Tag Archives: Climate

New mindset is needed to handle wildfire hazard

As climate change and population growth increase the risks from wildfires, researchers warn that we must co-exist and deal with the danger as we do with earthquakes, hurricanes or floods. LONDON, 6 November, 2014 − Towns, rural settlements and even whole societies will become increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic losses unless people learn to live with wildfire, rather than try to fight it. But Max Moritz, of the College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley, and research colleagues from the US and Australia report in Nature journal that they also found evidence from three continents suggesting that government policies can make things worse. Fire-fighting strategies and land-use practices actually encourage development on inherently hazardous landscapes, and so risk making losses more calamitous in the decades to come as climate change and population increase exacerbate the hazard.

Naturally at risk

The researchers considered the Mediterranean basin of Europe, the south-western US, and Australia − three regions in which wildfires play a part in the natural management of the ecosystems, and therefore all naturally at risk, and all home to communities badly hit by wildfires in recent years. The research paper concludes: “The ‘command and control’ approach typically used in fire management neglects the fundamental role that fire regimes have in sustaining biodiversity and key ecosystem services. Unless people view and plan for fire as an inevitable and natural process, it will continue to have serious consequences for both social and ecologi­cal systems.”

“Human losses will only be mitigated when land-use planning takes fire hazards into account”

All three regions have long dry seasons, and have evolved to depend on occasional, naturally-sparked fires to dispose of tinder-dry leaves and fallen branches that litter the forest floor. As a consequence, many native plants are adapted to survive, germinate and even flourish after periodic natural fires. The problems start when people try to settle, and exploit, such fire-prone regions. “We don’t try to ‘fight’ earthquakes – we anticipate them in the way we plan communities, build buildings, and prepare for emergencies,” Dr Moritz says. “We don’t think that way about fire, but our review indicates that we should. “Human losses will only be mitigated when land-use planning takes fire hazards into account in the same manner as other natural hazards, like floods, hurricanes and earthquakes.”

Increasing hazard

Climate change and population growth will make the problem worse, and researchers have already warned that wildfires will become an increasing hazard worldwide − particularly in the western US. Australia, too, has become increasingly vulnerable  as man-made climate change contributes to a series of catastrophic heat waves. The researchers suggest that authorities take a careful look at local problems, and start working on specifically appropriate solutions. These might involve new land use restrictions, new building codes, new vegetation management strategies, better maps of fire hazards, and better ways of warning people and getting them to safety. The clear message is that when it comes to wildfire, a one-size-fits-all solution does not exist. “A different view of wildfire is urgently needed,” Dr Moritz says. “We must accept wildfire as a crucial and inevitable natural process on many landscapes. There is no alternative. The path we are on will lead to a deepening of our fire-related problems worldwide, which will only become worse as climate changes.” – Climate News Network

As climate change and population growth increase the risks from wildfires, researchers warn that we must co-exist and deal with the danger as we do with earthquakes, hurricanes or floods. LONDON, 6 November, 2014 − Towns, rural settlements and even whole societies will become increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic losses unless people learn to live with wildfire, rather than try to fight it. But Max Moritz, of the College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley, and research colleagues from the US and Australia report in Nature journal that they also found evidence from three continents suggesting that government policies can make things worse. Fire-fighting strategies and land-use practices actually encourage development on inherently hazardous landscapes, and so risk making losses more calamitous in the decades to come as climate change and population increase exacerbate the hazard.

Naturally at risk

The researchers considered the Mediterranean basin of Europe, the south-western US, and Australia − three regions in which wildfires play a part in the natural management of the ecosystems, and therefore all naturally at risk, and all home to communities badly hit by wildfires in recent years. The research paper concludes: “The ‘command and control’ approach typically used in fire management neglects the fundamental role that fire regimes have in sustaining biodiversity and key ecosystem services. Unless people view and plan for fire as an inevitable and natural process, it will continue to have serious consequences for both social and ecologi­cal systems.”

“Human losses will only be mitigated when land-use planning takes fire hazards into account”

All three regions have long dry seasons, and have evolved to depend on occasional, naturally-sparked fires to dispose of tinder-dry leaves and fallen branches that litter the forest floor. As a consequence, many native plants are adapted to survive, germinate and even flourish after periodic natural fires. The problems start when people try to settle, and exploit, such fire-prone regions. “We don’t try to ‘fight’ earthquakes – we anticipate them in the way we plan communities, build buildings, and prepare for emergencies,” Dr Moritz says. “We don’t think that way about fire, but our review indicates that we should. “Human losses will only be mitigated when land-use planning takes fire hazards into account in the same manner as other natural hazards, like floods, hurricanes and earthquakes.”

