is a worldwide push for higher living standards, cleaner local environments and widely accessible services. Another push for change is the trend towards urbanisation: more than half of all people now live in cities, and the proportion will rise.

A third is the increasing sophistication of technologies, as instanced by the smartphone – in which communications, entertainment, navigation, news and other services are all managed in one low-energy handheld device. Another is the change in the way people – traders, consumers, producers, designers, citizens and so on – now use energy.

These together could within the next three decades direct the world to the 1.5°C maximum target agreed in Paris in 2015 – with a global final energy demand around 40% lower than today, despite a dramatic increase in global population and in global income.

Individual changes

“Changes in the ways that we as the final users of energy go about our daily lives have knock-on effects on the ways that goods are manufactured and transported around, offices and malls are built, and food is grown,” said Arnulf Grübler of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, who led the study.

Such changes would require unprecedented action by policymakers, as well as sweeping changes in individual appetites: even so, a switch to much less use of red meat could, the researchers argue, return agricultural land to the wild forests over an area the size of Italy and Bangladesh together.

“The global community from world leaders and multinational corporations down to individual consumers and citizens need to act in concert to avoid dangerous climate change while improving human wellbeing. Our scenario offers a roadmap as to how this can be achieved,” Professor Grübler said.

And while the IIASA team were considering global energy demand, a team from Oxford were testing the rewards of potential changes in human appetite. They report in the journal Science that they analysed 570 studies of around 38,000 farms and 1,600 food processors, packers and retailers in 123 countries to take the measure of the environmental impact of 40 different food products.

Plant-based diets

They found huge differences: to deliver 100 grams of beef protein, some producers released more than 105 kilograms of greenhouse gases and required 370 square metres of land; other beef producers could do the same with 50 times less impact on the environment.

But the “efficient” beef producers still used 36 times more land and produced six times more emissions than it took to put 100 grams of peas on the dinner table.

“Two things that look the same in the shops can have very different impacts on the planet. We don’t currently know this when we make choices about what to eat. Further, this variability isn’t recognised in strategies and policy aimed at reducing the impacts of farmers,” said Joseph Poore, a zoologist at the University of Oxford, who led the Science study.

This is a case that has been made before. But Poore and his Swiss colleague suggest new and more ambitious rewards: they have calculated that plant-based diets could cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 73%, and reduce up to 3.1 billion hectares of global agricultural land, a cut of 76%. “This could take pressure off the world’s tropical forests and release land back to nature,” said Joseph Poore.

Renewable energy delivers

But even as humankind reduces greenhouse gas emissions by dietary change, German, Finnish, Danish and South African scientists have returned to an argument that has continued at national and international levels for years.

They write in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews  – which publishes both sides of this debate – that energy systems based on renewables “are not only feasible, but already economically viable and decreasing in cost every year.”

One of the researchers, Brian Vad Mathiesen of Aalborg University in Denmark, said: “There are some persistent myths that 100% renewable systems are not possible. Our contribution deals with these myths one by one, using all the latest research.

“Now let’s get back to the business of modelling low-cost scenarios to eliminate fossil fuels from our energy system, so we can tackle the climate and health challenges they pose.” – Climate News Network

US economy risks China’s climate impact

In this globalised world China’s climate impact could hit America’s economy, as one country’s calamities indirectly harm other nations. The losses could grow.

LONDON, 30 May, 2018 – German scientists have shown once again that climate change remains a global problem, with China’s climate impact, for instance, hurting the economy of the United States. Disastrous flooding – likely to increase as the world warms, and ever more water enters the atmosphere – in one country could reverberate in ways that could harm another nation’s economy.

More precisely, China alone could experience a total of $380bn in economic losses over the next 20 years: this adds up to about 5% of the nation’s annual economic output.

About $175 billion of total losses could be attributed to future climate change – and as these losses are passed down the global trade and supply network, the US and the European Union could be most affected.

If so, river flooding in China alone – aside from the ever-greater extremes of heat and windstorm that are predicted to arrive with higher temperatures – could bring US losses of up to $170 billion in the next 20 years.

