Tag Archives: China

Contradictions beset China’s climate path

BOOK REVIEW

Triumph or catastrophe? Where will China’s climate path lead us all? So far there are both hopeful moves and warning signs, a new book says.

LONDON, 18 September, 2018 – Increasingly seen as a world leader towards a low- or no-carbon economy, China’s climate path is winning it many plaudits, particularly since Donald Trump – who has described global warming as a hoax – announced his intention to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.

China’s cheerleaders point to the often breathtaking progress the country has made on several climate change-related fronts, most notably in the growth of renewable energy.

Barbara Finamore, an Asia specialist at the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, who has spent several years in China, says in her book that only 100 MW of solar power was installed across the country 10 years ago.

Now China is well on the way to achieving its target of 213 GW of solar power by 2020 – five times more than the present total amount of solar power installed in the US.

It’s the same story with wind power; in the five years from 2007 to 2011 China installed more wind capacity than either the US or Germany achieved in more than 30 years of wind power development. By the end of 2016 China had built nearly 105,000 wind turbines, more than one out of every three turbines in the world.

Worldwide winners

“Every hour, China now erects another wind turbine and installs enough solar panels to cover a soccer field”, says Finamore.

She points out that these developments are not only benefitting China by lessening air pollution across many parts of the country – they are also having a positive impact in much of the rest of the world.

China’s massive investments in solar and wind manufacturing facilities mean renewable energy costs worldwide have been driven down. In many countries solar power is competing with more conventional energy sources.

China’s wholesale development of electrically powered vehicles is spurring the growth of the industry worldwide; in 2017 China was home to nearly half the world’s total of electric passenger vehicles and more than 90% of the global electric bus fleet.

Battery prices are falling; foreign manufacturers – keen to boost sales in the world’s fastest-growing vehicle market – are racing to develop new electrically powered models.

“Every hour, China now erects another wind turbine and installs enough solar panels to cover a soccer field”

“This push to scale up renewable energy has catapulted China to the forefront of a global clean energy revolution, with benefits that extend to every other country, as well as to the climate”, says Finamore.

But several factors cloud this rosy picture; as Finamore points out, China is still the world’s biggest emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases, mainly because of the burning of vast amounts of coal, by far the most polluting of fossil fuels.

Despite talk by the leadership in Beijing of building what’s called an “ecological civilisation,” economic growth is still the overriding objective and the main factor which legitimises the Communist Party’s hold on power.

When growth flagged in recent years, China’s planners introduced a wide-ranging economic stimulus package, particularly connected with infrastructure. As a result, emissions in 2017 and the first half of 2018 went up, not down.

Policy bottleneck

Foreign observers of China often point to the country’s strictly controlled top-down political system, which is capable of quickly implementing climate change policies and other measures. But Finamore says government directives designed to combat climate change are often frustrated by local officials and assorted political rivalries.

Then there is the question of China’s role overseas. When it comes to climate change, Finamore sees this as generally positive. But what of the way China is using its new-found financial might to hoover up the world’s resources, causing widespread environmental damage along the way?

Chinese mining companies are polluting rivers in South America and chopping down rainforest in southeast Asia and West Africa. China’s state banks are funding coal-fired power stations around the world.

Yes, China has made significant progress on climate change and is eagerly embracing its new-found role as a global leader on the issue. But we should not be starry-eyed; a great deal more needs to be done. – Climate News Network

Will China Save the Planet?, by Barbara Finamore

BOOK REVIEW

Triumph or catastrophe? Where will China’s climate path lead us all? So far there are both hopeful moves and warning signs, a new book says.

LONDON, 18 September, 2018 – Increasingly seen as a world leader towards a low- or no-carbon economy, China’s climate path is winning it many plaudits, particularly since Donald Trump – who has described global warming as a hoax – announced his intention to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.

China’s cheerleaders point to the often breathtaking progress the country has made on several climate change-related fronts, most notably in the growth of renewable energy.

Barbara Finamore, an Asia specialist at the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, who has spent several years in China, says in her book that only 100 MW of solar power was installed across the country 10 years ago.

Now China is well on the way to achieving its target of 213 GW of solar power by 2020 – five times more than the present total amount of solar power installed in the US.

It’s the same story with wind power; in the five years from 2007 to 2011 China installed more wind capacity than either the US or Germany achieved in more than 30 years of wind power development. By the end of 2016 China had built nearly 105,000 wind turbines, more than one out of every three turbines in the world.

Worldwide winners

“Every hour, China now erects another wind turbine and installs enough solar panels to cover a soccer field”, says Finamore.

She points out that these developments are not only benefitting China by lessening air pollution across many parts of the country – they are also having a positive impact in much of the rest of the world.

China’s massive investments in solar and wind manufacturing facilities mean renewable energy costs worldwide have been driven down. In many countries solar power is competing with more conventional energy sources.

China’s wholesale development of electrically powered vehicles is spurring the growth of the industry worldwide; in 2017 China was home to nearly half the world’s total of electric passenger vehicles and more than 90% of the global electric bus fleet.

Battery prices are falling; foreign manufacturers – keen to boost sales in the world’s fastest-growing vehicle market – are racing to develop new electrically powered models.

“Every hour, China now erects another wind turbine and installs enough solar panels to cover a soccer field”

“This push to scale up renewable energy has catapulted China to the forefront of a global clean energy revolution, with benefits that extend to every other country, as well as to the climate”, says Finamore.

But several factors cloud this rosy picture; as Finamore points out, China is still the world’s biggest emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases, mainly because of the burning of vast amounts of coal, by far the most polluting of fossil fuels.

Despite talk by the leadership in Beijing of building what’s called an “ecological civilisation,” economic growth is still the overriding objective and the main factor which legitimises the Communist Party’s hold on power.

When growth flagged in recent years, China’s planners introduced a wide-ranging economic stimulus package, particularly connected with infrastructure. As a result, emissions in 2017 and the first half of 2018 went up, not down.

Policy bottleneck

Foreign observers of China often point to the country’s strictly controlled top-down political system, which is capable of quickly implementing climate change policies and other measures. But Finamore says government directives designed to combat climate change are often frustrated by local officials and assorted political rivalries.

Then there is the question of China’s role overseas. When it comes to climate change, Finamore sees this as generally positive. But what of the way China is using its new-found financial might to hoover up the world’s resources, causing widespread environmental damage along the way?

Chinese mining companies are polluting rivers in South America and chopping down rainforest in southeast Asia and West Africa. China’s state banks are funding coal-fired power stations around the world.

Yes, China has made significant progress on climate change and is eagerly embracing its new-found role as a global leader on the issue. But we should not be starry-eyed; a great deal more needs to be done. – Climate News Network

Will China Save the Planet?, by Barbara Finamore

Hungrier insects will bite into world’s crops

Higher temperatures mean hungrier insects. And that will mean more crop losses. The question is: who loses most?

LONDON, 13 September, 2018 – Researchers have confirmed, once again, that a warmer world is likely to have hungrier insects. The new predators could increase their share of the harvest of wheat, rice and maize by up to 25%.