Increasing hazard

Climate change and population growth will make the problem worse, and researchers have already warned that wildfires will become an increasing hazard worldwide − particularly in the western US. Australia, too, has become increasingly vulnerable  as man-made climate change contributes to a series of catastrophic heat waves. The researchers suggest that authorities take a careful look at local problems, and start working on specifically appropriate solutions. These might involve new land use restrictions, new building codes, new vegetation management strategies, better maps of fire hazards, and better ways of warning people and getting them to safety. The clear message is that when it comes to wildfire, a one-size-fits-all solution does not exist. “A different view of wildfire is urgently needed,” Dr Moritz says. “We must accept wildfire as a crucial and inevitable natural process on many landscapes. There is no alternative. The path we are on will lead to a deepening of our fire-related problems worldwide, which will only become worse as climate changes.” – Climate News Network

Investor heavyweights call for clear action on climate

As a major UN climate summit gets under way in New York today, some of the world’s leading institutional investors demand clearer policies on climate change and the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies. LONDON, 23 September, 2014 − Many of the biggest hitters in the global financial community, together managing an eye-watering $24 trillion of investment funds, have issued a powerful warning to political leaders about the risks of failing to establish clear policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. More than 340 investment concerns − ranging from Scandinavian pensions funds to institutional investors in Asia, Australia, South Africa and the US − have put their signatures to what they describe as global investors’ most comprehensive statement yet on climate change. In particular, the investors call on government leaders to provide a “stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon policy”, and to develop plans to phase out subsidies on fossil fuels. They warn: “Gaps, weaknesses and delays in climate change and clean energy policies will increase the risks to our investments as a result of the physical impacts of climate change, and will increase the likelihood that more radical policy measures will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Ambitious policies

“Stronger political leadership and more ambitious policies are needed in order for us to scale up our investments.” Attempts to establish carbon pricing systems capable of making an impact on climate change have so far ended in failure, while oil and gas companies continue to battle against stopping fossil fuel subsidies. The investors’ move has been welcomed by the United Nations. Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme, said: “Investors are owners of large segments of the global economy, as well as custodians of citizens’ savings around the world. Having such a critical mass of them demand a transition to the low-carbon and green economy is exactly the signal governments need in order to move to ambitious action quickly. “What is needed is an unprecedented re-channelling of investment from today´s economy into the low-carbon economy of tomorrow.” The investors’ statement comes amid growing concern in the finance sector about the economic consequences of a warming world. Last week, a commission composed of leading economists and senior political figures said the transition to a low-carbon economy was vital in order to ensure continued global economic growth.

Stranded assets

Other groups say investors who continue to put their money into fossil fuels are taking considerable risks. As governments and regulators face up to the enormity of climate change and place more restrictions on fossil fuels, such investments could become what are termed “stranded assets”. There are also signs of a surge in low-carbon technologies, particularly in the renewable energy sector. Last week, Lazard, the asset management firm, reported that a decline in cost and increased efficiency means large wind and solar installations in the US can now, without subsidies, be cost competitive with gas-fired power. There is also increased activity on the carbon pricing front. China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, recently announced it would establish a countrywide emissions trading system by 2016. If implemented, the China carbon trading system will be the world’s biggest. The country already runs seven regional carbon trading schemes. – Climate News Network

As a major UN climate summit gets under way in New York today, some of the world’s leading institutional investors demand clearer policies on climate change and the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies. LONDON, 23 September, 2014 − Many of the biggest hitters in the global financial community, together managing an eye-watering $24 trillion of investment funds, have issued a powerful warning to political leaders about the risks of failing to establish clear policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. More than 340 investment concerns − ranging from Scandinavian pensions funds to institutional investors in Asia, Australia, South Africa and the US − have put their signatures to what they describe as global investors’ most comprehensive statement yet on climate change. In particular, the investors call on government leaders to provide a “stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon policy”, and to develop plans to phase out subsidies on fossil fuels. They warn: “Gaps, weaknesses and delays in climate change and clean energy policies will increase the risks to our investments as a result of the physical impacts of climate change, and will increase the likelihood that more radical policy measures will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Ambitious policies