“Trump’s tariff sanctions are likely to leave the US economy even more vulnerable to climate change”

“The EU will suffer less from indirect losses caused by climate-related flooding in China due to its even trade balance. They will suffer when flooded regions in China temporarily fail to deliver for instance parts that European companies need for their production, but on the other hand Europe will profit from filling climate-induced production gaps in China by exporting goods to Asia.

“This yields the European economy currently more climate-prepared for the future,” said Sven Norman Willner, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who led the study.

“In contrast, the US imports much more from China than it exports to this country. This leaves the US more susceptible to climate-related risks of economic losses passed down along the global supply and trade chain.”

He and his co-authors report in the journal Nature Climate Change that they took a look at the economic challenge for the world as a whole in the limited case of river flooding: damage caused by human-induced climate change, as a consequence of the combustion of fossil fuels at a rate that has already begun to change the chemistry of the atmosphere, could become a significant factor in the global economy, and river flooding has always been a problem.

Heat rises by 1°C

But as temperatures rise – and they have already risen by a global average of about 1°C in the last century, as ever more greenhouse gases have reached the atmosphere – so does evaporation, and so does the capacity of the atmosphere to hold moisture, which must eventually fall as rain.

The researchers looked at projections of near-future flood hazards on a regional scale that humans could expect to see on the basis of greenhouse gases already emitted. They then incorporated what is already known about economic network response to river flooding and its effects, taking into account the dynamics of international trade.

In research of this kind, the Potsdam Institute has what racing tipsters call “form.” One of the researchers, Anders Levermann, has already warned that greenhouse gases are forcing up sea levels; that warming carries with it global economic threats; and that the numbers of humans at risk from the worst of the future floods are rising.

The news is not all bad: climate change could also bring more rain to the countries of the African Sahel, but the same changes could mean ever higher levels of hurricane damage in the US.

Complicated prospect

The latest study has its own complexities: much depends on the course of international trade and the capacity of those countries not flooded to make good the shortfalls that follow flood disasters in one river system. In essence, international relations and natural hazard vulnerabilities have become entangled.

The entanglement remains, even though America’s President Trump has imposed tariffs to protect US industry. Unless nations adapt further, climate change will accelerate flood losses worldwide by about 15%, to a global total of $600bn within the next two decades. China’s losses could increase by 82%. America will still feel the shock, the researchers say.

“We find that the intensification of the mutual trade relation with China leaves the EU better prepared against production losses in Asia than the US. The prospect that the US will be worse off can be traced back to the fact that it is importing more products from China than it is exporting,” said Professor Levermann.

“Interestingly, such an unbalanced trade relation might be an economic risk for the US when it comes to climate-related economic losses. In the end, Trump’s tariffs might impede climate-proofing the US economy.”

He went on: “Trump’s tariff sanctions are likely to leave the US economy even more vulnerable to climate change. As our study suggests, under climate change, the more reasonable strategy is a well-balanced economic connectivity, because it allows to compensate economic damages from unexpected weather events – of which we expect more in the future.” – Climate News Network

In this globalised world China’s climate impact could hit America’s economy, as one country’s calamities indirectly harm other nations. The losses could grow.

LONDON, 30 May, 2018 – German scientists have shown once again that climate change remains a global problem, with China’s climate impact, for instance, hurting the economy of the United States. Disastrous flooding – likely to increase as the world warms, and ever more water enters the atmosphere – in one country could reverberate in ways that could harm another nation’s economy.

More precisely, China alone could experience a total of $380bn in economic losses over the next 20 years: this adds up to about 5% of the nation’s annual economic output.

About $175 billion of total losses could be attributed to future climate change – and as these losses are passed down the global trade and supply network, the US and the European Union could be most affected.

If so, river flooding in China alone – aside from the ever-greater extremes of heat and windstorm that are predicted to arrive with higher temperatures – could bring US losses of up to $170 billion in the next 20 years.

“Trump’s tariff sanctions are likely to leave the US economy even more vulnerable to climate change”

“The EU will suffer less from indirect losses caused by climate-related flooding in China due to its even trade balance. They will suffer when flooded regions in China temporarily fail to deliver for instance parts that European companies need for their production, but on the other hand Europe will profit from filling climate-induced production gaps in China by exporting goods to Asia.