That is, for every 1°C rise in average temperature, aphids, beetles, borers, caterpillars and other crop pests could increase their consumption of grain by between one tenth and one quarter.

And with a 2°C rise above the average temperature for most of human history – the target set by 195 nations in Paris in 2015 – additional global losses of grain to insect pests could reach 213 million tonnes a year.

For once, the steepest losses could be experienced in the temperate zones, home to the richest nations, rather than in the poorest communities. The reasoning is simple, and the scientists spell it out with a clarity not normally found in scientific prose.

“Our choice now is not whether or not we will allow warming to occur, but how much warming we are willing to tolerate.”

“First, an individual insect’s metabolic rate accelerates with temperature, and an insect’s rate of food consumption must rise accordingly,” they write.

“Second, the number of insects will change, because population growth rates also vary with temperature.” And for that reason, insect numbers in the tropics might decline, but pest numbers in the cooler regions will rise.

Curtis Deutsch of the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues report in the journal Science that they set themselves the challenge of calculating potential crop losses to insect pests in a warmer world.

They took what is already known about 38 insect species from different latitudes, and the data for harvests over recent decades. About one third of all crops are lost to pests, diseases and weed competition: the point of the study was to isolate the impact of insect predation under a scenario of global warming.

Tropical impact lessened

Most crops are lost in the tropics, but the extra appetite in tropical pests could be offset by reduced numbers as the thermometer rises.

France, China and the US – the countries that produce most of the world’s maize – could experience the most dramatic crop losses from insect pests. France produces much of the world’s wheat, China much of its rice: both crops will be hit hard.

Altogether the scientists calculate that with a 2°C rise – and average global temperatures have already risen by about 1°C – by 2050 the median increase in losses of yield across all climates could be 46% for wheat, 19% for rice and 31% for maize: all of it to ever-hungrier caterpillars, beetles and borers.

These percentages translate to 59 million tonnes for wheat, 92 million tonnes for rice and 63 million tonnes for maize.

Food security jeopardised

Such research is a fresh iteration of an increasingly familiar theme: the threat to food security in a world of climate change driven by ever-increasing use of fossil fuels to raise greenhouse gas ratios in the atmosphere to unprecedented levels. Insect predation however is not the only factor.

Repeatedly over the last decade, researchers have warned that higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide could affect the levels of protein, iron and zinc delivered by crop plants; that the greater extremes of heat that must accompany higher average temperatures could hit grain harvests and yields of fruit and vegetables.

Rice, wheat and maize between them provide a huge share of the world’s calorie intake. The three grains are staples for about 4 billion people, and the UN calculates that more than 800 million worldwide do not have enough to eat.

Most of these are in the developing world, and in the tropics. The twist in the latest research is that it predicts that the biggest losses will be in the well-off zones.

Guiding policy

Eleven European countries are expected to experience a 75% increase in insect-linked wheat losses: altogether, by 2050, insects could be consuming 16 million tonnes of wheat. The US could see a 40% increase in maize losses to pests, and farmers will lose 20 million tonnes in yield. Rice losses in China alone could reach 27 million tonnes.

Such studies are intended as a guide to help ministries of agriculture, crop research institutions and other national and civic governments to confront a future of climate change.

Crop scientists could start devising new farming strategies, and working on more resistant crop varieties. Nations could begin to deliver on promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I hope our results demonstrate the importance of collecting more data on how pests will impact crop losses in a warming world,” said Dr Deutsch, “because collectively, our choice now is not whether or not we will allow warming to occur, but how much warming we are willing to tolerate.” – Climate News Network

Higher temperatures mean hungrier insects. And that will mean more crop losses. The question is: who loses most?

LONDON, 13 September, 2018 – Researchers have confirmed, once again, that a warmer world is likely to have hungrier insects. The new predators could increase their share of the harvest of wheat, rice and maize by up to 25%.

That is, for every 1°C rise in average temperature, aphids, beetles, borers, caterpillars and other crop pests could increase their consumption of grain by between one tenth and one quarter.

And with a 2°C rise above the average temperature for most of human history – the target set by 195 nations in Paris in 2015 – additional global losses of grain to insect pests could reach 213 million tonnes a year.

For once, the steepest losses could be experienced in the temperate zones, home to the richest nations, rather than in the poorest communities. The reasoning is simple, and the scientists spell it out with a clarity not normally found in scientific prose.

“Our choice now is not whether or not we will allow warming to occur, but how much warming we are willing to tolerate.”

“First, an individual insect’s metabolic rate accelerates with temperature, and an insect’s rate of food consumption must rise accordingly,” they write.

“Second, the number of insects will change, because population growth rates also vary with temperature.” And for that reason, insect numbers in the tropics might decline, but pest numbers in the cooler regions will rise.

Curtis Deutsch of the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues report in the journal Science that they set themselves the challenge of calculating potential crop losses to insect pests in a warmer world.

They took what is already known about 38 insect species from different latitudes, and the data for harvests over recent decades. About one third of all crops are lost to pests, diseases and weed competition: the point of the study was to isolate the impact of insect predation under a scenario of global warming.

Tropical impact lessened

Most crops are lost in the tropics, but the extra appetite in tropical pests could be offset by reduced numbers as the thermometer rises.

France, China and the US – the countries that produce most of the world’s maize – could experience the most dramatic crop losses from insect pests. France produces much of the world’s wheat, China much of its rice: both crops will be hit hard.

Altogether the scientists calculate that with a 2°C rise – and average global temperatures have already risen by about 1°C – by 2050 the median increase in losses of yield across all climates could be 46% for wheat, 19% for rice and 31% for maize: all of it to ever-hungrier caterpillars, beetles and borers.

These percentages translate to 59 million tonnes for wheat, 92 million tonnes for rice and 63 million tonnes for maize.

Food security jeopardised

Such research is a fresh iteration of an increasingly familiar theme: the threat to food security in a world of climate change driven by ever-increasing use of fossil fuels to raise greenhouse gas ratios in the atmosphere to unprecedented levels. Insect predation however is not the only factor.

Repeatedly over the last decade, researchers have warned that higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide could affect the levels of protein, iron and zinc delivered by crop plants; that the greater extremes of heat that must accompany higher average temperatures could hit grain harvests and yields of fruit and vegetables.

Rice, wheat and maize between them provide a huge share of the world’s calorie intake. The three grains are staples for about 4 billion people, and the UN calculates that more than 800 million worldwide do not have enough to eat.

Most of these are in the developing world, and in the tropics. The twist in the latest research is that it predicts that the biggest losses will be in the well-off zones.

Guiding policy

Eleven European countries are expected to experience a 75% increase in insect-linked wheat losses: altogether, by 2050, insects could be consuming 16 million tonnes of wheat. The US could see a 40% increase in maize losses to pests, and farmers will lose 20 million tonnes in yield. Rice losses in China alone could reach 27 million tonnes.

Such studies are intended as a guide to help ministries of agriculture, crop research institutions and other national and civic governments to confront a future of climate change.