“Stronger political leadership and more ambitious policies are needed in order for us to scale up our investments.” Attempts to establish carbon pricing systems capable of making an impact on climate change have so far ended in failure, while oil and gas companies continue to battle against stopping fossil fuel subsidies. The investors’ move has been welcomed by the United Nations. Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme, said: “Investors are owners of large segments of the global economy, as well as custodians of citizens’ savings around the world. Having such a critical mass of them demand a transition to the low-carbon and green economy is exactly the signal governments need in order to move to ambitious action quickly. “What is needed is an unprecedented re-channelling of investment from today´s economy into the low-carbon economy of tomorrow.” The investors’ statement comes amid growing concern in the finance sector about the economic consequences of a warming world. Last week, a commission composed of leading economists and senior political figures said the transition to a low-carbon economy was vital in order to ensure continued global economic growth.

Stranded assets

Other groups say investors who continue to put their money into fossil fuels are taking considerable risks. As governments and regulators face up to the enormity of climate change and place more restrictions on fossil fuels, such investments could become what are termed “stranded assets”. There are also signs of a surge in low-carbon technologies, particularly in the renewable energy sector. Last week, Lazard, the asset management firm, reported that a decline in cost and increased efficiency means large wind and solar installations in the US can now, without subsidies, be cost competitive with gas-fired power. There is also increased activity on the carbon pricing front. China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, recently announced it would establish a countrywide emissions trading system by 2016. If implemented, the China carbon trading system will be the world’s biggest. The country already runs seven regional carbon trading schemes. – Climate News Network

Nepal wins hearts and minds with biogas boom

Villagers in Nepal are increasingly being persuaded that small biogas installations using human waste to provide fuel are not only desirable but are also helping to reduce deforestation of the Himalayas and carbon emissions. KATHMANDU, 2 July, 2014 − Sunita Bote, a 30-year-old housewife from the small village of Kumroj in eastern Nepal, was far from convinced when energy specialists from the capital city, Kathmandu, talked about the benefits of constructing a small biogas plant near her house. “At first, I shuddered at the thought of connecting my cooking stove with a toilet’s septic tank,” Sunita recalls. But she was eventually persuaded – and now realises the multiple benefits of the biogas system. The plant not only produces enough energy for cooking for her family of seven, it also gets rid of both human and animal waste. “It is no longer seems disgusting to me,” Sunita says. “Instead, it has eased my household chores.” Most of Sunita’s neighbours feel the same way, and Kumroj has now been named by the government as Nepal’s first model biogas village, with more than 80% of households having their own biogas installations.

Frequent blackouts

Nepal, a landlocked country of just over 26 million people, has big energy problems. Its cities and towns, reliant on imported fossil fuels for energy, suffer frequent electricity blackouts due to ageing infrastructure and shortages of funds. With its mountain ranges and many rivers, there is great potential for hydropower, but tight budgets mean there has as yet been little investment in these big, capital-intensive projects. However, the energy outlook is slowly changing. Instead of building big hydropower plants, local groups − helped by NGOs and outside funders − are constructing micro hydro projects all over the country. So far, more than 1,000 such plants have been built. There has also been investment in developing solar power. Meanwhile, thousands of biogas projects are being put in place in backyards and fields throughout the country.

Fuel needs

According to the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), a government agency responsible for promoting renewable energy, there are now more than 300,000 biogas plants providing for the fuel needs of nearly 6% of Nepal’s households. “At first, people were wary about getting energy from their toilet septic tanks,” says Professor Govinda Pokharel, vice-chairman of the government’s National Planning Commission and, until recently, a director of AEPC.

“In some cases, those who installed biogas plants were even ostracised by their neighbours”

“It was human faeces that caused the trouble. People, especially those who were not educated and were living in remote villages, were against the idea of using their faeces for cooking food. In some cases, those who installed biogas plants were even ostracised by their neighbours. But attitudes have changed. When animal dung is mixed with human faeces, greater power is generated.” Traditionally, wood has been the main source of fuel for cooking and heating. But deforestation – with the resulting landslides and floods – has been a big problem.