“This yields the European economy currently more climate-prepared for the future,” said Sven Norman Willner, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who led the study.

“In contrast, the US imports much more from China than it exports to this country. This leaves the US more susceptible to climate-related risks of economic losses passed down along the global supply and trade chain.”

He and his co-authors report in the journal Nature Climate Change that they took a look at the economic challenge for the world as a whole in the limited case of river flooding: damage caused by human-induced climate change, as a consequence of the combustion of fossil fuels at a rate that has already begun to change the chemistry of the atmosphere, could become a significant factor in the global economy, and river flooding has always been a problem.

Heat rises by 1°C

But as temperatures rise – and they have already risen by a global average of about 1°C in the last century, as ever more greenhouse gases have reached the atmosphere – so does evaporation, and so does the capacity of the atmosphere to hold moisture, which must eventually fall as rain.

The researchers looked at projections of near-future flood hazards on a regional scale that humans could expect to see on the basis of greenhouse gases already emitted. They then incorporated what is already known about economic network response to river flooding and its effects, taking into account the dynamics of international trade.

In research of this kind, the Potsdam Institute has what racing tipsters call “form.” One of the researchers, Anders Levermann, has already warned that greenhouse gases are forcing up sea levels; that warming carries with it global economic threats; and that the numbers of humans at risk from the worst of the future floods are rising.

The news is not all bad: climate change could also bring more rain to the countries of the African Sahel, but the same changes could mean ever higher levels of hurricane damage in the US.

Complicated prospect

The latest study has its own complexities: much depends on the course of international trade and the capacity of those countries not flooded to make good the shortfalls that follow flood disasters in one river system. In essence, international relations and natural hazard vulnerabilities have become entangled.

The entanglement remains, even though America’s President Trump has imposed tariffs to protect US industry. Unless nations adapt further, climate change will accelerate flood losses worldwide by about 15%, to a global total of $600bn within the next two decades. China’s losses could increase by 82%. America will still feel the shock, the researchers say.

“We find that the intensification of the mutual trade relation with China leaves the EU better prepared against production losses in Asia than the US. The prospect that the US will be worse off can be traced back to the fact that it is importing more products from China than it is exporting,” said Professor Levermann.

“Interestingly, such an unbalanced trade relation might be an economic risk for the US when it comes to climate-related economic losses. In the end, Trump’s tariffs might impede climate-proofing the US economy.”

He went on: “Trump’s tariff sanctions are likely to leave the US economy even more vulnerable to climate change. As our study suggests, under climate change, the more reasonable strategy is a well-balanced economic connectivity, because it allows to compensate economic damages from unexpected weather events – of which we expect more in the future.” – Climate News Network

Small global warming cuts offer huge savings

Everybody profits from a world that cuts global warming to only another half a degree. The challenge is to persuade nations to act.

LONDON, 28 May, 2018 – Californian scientists have worked out how to reduce global warming so as to make the world 20 trillion US dollars better off. It’s simple. Just stick to the spirit of an international agreement that the American President Donald Trump has already broken.

The researchers arrived at their forecasts of climate profit and loss to calculate that if the 195 nations who agreed in Paris in 2015 to contain global warming to “well below” 2°C by the end of the century kept their promise – and global temperatures have already crept up 1°C in the last century as a consequence of the profligate use of fossil fuels – then there would be a 60% chance that the benefits would exceed $20 trillion.

That represents the savings made by avoiding the calamitous economic damage that would accompany higher temperatures. The same scientists also argue that 71% of the world’s nations – including China, Japan and the US – with 90% of the world’s population have a 75% chance of experiencing reduced economic damage, if global warming is limited to 1.5°C: that is, to just an extra half of a degree this century.

And although conjectures about wealth that has yet to be generated and disasters that have yet to happen are subject to enormous uncertainties, the scientists stand by their argument: if the world fails to meet the 2°C limit, the economic damage could add up to 15% of the world’s entire economic output.