Crop scientists could start devising new farming strategies, and working on more resistant crop varieties. Nations could begin to deliver on promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I hope our results demonstrate the importance of collecting more data on how pests will impact crop losses in a warming world,” said Dr Deutsch, “because collectively, our choice now is not whether or not we will allow warming to occur, but how much warming we are willing to tolerate.” – Climate News Network

Growing risk of extreme heat and humidity

Hazards multiply when extreme heat and humidity join in lethal combination. Scientists now know exactly where this twin danger could be greatest.

LONDON, 6 August, 2018 – By the close of the century, the two-fisted assault of
extreme heat and humidity could make the North China plain a deadly zone.

As water vapour rises from irrigated farmland, in heat extremes which are likely if humans go on burning ever-greater quantities of fossil fuels, then air temperatures and moisture conditions could become such that outdoor workers could no longer cool by perspiration.

In such circumstances no normal healthy person could survive more than six hours. And since 400 million people already live on the North China plain, by 2070 the consequences of ever-greater temperatures could be devastating, according to new research in the journal Nature Communications.

Simultaneously, a second study in a separate journal confirms that by 2080 excess deaths from extremes of heat will have risen in the tropics, subtropics and even the temperate zones.

In three of Australia’s great cities, deaths from heat waves will have risen by more than 470%.

“Future heatwaves in particular will be more frequent, more intense and will last much longer”

The warning for China – which already emits more greenhouse gases than any other nation – is based on what meteorologists call “wet bulb” temperature, the combination of heat and humidity. When this climbs towards the natural body temperatures of humans and other mammals, conditions become dangerous. The North China plain covers 400,000 square kilometres of fertile floodplain irrigated by three great rivers.

The alarm is sounded by Elfatih Eltahir and a colleague at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.
Professor Eltahir first identified the additional hazard of humidity in extremes of heat with a simulation of close-of-the-century temperatures that pinpointed the Gulf region, between Iran and the Arabian peninsula, as the zone where temperatures could become lethal. But the worst extremes would be over water.

A second examination of likely conditions under what climate scientists call the “business-as-usual” scenario, in which nations go on burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases in ever-increasing quantities, pinpointed Asia as the continent most at risk of lethal heat extremes for the greatest numbers of people.

The latest study is a refinement of the projections, and is based on evidence from the most recent three decades. Warming in the North China region has been double the global average – 0.24°C per decade compared to 0.13°C for the rest of the world. In 2013 there were extremes of heat that lasted for up to 50 days, and maximum temperatures topped 38°C (around the accepted limit for humans).

Irrigation key

And the potential lethal factor for the region is likely to be irrigation: rainfall in the north is low, and evaporation from the soil moisture adds around another 0.5°C to local temperatures. Water vapour is itself a greenhouse gas.

“This spot is just going to be the hottest spot for deadly heat waves in the future, especially under climate change,” said Professor Eltahir.

That extremes of heat combined with higher hazards from humidity are already on the increase, and will continue with ever-greater ratios of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is firmly established. A second international study, in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS Medicine, looks at the risks for more than 400 communities in 20 countries for the decades 2031 to 2100, and once again it is based on a business-as-usual scenario, and data from recent decades.

If the world goes on warming according to the gloomiest predictions, the levels of heat-related excess mortality, the statistician’s phrase for death by heatstroke or heat exhaustion, then deaths in Colombia will by 2080 have risen by 2,000%. Even in Moldova, the sample country with the lowest risk, they will have risen by 150%. In Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, the hazard will have soared by 470%.

Inexorable rise

That heat can kill has been known for decades, and the tens of thousands of extra deaths during heatwaves in Europe in 2003, and Russia in 2010, were harsh reminders. More extremes of temperature are inevitable.

Research of this kind is intended to encourage thinking about ways in which health authorities and city bosses could act to reduce the hazard. But for a global problem, a global solution could be the surest answer.

“Future heatwaves in particular will be more frequent, more intense and will last much longer,” said Yuming Guo of Monash University in Australia, who led the research.

“If we cannot find a way to mitigate climate change (reduce the heatwave days) and help people adapt to heat waves, there will be a big increase of heatwave-related deaths in the future, particularly in poor countries located around the equator.” – Climate News Network

Hazards multiply when extreme heat and humidity join in lethal combination. Scientists now know exactly where this twin danger could be greatest.

LONDON, 6 August, 2018 – By the close of the century, the two-fisted assault of
extreme heat and humidity could make the North China plain a deadly zone.

As water vapour rises from irrigated farmland, in heat extremes which are likely if humans go on burning ever-greater quantities of fossil fuels, then air temperatures and moisture conditions could become such that outdoor workers could no longer cool by perspiration.

In such circumstances no normal healthy person could survive more than six hours. And since 400 million people already live on the North China plain, by 2070 the consequences of ever-greater temperatures could be devastating, according to new research in the journal Nature Communications.

Simultaneously, a second study in a separate journal confirms that by 2080 excess deaths from extremes of heat will have risen in the tropics, subtropics and even the temperate zones.

In three of Australia’s great cities, deaths from heat waves will have risen by more than 470%.

“Future heatwaves in particular will be more frequent, more intense and will last much longer”

The warning for China – which already emits more greenhouse gases than any other nation – is based on what meteorologists call “wet bulb” temperature, the combination of heat and humidity. When this climbs towards the natural body temperatures of humans and other mammals, conditions become dangerous. The North China plain covers 400,000 square kilometres of fertile floodplain irrigated by three great rivers.

The alarm is sounded by Elfatih Eltahir and a colleague at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.
Professor Eltahir first identified the additional hazard of humidity in extremes of heat with a simulation of close-of-the-century temperatures that pinpointed the Gulf region, between Iran and the Arabian peninsula, as the zone where temperatures could become lethal. But the worst extremes would be over water.

A second examination of likely conditions under what climate scientists call the “business-as-usual” scenario, in which nations go on burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases in ever-increasing quantities, pinpointed Asia as the continent most at risk of lethal heat extremes for the greatest numbers of people.

The latest study is a refinement of the projections, and is based on evidence from the most recent three decades. Warming in the North China region has been double the global average – 0.24°C per decade compared to 0.13°C for the rest of the world. In 2013 there were extremes of heat that lasted for up to 50 days, and maximum temperatures topped 38°C (around the accepted limit for humans).

Irrigation key

And the potential lethal factor for the region is likely to be irrigation: rainfall in the north is low, and evaporation from the soil moisture adds around another 0.5°C to local temperatures. Water vapour is itself a greenhouse gas.

“This spot is just going to be the hottest spot for deadly heat waves in the future, especially under climate change,” said Professor Eltahir.

That extremes of heat combined with higher hazards from humidity are already on the increase, and will continue with ever-greater ratios of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is firmly established. A second international study, in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS Medicine, looks at the risks for more than 400 communities in 20 countries for the decades 2031 to 2100, and once again it is based on a business-as-usual scenario, and data from recent decades.

If the world goes on warming according to the gloomiest predictions, the levels of heat-related excess mortality, the statistician’s phrase for death by heatstroke or heat exhaustion, then deaths in Colombia will by 2080 have risen by 2,000%. Even in Moldova, the sample country with the lowest risk, they will have risen by 150%. In Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, the hazard will have soared by 470%.