Trees saved

The Biogas Sector Programme, a Kathmandu-based organisation that promotes the use of biogas, says every biogas plant can save 1.25 trees each year, That means that, due to biogas, nearly 400,000 trees a year throughout the country are saved from being chopped down. Biogas not only replaces wood for fuel, it can also help reduce carbon emissions. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) calculates that a standard biogas plant saves greenhouse gas emissions of between three and five tons each year, compared with other energy sources such as wood. The AEPC says that Nepal, through the use of biogas and by not cutting tree cover, is helping to reduce the country’s overall emissions by more than one million tons a year. “It may not be a huge contribution at the global level, but it is not negligible either,” Prof Pokharel says. There are plans to install at least 26,000 biogas plants around the country each year. “The more we install, the more we save trees,” Prof Pokharel says, “And the saving of each tree is important in combating climate change.” – Climate News Network

 

• Om Astha Rai is a reporter with Nepalese national newspaper, Republica Daily. Follow him on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/omastharai

Villagers in Nepal are increasingly being persuaded that small biogas installations using human waste to provide fuel are not only desirable but are also helping to reduce deforestation of the Himalayas and carbon emissions. KATHMANDU, 2 July, 2014 − Sunita Bote, a 30-year-old housewife from the small village of Kumroj in eastern Nepal, was far from convinced when energy specialists from the capital city, Kathmandu, talked about the benefits of constructing a small biogas plant near her house. “At first, I shuddered at the thought of connecting my cooking stove with a toilet’s septic tank,” Sunita recalls. But she was eventually persuaded – and now realises the multiple benefits of the biogas system. The plant not only produces enough energy for cooking for her family of seven, it also gets rid of both human and animal waste. “It is no longer seems disgusting to me,” Sunita says. “Instead, it has eased my household chores.” Most of Sunita’s neighbours feel the same way, and Kumroj has now been named by the government as Nepal’s first model biogas village, with more than 80% of households having their own biogas installations.

Frequent blackouts

Nepal, a landlocked country of just over 26 million people, has big energy problems. Its cities and towns, reliant on imported fossil fuels for energy, suffer frequent electricity blackouts due to ageing infrastructure and shortages of funds. With its mountain ranges and many rivers, there is great potential for hydropower, but tight budgets mean there has as yet been little investment in these big, capital-intensive projects. However, the energy outlook is slowly changing. Instead of building big hydropower plants, local groups − helped by NGOs and outside funders − are constructing micro hydro projects all over the country. So far, more than 1,000 such plants have been built. There has also been investment in developing solar power. Meanwhile, thousands of biogas projects are being put in place in backyards and fields throughout the country.

Fuel needs

According to the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), a government agency responsible for promoting renewable energy, there are now more than 300,000 biogas plants providing for the fuel needs of nearly 6% of Nepal’s households. “At first, people were wary about getting energy from their toilet septic tanks,” says Professor Govinda Pokharel, vice-chairman of the government’s National Planning Commission and, until recently, a director of AEPC.

“In some cases, those who installed biogas plants were even ostracised by their neighbours”

“It was human faeces that caused the trouble. People, especially those who were not educated and were living in remote villages, were against the idea of using their faeces for cooking food. In some cases, those who installed biogas plants were even ostracised by their neighbours. But attitudes have changed. When animal dung is mixed with human faeces, greater power is generated.” Traditionally, wood has been the main source of fuel for cooking and heating. But deforestation – with the resulting landslides and floods – has been a big problem.

Trees saved

The Biogas Sector Programme, a Kathmandu-based organisation that promotes the use of biogas, says every biogas plant can save 1.25 trees each year, That means that, due to biogas, nearly 400,000 trees a year throughout the country are saved from being chopped down. Biogas not only replaces wood for fuel, it can also help reduce carbon emissions. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) calculates that a standard biogas plant saves greenhouse gas emissions of between three and five tons each year, compared with other energy sources such as wood. The AEPC says that Nepal, through the use of biogas and by not cutting tree cover, is helping to reduce the country’s overall emissions by more than one million tons a year. “It may not be a huge contribution at the global level, but it is not negligible either,” Prof Pokharel says. There are plans to install at least 26,000 biogas plants around the country each year. “The more we install, the more we save trees,” Prof Pokharel says, “And the saving of each tree is important in combating climate change.” – Climate News Network

 

• Om Astha Rai is a reporter with Nepalese national newspaper, Republica Daily. Follow him on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/omastharai

Monsoon brings late relief to scorched India

Meteorological researchers in India suspect that climate change is a contributory factor to the changing weather patterns that have caused  the late arrival of the monsoon after a summer of swelteringly dry heat that has broken temperature records