“Even small reductions in future warming could have large benefits for most countries”

Calculations like these are difficult enough, but at least one of the authors has been making the case for concerted global action for years. Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University, has already warned that global extremes of heat and drought are an inevitable consequence of continued warming.

He says warming that has happened so far has already increased California’s vulnerability to devastating drought and may now be influencing the south Asian monsoon, on which a billion people depend.

“It is clear from our analysis that achieving the more ambitious Paris goal is highly likely to benefit most countries – and the global economy overall – by avoiding more severe economic damages,” Professor Diffenbaugh said.

And Marshall Burke, his Stanford colleague who led the study in the journal Nature, said: “Over the past century we have already experienced a 1°C increase in global temperature, so achieving the ambitious targets laid out in the Paris Agreement will not be easy or cheap. We need a clear understanding of how much economic benefit we’re going to get from meeting these different targets.”

Worse outcome possible

The researchers think they may even have underestimated the costs of a dangerously hotter world: they cite, for instance, the rapid rise in sea levels if the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps melt, or heatwaves and floods intensify more dramatically than anything seen so far in human history.

Although the richest nations stand to benefit most from sticking strictly to the Paris ambitions, some of the world’s poorest regions will also feel the benefit, with a noticeable increase in gross domestic product per head.

“The countries likely to benefit the most are already relatively hot today,” Dr Burke said. “The historical record tells us that additional warming will be very harmful to these countries’ economies, and so even small reductions in future warming could have large benefits for most countries.” – Climate News Network

Everybody profits from a world that cuts global warming to only another half a degree. The challenge is to persuade nations to act.

LONDON, 28 May, 2018 – Californian scientists have worked out how to reduce global warming so as to make the world 20 trillion US dollars better off. It’s simple. Just stick to the spirit of an international agreement that the American President Donald Trump has already broken.

The researchers arrived at their forecasts of climate profit and loss to calculate that if the 195 nations who agreed in Paris in 2015 to contain global warming to “well below” 2°C by the end of the century kept their promise – and global temperatures have already crept up 1°C in the last century as a consequence of the profligate use of fossil fuels – then there would be a 60% chance that the benefits would exceed $20 trillion.

That represents the savings made by avoiding the calamitous economic damage that would accompany higher temperatures. The same scientists also argue that 71% of the world’s nations – including China, Japan and the US – with 90% of the world’s population have a 75% chance of experiencing reduced economic damage, if global warming is limited to 1.5°C: that is, to just an extra half of a degree this century.

And although conjectures about wealth that has yet to be generated and disasters that have yet to happen are subject to enormous uncertainties, the scientists stand by their argument: if the world fails to meet the 2°C limit, the economic damage could add up to 15% of the world’s entire economic output.

“Even small reductions in future warming could have large benefits for most countries”

Calculations like these are difficult enough, but at least one of the authors has been making the case for concerted global action for years. Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University, has already warned that global extremes of heat and drought are an inevitable consequence of continued warming.

He says warming that has happened so far has already increased California’s vulnerability to devastating drought and may now be influencing the south Asian monsoon, on which a billion people depend.

“It is clear from our analysis that achieving the more ambitious Paris goal is highly likely to benefit most countries – and the global economy overall – by avoiding more severe economic damages,” Professor Diffenbaugh said.

And Marshall Burke, his Stanford colleague who led the study in the journal Nature, said: “Over the past century we have already experienced a 1°C increase in global temperature, so achieving the ambitious targets laid out in the Paris Agreement will not be easy or cheap. We need a clear understanding of how much economic benefit we’re going to get from meeting these different targets.”

Worse outcome possible

The researchers think they may even have underestimated the costs of a dangerously hotter world: they cite, for instance, the rapid rise in sea levels if the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps melt, or heatwaves and floods intensify more dramatically than anything seen so far in human history.

Although the richest nations stand to benefit most from sticking strictly to the Paris ambitions, some of the world’s poorest regions will also feel the benefit, with a noticeable increase in gross domestic product per head.

“The countries likely to benefit the most are already relatively hot today,” Dr Burke said. “The historical record tells us that additional warming will be very harmful to these countries’ economies, and so even small reductions in future warming could have large benefits for most countries.” – Climate News Network