Inexorable rise

That heat can kill has been known for decades, and the tens of thousands of extra deaths during heatwaves in Europe in 2003, and Russia in 2010, were harsh reminders. More extremes of temperature are inevitable.

Research of this kind is intended to encourage thinking about ways in which health authorities and city bosses could act to reduce the hazard. But for a global problem, a global solution could be the surest answer.

“Future heatwaves in particular will be more frequent, more intense and will last much longer,” said Yuming Guo of Monash University in Australia, who led the research.

“If we cannot find a way to mitigate climate change (reduce the heatwave days) and help people adapt to heat waves, there will be a big increase of heatwave-related deaths in the future, particularly in poor countries located around the equator.” – Climate News Network

China’s falling emissions raise climate hopes

China’s falling emissions of greenhouse gases offer optimism that moves to curb global temperature rise may be starting to work.

LONDON, 12 July, 2018 – Say it softly, but a look at China’s falling emissions of carbon dioxide may suggest that there could be some good news on the climate change front.

Over recent years China has supplanted the US as the world’s biggest emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases, mainly because of the country’s booming economy and its reliance for energy on coal, the most polluting of fossil fuels.

But new data show that China’s emissions fell substantially in the years from 2013 to 2016. The big question now – both for China and for the planet – is whether that downward trend can be maintained.

The data, compiled by a team led by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK and published in the journal Nature Geoscience, indicate that after nearly two decades of a rapid rise, China’s CO2 emissions fell by 4.2% in the 2013 to 2016 period.

“Now the important question is whether the decline in Chinese emissions will persist”

“As the world’s top emitting and manufacturing nation, this reversal is cause for cautious optimism among those seeking to stabilise the Earth’s climate”, says Dabo Guan, professor of climate change economics at UEA.

“Now the important question is whether the decline in Chinese emissions will persist.”

Professor Dabo Guan and his colleagues say that the drop in China’s emissions is largely associated with changes in the structure of the economy, with a move from heavy industry to more advanced technical and services enterprises and a decline in the amount of coal used for energy.

More efficient energy production, together with a big jump in the use of renewables such as solar and wind power, have also contributed to the emissions decline.

Continuing decline likely

“We conclude that the decline of Chinese emissions is structural and likely to be sustained if the growing industrial and energy systems transitions continue”, say the study’s authors.

“Government policies are also a sign that the decline in China’s emissions will carry on.”

As part of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, China pledged to peak its emissions of CO2 by 2030. The study finds that this goal has already been achieved, though it cautions that emissions might still rise, with preliminary figures for 2017 showing an increase.

China is still heavily dependent on coal for its energy. Recent government directives call for the use of coal to be limited to four billion tonnes per year, with its share in the country’s energy mix decreasing from 64% in 2015 to 58% in 2020.

Emergent leader

“In response to the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, China has increasingly assumed a leadership role in climate change mitigation, and its five-year progress reports under the agreement will be heavily scrutinised by the rest of the world”, says Professor Dabo Guan.

As part of its programme for reducing emissions, China has set up a number of local and regional carbon market trading schemes in recent years. Later this year these schemes are due to be replaced by a nationwide carbon trading system.

Though China, concerned about chronic air pollution in many of its cities, is seeking to cut its coal use at home, it is investing heavily in coal plants abroad.

Recently China has been particularly active in the Balkans in financing and building coal-fired power plants. – Climate News Network

China’s falling emissions of greenhouse gases offer optimism that moves to curb global temperature rise may be starting to work.

LONDON, 12 July, 2018 – Say it softly, but a look at China’s falling emissions of carbon dioxide may suggest that there could be some good news on the climate change front.

Over recent years China has supplanted the US as the world’s biggest emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases, mainly because of the country’s booming economy and its reliance for energy on coal, the most polluting of fossil fuels.

But new data show that China’s emissions fell substantially in the years from 2013 to 2016. The big question now – both for China and for the planet – is whether that downward trend can be maintained.

The data, compiled by a team led by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK and published in the journal Nature Geoscience, indicate that after nearly two decades of a rapid rise, China’s CO2 emissions fell by 4.2% in the 2013 to 2016 period.

“Now the important question is whether the decline in Chinese emissions will persist”

“As the world’s top emitting and manufacturing nation, this reversal is cause for cautious optimism among those seeking to stabilise the Earth’s climate”, says Dabo Guan, professor of climate change economics at UEA.

“Now the important question is whether the decline in Chinese emissions will persist.”

Professor Dabo Guan and his colleagues say that the drop in China’s emissions is largely associated with changes in the structure of the economy, with a move from heavy industry to more advanced technical and services enterprises and a decline in the amount of coal used for energy.

More efficient energy production, together with a big jump in the use of renewables such as solar and wind power, have also contributed to the emissions decline.

Continuing decline likely

“We conclude that the decline of Chinese emissions is structural and likely to be sustained if the growing industrial and energy systems transitions continue”, say the study’s authors.

“Government policies are also a sign that the decline in China’s emissions will carry on.”

As part of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, China pledged to peak its emissions of CO2 by 2030. The study finds that this goal has already been achieved, though it cautions that emissions might still rise, with preliminary figures for 2017 showing an increase.

China is still heavily dependent on coal for its energy. Recent government directives call for the use of coal to be limited to four billion tonnes per year, with its share in the country’s energy mix decreasing from 64% in 2015 to 58% in 2020.

Emergent leader

“In response to the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, China has increasingly assumed a leadership role in climate change mitigation, and its five-year progress reports under the agreement will be heavily scrutinised by the rest of the world”, says Professor Dabo Guan.

As part of its programme for reducing emissions, China has set up a number of local and regional carbon market trading schemes in recent years. Later this year these schemes are due to be replaced by a nationwide carbon trading system.

Though China, concerned about chronic air pollution in many of its cities, is seeking to cut its coal use at home, it is investing heavily in coal plants abroad.

Recently China has been particularly active in the Balkans in financing and building coal-fired power plants. – Climate News Network

China’s trade plan may cause lasting harm

China’s trade plan could cause  environmental catastrophe, scientists warn, because of its voracious appetite for natural resources and its climate impact.

LONDON, 1 June, 2018 – Possibly the most ambitious and far-reaching development scheme ever launched, China’s trade plan, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), may pose an unacceptable risk to the environment, scientists say.

Launched in 2013, the BRI plans a huge expansion of trade routes linking Asia, Africa and Europe, involving China itself and 64 other countries, and affecting about two thirds of the world’s people and one third of its economy. There will be new ports on the Pacific and Indian Ocean coasts, new roads, and a rail network linking China to north-west Europe.

But an international group of scientists, writing in the journal Nature Sustainability, expresses serious doubts about the possibility of completing the scheme without causing permanent environmental damage.

Economy vs. environment

The scientists write: “Economic development aspirations under the BRI may clash with environmental sustainability goals, given the expansion and upgrading of transportation infrastructure in environmentally sensitive areas, and the large amounts of raw material needed to support that expansion…

“If not properly addressed, the negative environmental impacts of the BRI are likely to disproportionately affect the world’s poor, hence putting at risk the wellbeing of the very people it aims to help.”

Some of the scientists’ comments are positive. They say, for instance, that the BRI includes “examples of well-planned road developments” with negligible impacts on wildlife and protected areas.

They cite the proposed Serengeti Highway in Tanzania, which would go round the national park, not through it. An alternative route for Nigeria’s planned Cross River Superhighway will cause far less environmental harm than the original scheme, and the Bangladesh Railway is improving the protection of elephants by building five overpasses across the tracks for them at well-used crossing points.

“In biodiversity and environmental terms, it’s the worst thing we’ve seen anywhere  –  and in the past forty years, I and my colleagues have seen some pretty horrific stuff”

To improve the BRI’s research and monitoring, Beijing has announced its intention to build a Digital Silk Road with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a potential boost to environmental research elsewhere in Asia.

But despite these expected benefits from the BRI, doubts remain. The scientists say a recent report by the World Wildlife Fund found “a clear risk of severe negative environmental impacts from infrastructure developments”.

These include the scheme’s gargantuan appetite for natural resources, including sand and limestone for making the immense quantities of concrete and cement that it will demand. Global sand extraction, the scientists say, has already passed its natural renewal rate, causing severe damage to deltas and coastal ecosystems.

And with China already responsible for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, the vast pipeline network planned under the BRI, and the infrastructure construction involved, will mean further and faster exploitation of fossil fuel reserves.

Riskiest scheme ever

One of the authors of the commentary in Nature Sustainability is Bill Laurance, of James Cook University, Australia. In an interview with Nexus Media he had more to say about his concerns – and he didn’t pull his punches.

Professor Laurance thinks the BRI “environmentally, the riskiest venture ever undertaken”, which “simply blows out of the water anything else that’s been attempted in human history…In biodiversity and environmental terms, it’s the worst thing we’ve seen anywhere  –  and in the past forty years, I and my colleagues have seen some pretty horrific stuff in the Amazon, Africa, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.”

On climate change, he holds out little hope that the Initiative can offer anything much: “If you also consider everything China is doing or promoting overseas in terms of extractive industries and large-scale infrastructure, they utterly overwhelm any other nation as climate changers.

“In real terms – digging through a great deal of greenwashing – I don’t see anything in the BRI that squares with China’s stated climate goals.” – Climate News Network

China’s trade plan could cause  environmental catastrophe, scientists warn, because of its voracious appetite for natural resources and its climate impact.

LONDON, 1 June, 2018 – Possibly the most ambitious and far-reaching development scheme ever launched, China’s trade plan, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), may pose an unacceptable risk to the environment, scientists say.

Launched in 2013, the BRI plans a huge expansion of trade routes linking Asia, Africa and Europe, involving China itself and 64 other countries, and affecting about two thirds of the world’s people and one third of its economy. There will be new ports on the Pacific and Indian Ocean coasts, new roads, and a rail network linking China to north-west Europe.

But an international group of scientists, writing in the journal Nature Sustainability, expresses serious doubts about the possibility of completing the scheme without causing permanent environmental damage.

Economy vs. environment

The scientists write: “Economic development aspirations under the BRI may clash with environmental sustainability goals, given the expansion and upgrading of transportation infrastructure in environmentally sensitive areas, and the large amounts of raw material needed to support that expansion…

“If not properly addressed, the negative environmental impacts of the BRI are likely to disproportionately affect the world’s poor, hence putting at risk the wellbeing of the very people it aims to help.”

Some of the scientists’ comments are positive. They say, for instance, that the BRI includes “examples of well-planned road developments” with negligible impacts on wildlife and protected areas.

They cite the proposed Serengeti Highway in Tanzania, which would go round the national park, not through it. An alternative route for Nigeria’s planned Cross River Superhighway will cause far less environmental harm than the original scheme, and the Bangladesh Railway is improving the protection of elephants by building five overpasses across the tracks for them at well-used crossing points.

“In biodiversity and environmental terms, it’s the worst thing we’ve seen anywhere  –  and in the past forty years, I and my colleagues have seen some pretty horrific stuff”

To improve the BRI’s research and monitoring, Beijing has announced its intention to build a Digital Silk Road with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a potential boost to environmental research elsewhere in Asia.

But despite these expected benefits from the BRI, doubts remain. The scientists say a recent report by the World Wildlife Fund found “a clear risk of severe negative environmental impacts from infrastructure developments”.

These include the scheme’s gargantuan appetite for natural resources, including sand and limestone for making the immense quantities of concrete and cement that it will demand. Global sand extraction, the scientists say, has already passed its natural renewal rate, causing severe damage to deltas and coastal ecosystems.

And with China already responsible for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, the vast pipeline network planned under the BRI, and the infrastructure construction involved, will mean further and faster exploitation of fossil fuel reserves.

Riskiest scheme ever

One of the authors of the commentary in Nature Sustainability is Bill Laurance, of James Cook University, Australia. In an interview with Nexus Media he had more to say about his concerns – and he didn’t pull his punches.

Professor Laurance thinks the BRI “environmentally, the riskiest venture ever undertaken”, which “simply blows out of the water anything else that’s been attempted in human history…In biodiversity and environmental terms, it’s the worst thing we’ve seen anywhere  –  and in the past forty years, I and my colleagues have seen some pretty horrific stuff in the Amazon, Africa, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.”

On climate change, he holds out little hope that the Initiative can offer anything much: “If you also consider everything China is doing or promoting overseas in terms of extractive industries and large-scale infrastructure, they utterly overwhelm any other nation as climate changers.

“In real terms – digging through a great deal of greenwashing – I don’t see anything in the BRI that squares with China’s stated climate goals.” – 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

Global warming grows less nutritious rice

One consequence of more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will be less nutritious rice, despite growth gains for some other crops.

LONDON, 25 May, 2018 – Global warming could bring a serious problem for the two billion people on the planet who depend on one grain for their staple diet: less nutritious rice to sustain them. Scientists have found that rice grown at higher levels of carbon dioxide has an overall lower nutritional value.

The grain contains lower levels of protein, and iron and zinc – metals vital for health in trace form – and also consistent declines in vitamin B.

This finding is not based on computer simulation of a plant’s response to notionally higher atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas CO2, nor on laboratory studies under glass and in artificial conditions. It is based on open air field trials.

That is, extra carbon dioxide is piped to the plants to mimic the ratios expected at the end of the century as ever more people burn ever greater quantities of fossil fuels. And it has been tested in many locations in rice-growing countries over many years.

The finding remains true – although at different levels of impact – for the 18 varieties or hybrids of rice tested so far.

levels were down 30%.

“People say more CO2 is more plant food – and it is. But how plants respond to that sudden increase in food will impact human health as well”

Ten nations depend upon rice for daily food supplies. The people most likely to feel the consequences of reduced nutritional support – and these include impaired cognitive development, a feebler immune system, obesity and diabetes – are likely to be those who are poorest. The researchers estimate that 600 million people for whom rice provides more than half their daily diet could be affected.

Scientists from China, Japan, the US and Australia report in the journal Science Advances that they began their research, using what they call the technique of free air carbon dioxide enrichment, in 1998, to recreate what they expect to be the conditions under which farmers will grow crops a few decades from now.

They found on average that the test rice had 10% less protein, 8% less iron and 5.1% less zinc compared with rice grown by farmers under existing conditions. There were also declines of 17% in the vitamins B1 (thiamine) and of more than 16% in vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid levels, were down more than 12%. Folate or vitamin B9 levels were down 30%.

“People say more CO2 is more plant food – and it is. But how plants respond to that sudden increase in food will impact human health as well, from nutritional deficits, to ethnopharmacology, to seasonal pollen allergies – in ways we don’t yet understand,” said Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist with the US Department of Agriculture research service, one of the authors.

Hungry billion

Up to a billion people in the world are what bureaucrats politely call “food insecure.” There has already been concern about the impact of higher levels of carbon dioxide on protein in potatoes, maize and other cereals.

As global temperatures rise in response to ever greater levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, harvests of all the staple cereals could in any case decline – sometimes as a response to ever wilder extremes of heat, rain and windstorm – by between 20 and 40%. But so far, there has been little research on the impact of climate change on the nutritional qualities of each staple.

The study puts the case more coolly: “For those populations that are highly rice-dependent, any CO2-induced change in the integrated nutritional value of rice grains could disproportionately affect human health.” And the scientists end their study by saying:

“Overall, these results indicate that the role of rising CO2 on reducing rice quality may represent a fundamental, but under-appreciated, human health effect associated with anthropogenic climate change.” – Climate News Network

One consequence of more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will be less nutritious rice, despite growth gains for some other crops.

LONDON, 25 May, 2018 – Global warming could bring a serious problem for the two billion people on the planet who depend on one grain for their staple diet: less nutritious rice to sustain them. Scientists have found that rice grown at higher levels of carbon dioxide has an overall lower nutritional value.

The grain contains lower levels of protein, and iron and zinc – metals vital for health in trace form – and also consistent declines in vitamin B.

This finding is not based on computer simulation of a plant’s response to notionally higher atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas CO2, nor on laboratory studies under glass and in artificial conditions. It is based on open air field trials.

That is, extra carbon dioxide is piped to the plants to mimic the ratios expected at the end of the century as ever more people burn ever greater quantities of fossil fuels. And it has been tested in many locations in rice-growing countries over many years.

The finding remains true – although at different levels of impact – for the 18 varieties or hybrids of rice tested so far.

levels were down 30%.

“People say more CO2 is more plant food – and it is. But how plants respond to that sudden increase in food will impact human health as well”

Ten nations depend upon rice for daily food supplies. The people most likely to feel the consequences of reduced nutritional support – and these include impaired cognitive development, a feebler immune system, obesity and diabetes – are likely to be those who are poorest. The researchers estimate that 600 million people for whom rice provides more than half their daily diet could be affected.

Scientists from China, Japan, the US and Australia report in the journal Science Advances that they began their research, using what they call the technique of free air carbon dioxide enrichment, in 1998, to recreate what they expect to be the conditions under which farmers will grow crops a few decades from now.

They found on average that the test rice had 10% less protein, 8% less iron and 5.1% less zinc compared with rice grown by farmers under existing conditions. There were also declines of 17% in the vitamins B1 (thiamine) and of more than 16% in vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid levels, were down more than 12%. Folate or vitamin B9 levels were down 30%.

“People say more CO2 is more plant food – and it is. But how plants respond to that sudden increase in food will impact human health as well, from nutritional deficits, to ethnopharmacology, to seasonal pollen allergies – in ways we don’t yet understand,” said Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist with the US Department of Agriculture research service, one of the authors.

Hungry billion

Up to a billion people in the world are what bureaucrats politely call “food insecure.” There has already been concern about the impact of higher levels of carbon dioxide on protein in potatoes, maize and other cereals.

As global temperatures rise in response to ever greater levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, harvests of all the staple cereals could in any case decline – sometimes as a response to ever wilder extremes of heat, rain and windstorm – by between 20 and 40%. But so far, there has been little research on the impact of climate change on the nutritional qualities of each staple.

The study puts the case more coolly: “For those populations that are highly rice-dependent, any CO2-induced change in the integrated nutritional value of rice grains could disproportionately affect human health.” And the scientists end their study by saying:

“Overall, these results indicate that the role of rising CO2 on reducing rice quality may represent a fundamental, but under-appreciated, human health effect associated with anthropogenic climate change.” – Climate News Network

Warming planet faces cooling crisis

As climate change warms the Earth, one significant concern is the cooling crisis, the quest for energy-hungry artificial ways to keep ourselves cool.

LONDON, 15 May, 2018 – One of the ironies of increasing climate change is the cooling crisis: the hotter the planet becomes, the greater our demand for ways to cool down. And most often, in rich countries, that means switching on the air conditioning, which in turn means using more electricity and emitting more fossil fuels to escape the heat we’ve emitted by burning so much already.

Just how serious that irony is in practice is clear from a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) on the future of cooling. The Agency’s executive director, Fatih Birol, sums up the problem in his foreword: “The world faces a looming ‘cold crunch.’

“Using air conditioners and electric fans to stay cool accounts for nearly 20% of the total electricity used in buildings around the world today. And this trend is set to grow as the world’s economic and demographic growth becomes more focused in hotter countries.”

Since 1990, the report says, global sales of electrically-powered fans and air-conditioning systems (ACs) have more than tripled. More than half of them are used in just two countries – China and the United States. Over a year the 1.6bn ACs in use worldwide consume more than 2,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity – 2.5 times more than Africa’s total annual electricity consumption.

Carbon dioxide emissions from cooling have also tripled since 1990, to 1,130m tonnes, causing corresponding growth in local air pollution. And the growing demand for cooling is moving south, driven by economic and population growth in the hottest parts of the world.

Very limited effect

Most of the projected growth by 2050 in energy use for cooling is expected to come from the emerging economies, half of it from three countries – India, China and Indonesia.

The IEA says its analysis shows that governments’ policies to address current and future electricity consumption so as to meet cooling demand would have only “a very limited effect” in slowing it. Its baseline scenario sees the energy needed tripling by 2050 to 6,200 TWh, with meeting peak electricity demand a major challenge, because of the need for extra generation and distribution equipment.

But the baseline scenario is not the only option, the IEA says. Its alternative vision is what it calls an efficient cooling scenario which greatly strengthens policies for limiting the energy needed for cooling, and which it says “is compatible with the ambitious goals to limit climate change that were agreed in the Paris Agreement”.

The key word here is “efficient”. This scenario focuses on achieving massive improvements in the efficiency of AC equipment, accompanied by other measures like tougher minimum energy performance standards, and clear labelling to guide consumers.

If governments altered their policies in this way, the report says, the present average energy efficiency of ACs worldwide could more than double in the next 30 years.

“Using air conditioners and electric fans to stay cool accounts for nearly 20% of the total electricity used in buildings around the world today. And this trend is set to grow”

Energy demand for cooling would by 2050 be 45% lower than in the baseline scenario, saving an amount equivalent to all the electricity consumed by the European Union in 2016. And between 2017 and 2050 the efficiency strategy would cost US$2.9 trillion less than the baseline scenario, meaning lower electricity costs for everyone.

Carbon dioxide emissions would, with the decarbonisation of power generation, fall to 13% of their 2016 level, and key air pollutant emissions would fall by up to 85%.

The report says there is potential for even bigger energy savings through changing the way buildings are designed and constructed, and in what materials are used. The idea is not new: across the Middle East there is a long tradition of constructing buildings that incorporate windcatchers, which use natural airflows to ventilate them and have even been used for refrigeration. And just painting buildings white so that they reflect sunlight can help.

The principle of passive building design, which uses natural sources, including wind, solar energy and daylight to cut the amount of energy buildings consume, is being updated and extended and, even in countries as hot as India, is providing useful lessons. – Climate News Network

As climate change warms the Earth, one significant concern is the cooling crisis, the quest for energy-hungry artificial ways to keep ourselves cool.

LONDON, 15 May, 2018 – One of the ironies of increasing climate change is the cooling crisis: the hotter the planet becomes, the greater our demand for ways to cool down. And most often, in rich countries, that means switching on the air conditioning, which in turn means using more electricity and emitting more fossil fuels to escape the heat we’ve emitted by burning so much already.

Just how serious that irony is in practice is clear from a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) on the future of cooling. The Agency’s executive director, Fatih Birol, sums up the problem in his foreword: “The world faces a looming ‘cold crunch.’

“Using air conditioners and electric fans to stay cool accounts for nearly 20% of the total electricity used in buildings around the world today. And this trend is set to grow as the world’s economic and demographic growth becomes more focused in hotter countries.”

Since 1990, the report says, global sales of electrically-powered fans and air-conditioning systems (ACs) have more than tripled. More than half of them are used in just two countries – China and the United States. Over a year the 1.6bn ACs in use worldwide consume more than 2,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity – 2.5 times more than Africa’s total annual electricity consumption.

Carbon dioxide emissions from cooling have also tripled since 1990, to 1,130m tonnes, causing corresponding growth in local air pollution. And the growing demand for cooling is moving south, driven by economic and population growth in the hottest parts of the world.

Very limited effect

Most of the projected growth by 2050 in energy use for cooling is expected to come from the emerging economies, half of it from three countries – India, China and Indonesia.

The IEA says its analysis shows that governments’ policies to address current and future electricity consumption so as to meet cooling demand would have only “a very limited effect” in slowing it. Its baseline scenario sees the energy needed tripling by 2050 to 6,200 TWh, with meeting peak electricity demand a major challenge, because of the need for extra generation and distribution equipment.

But the baseline scenario is not the only option, the IEA says. Its alternative vision is what it calls an efficient cooling scenario which greatly strengthens policies for limiting the energy needed for cooling, and which it says “is compatible with the ambitious goals to limit climate change that were agreed in the Paris Agreement”.

The key word here is “efficient”. This scenario focuses on achieving massive improvements in the efficiency of AC equipment, accompanied by other measures like tougher minimum energy performance standards, and clear labelling to guide consumers.

If governments altered their policies in this way, the report says, the present average energy efficiency of ACs worldwide could more than double in the next 30 years.

“Using air conditioners and electric fans to stay cool accounts for nearly 20% of the total electricity used in buildings around the world today. And this trend is set to grow”

Energy demand for cooling would by 2050 be 45% lower than in the baseline scenario, saving an amount equivalent to all the electricity consumed by the European Union in 2016. And between 2017 and 2050 the efficiency strategy would cost US$2.9 trillion less than the baseline scenario, meaning lower electricity costs for everyone.

Carbon dioxide emissions would, with the decarbonisation of power generation, fall to 13% of their 2016 level, and key air pollutant emissions would fall by up to 85%.

The report says there is potential for even bigger energy savings through changing the way buildings are designed and constructed, and in what materials are used. The idea is not new: across the Middle East there is a long tradition of constructing buildings that incorporate windcatchers, which use natural airflows to ventilate them and have even been used for refrigeration. And just painting buildings white so that they reflect sunlight can help.

The principle of passive building design, which uses natural sources, including wind, solar energy and daylight to cut the amount of energy buildings consume, is being updated and extended and, even in countries as hot as India, is providing useful lessons. – Climate News Network

Bonn climate talks make gradual progress

Despite the “missing in action” US, delegates say the Bonn climate talks just ended made progress – but too little and too slowly.

LONDON, 11 May, 2018 – The Bonn climate talks, a crucial round of UN negotiations on pumping up the muscle of the global treaty on tackling climate change, the Paris Agreement, has ended in Germany.

Participants heading for home know they have a daunting workload ahead, with too few solid outcomes achieved in the last 10 days. But despite the absence of the US government, described by some as “missing in action” after Donald Trump’s repudiation of the Paris treaty, many still hope that Bonn has proved a useful prelude to the next climate summit.

This dogged optimism apart, the organisers, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), alarmed at Bonn’s lack of progress, are arranging an unusual extra week of talks in Bangkok in  September to help the world leaders who will meet in Katowice in Poland in December to agree how to prevent the world from dangerously overheating.

One key sticking point so far is the failure of developed countries to produce the previously promised US$100 billion a year by 2020 to allow poor and vulnerable countries to adapt to climate change. In some cases the survival of small island states depends on that help.

The purpose of this year’s round of UN climate talks is to finalise and implement the Paris Agreement, concluded in 2015, which aims to prevent global temperatures from increasing by more than 2°C over their pre-industrial levels, and if possible keep them below 1.5°C.

”Now is the time for action. Now is the time to commit to making the decisions the world must make”

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, is cautiously optimistic about progress, but says many voices at Bonn underlined the urgency of advancing more rapidly. She said the extra negotiating session in Bangkok had been arranged to speed things up.

To help to clarify the remaining issues the delegates in Bonn asked for a “reflection note” on progress so far, to help governments to prepare for Bangkok, which should help specifically  to finalise the texts to be signed off in December in Katowice.

Soon after the Bangkok meeting, on 8 October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is to publish a special scientific report describing how critically close the world already is to a 1.5°C increase in temperature and outlining the drastic action governments need to take to avoid far exceeding it.

This is likely to further galvanise political action from many countries, including China and India, whose governments have already realised that climate change threatens food supplies and national stability.

Sharing solutions

In parallel with the formal negotiations, the Bonn meeting hosted the long-awaited Fiji-led Talanoa Dialogue. This follows the tradition in the Pacific region, where the goal of a “talanoa” is to share stories to find solutions for the common good.

In this spirit, the dialogue in Bonn saw some 250 participants share their stories, providing fresh ideas on how to tackle climate change and renewing their determination to raise ambition.

Instead of only those governments which are parties to the Climate Change Convention talking to each other, the dialogue includes cities, businesses, investors and regions, all engaged for the first time in interactive story-telling.

This partly sidesteps the problem of the missing US government, allowing many American businesses and cities to ignore their president and continue to take part in the talks.

More ambition

Frank Bainimarama, prime minister of Fiji and president of the last UN climate summit (COP23), said: “We must ensure that the Talanoa Dialogue leads to more ambition in our climate action plans. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to commit to making the decisions the world must make.”

At the end of the Bonn negotiations, the chair of the Least Developed Countries Group (LDC), Gebru Jember Endalew, said the Group had come to Bonn ready to shift gears and make concrete progress. He went on: “The Group is concerned by the lack of urgency we are seeing to move the negotiations forward. It is time to look at the bigger picture, see the severe impacts that climate change is having across the world, and rise to the challenge.

“Finance is key to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. In the face of climate change, poor and vulnerable countries are forced to address loss and damage and adapt to a changing climate, all while striving to lift their people out of poverty without repeating the mistakes of an economy built on fossil fuels. This is not possible without predictable and sustainable support. Countries have failed to deliver on pre-2020 commitments.”

On climate finance, Harjeet Singh, global climate lead at ActionAid International,  said: “The issue of finance underpins so many different parts of the climate negotiations, because poor countries simply can’t cover the triple costs of loss and damage, adaptation and mitigation on their own.

“But with developed countries refusing to move on finance, lots of pieces are still unfinished. This is holding up the whole package, which is supposed to be finalised at the end of this year. Issues are piling up, and it’s a dangerous strategy to leave everything to the last minute.”

Sharp differences

Also concerned about finance was Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He said: “While some headway was made in Bonn on several more technical topics, sharp political differences remain on a handful of issues, especially on climate finance and the amount of differentiation in the Paris Agreement rules for countries at varying stages of development.

“These issues are above the pay grade of negotiators in Bonn, and will require engaging ministers and national leaders to resolve them.”

A more cheerful note came from Camilla Born, of the environmental think tank E3G. She said: “Negotiations went better than expected. The next challenge is to mobilise the political will to get the COP24 outcomes over the line in Katowice.

“This won’t be easy but the Polish Presidency has the chance to up their game. The pressure is on the likes of the EU, China and Canada to come good on the universality of the Paris Agreement even whilst the US is for now missing in action.” – Climate News Network

Despite the “missing in action” US, delegates say the Bonn climate talks just ended made progress – but too little and too slowly.

LONDON, 11 May, 2018 – The Bonn climate talks, a crucial round of UN negotiations on pumping up the muscle of the global treaty on tackling climate change, the Paris Agreement, has ended in Germany.

Participants heading for home know they have a daunting workload ahead, with too few solid outcomes achieved in the last 10 days. But despite the absence of the US government, described by some as “missing in action” after Donald Trump’s repudiation of the Paris treaty, many still hope that Bonn has proved a useful prelude to the next climate summit.

This dogged optimism apart, the organisers, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), alarmed at Bonn’s lack of progress, are arranging an unusual extra week of talks in Bangkok in  September to help the world leaders who will meet in Katowice in Poland in December to agree how to prevent the world from dangerously overheating.

One key sticking point so far is the failure of developed countries to produce the previously promised US$100 billion a year by 2020 to allow poor and vulnerable countries to adapt to climate change. In some cases the survival of small island states depends on that help.

The purpose of this year’s round of UN climate talks is to finalise and implement the Paris Agreement, concluded in 2015, which aims to prevent global temperatures from increasing by more than 2°C over their pre-industrial levels, and if possible keep them below 1.5°C.

”Now is the time for action. Now is the time to commit to making the decisions the world must make”

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, is cautiously optimistic about progress, but says many voices at Bonn underlined the urgency of advancing more rapidly. She said the extra negotiating session in Bangkok had been arranged to speed things up.

To help to clarify the remaining issues the delegates in Bonn asked for a “reflection note” on progress so far, to help governments to prepare for Bangkok, which should help specifically  to finalise the texts to be signed off in December in Katowice.

Soon after the Bangkok meeting, on 8 October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is to publish a special scientific report describing how critically close the world already is to a 1.5°C increase in temperature and outlining the drastic action governments need to take to avoid far exceeding it.

This is likely to further galvanise political action from many countries, including China and India, whose governments have already realised that climate change threatens food supplies and national stability.

Sharing solutions

In parallel with the formal negotiations, the Bonn meeting hosted the long-awaited Fiji-led Talanoa Dialogue. This follows the tradition in the Pacific region, where the goal of a “talanoa” is to share stories to find solutions for the common good.

In this spirit, the dialogue in Bonn saw some 250 participants share their stories, providing fresh ideas on how to tackle climate change and renewing their determination to raise ambition.

Instead of only those governments which are parties to the Climate Change Convention talking to each other, the dialogue includes cities, businesses, investors and regions, all engaged for the first time in interactive story-telling.

This partly sidesteps the problem of the missing US government, allowing many American businesses and cities to ignore their president and continue to take part in the talks.

More ambition

Frank Bainimarama, prime minister of Fiji and president of the last UN climate summit (COP23), said: “We must ensure that the Talanoa Dialogue leads to more ambition in our climate action plans. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to commit to making the decisions the world must make.”

At the end of the Bonn negotiations, the chair of the Least Developed Countries Group (LDC), Gebru Jember Endalew, said the Group had come to Bonn ready to shift gears and make concrete progress. He went on: “The Group is concerned by the lack of urgency we are seeing to move the negotiations forward. It is time to look at the bigger picture, see the severe impacts that climate change is having across the world, and rise to the challenge.

“Finance is key to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. In the face of climate change, poor and vulnerable countries are forced to address loss and damage and adapt to a changing climate, all while striving to lift their people out of poverty without repeating the mistakes of an economy built on fossil fuels. This is not possible without predictable and sustainable support. Countries have failed to deliver on pre-2020 commitments.”

On climate finance, Harjeet Singh, global climate lead at ActionAid International,  said: “The issue of finance underpins so many different parts of the climate negotiations, because poor countries simply can’t cover the triple costs of loss and damage, adaptation and mitigation on their own.

“But with developed countries refusing to move on finance, lots of pieces are still unfinished. This is holding up the whole package, which is supposed to be finalised at the end of this year. Issues are piling up, and it’s a dangerous strategy to leave everything to the last minute.”

Sharp differences

Also concerned about finance was Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He said: “While some headway was made in Bonn on several more technical topics, sharp political differences remain on a handful of issues, especially on climate finance and the amount of differentiation in the Paris Agreement rules for countries at varying stages of development.

“These issues are above the pay grade of negotiators in Bonn, and will require engaging ministers and national leaders to resolve them.”

A more cheerful note came from Camilla Born, of the environmental think tank E3G. She said: “Negotiations went better than expected. The next challenge is to mobilise the political will to get the COP24 outcomes over the line in Katowice.

“This won’t be easy but the Polish Presidency has the chance to up their game. The pressure is on the likes of the EU, China and Canada to come good on the universality of the Paris Agreement even whilst the US is for now missing in action.” – Climate News Network