Kolkata, 24 June, 2014 − At last, the rains have come. The summer monsoon arrived in West Bengal last week – almost two weeks later than usual − and brought relief to Kolkata and other cities and states across India that have been enduring an unusually hot summer. A temperature of 41.5˚C was recorded in Kolkata in late May – the highest in 10 years – while temperatures in New Delhi  earlier this month exceeded 43˚C for seven consecutive days, and at one stage reached 48˚C. Other cities and states have had record temperatures, and many lives have been lost due to the heat. Livelihoods have also suffered. Kolkata is famous for its bustling streets and pavements crowded with hawkers, but throughout recent months there has been a deserted look to the city. “We have had to close our stalls earlier than usual and there’s been hardly any customers,” says Asraf Ali, a street hawker. “People from neighbouring districts, who are our main customers, have not been coming into the city due to the terrible heat.”

Absence of humidity

One thing that’s been worrying residents of Kolkata is an unusual period of what is called “dry heat” – an absence of humidity. Locals say this has made daytime conditions even more scorching. Aminul Hasaan, a worker in one of Kolkata’s notoriously polluting leather tanning factories, says: “I was working so hard, and usually I sweat so much. But in the weeks before the monsoon I felt my forehead was always dry. It made me feel sick.” Anshujyoti Das, who works for Express Weather, a private weather research organisation that aims to provide location-specific weather forecasts, says the dry heat indicates certain changes in weather patterns. He says: “We cannot claim that this is the direct result of climate change, but we can’t brush the issue under the carpet. We must conduct studies to ascertain the reasons behind such unusual weather patterns.” One possible cause for the dry conditions is thought to be the absence of the north-westerly storms that usually lash Kolkata and surrounding areas in the run-up to the monsoon. On average, five to seven such storms hit in April and May, but this year only one was recorded. There was also an absence of moisture-laden winds blowing from the south. Due to the conditions, the local government authorities extended summer vacations at 57,000 primary schools and more than 18,000 secondary schools. And the city police in Kolkata decided that traffic constables aged 55 and above should be relieved of their duties because of the extreme heat. Dilip Adak, a senior officer at Kolkata’s traffic department, said: “We try to help [traffic policemen] by providing oral rehydration kits and umbrellas, but often that is not enough.”

Driving up prices

About half of India’s 1.25 billon people are involved in agriculture and are dependent on the summer monsoon rains. The late arrival of the monsoon can have a serious impact, driving up prices of many agricultural goods. The latest report from the Indian Meteorological Department shows that the monsoon has not only arrived late but is less intense than normal, with many areas receiving well below average rainfall. Climate change and the influence of an El Niño – a periodic warming of waters in the western Pacific that affects prevailing trade winds, with serious consequences on both sides of the Pacific and Indian Oceans – are seen as important influences on the behaviour of the monsoon– Climate News Network

• Shiba Nanda Basu is a reporter with The Statesman newspaper, Kolkata, India.

• Additional reporting by Kieran Cooke.

Meteorological researchers in India suspect that climate change is a contributory factor to the changing weather patterns that have caused  the late arrival of the monsoon after a summer of swelteringly dry heat that has broken temperature records

Kolkata, 24 June, 2014 − At last, the rains have come. The summer monsoon arrived in West Bengal last week – almost two weeks later than usual − and brought relief to Kolkata and other cities and states across India that have been enduring an unusually hot summer. A temperature of 41.5˚C was recorded in Kolkata in late May – the highest in 10 years – while temperatures in New Delhi  earlier this month exceeded 43˚C for seven consecutive days, and at one stage reached 48˚C. Other cities and states have had record temperatures, and many lives have been lost due to the heat. Livelihoods have also suffered. Kolkata is famous for its bustling streets and pavements crowded with hawkers, but throughout recent months there has been a deserted look to the city. “We have had to close our stalls earlier than usual and there’s been hardly any customers,” says Asraf Ali, a street hawker. “People from neighbouring districts, who are our main customers, have not been coming into the city due to the terrible heat.”

Absence of humidity

One thing that’s been worrying residents of Kolkata is an unusual period of what is called “dry heat” – an absence of humidity. Locals say this has made daytime conditions even more scorching. Aminul Hasaan, a worker in one of Kolkata’s notoriously polluting leather tanning factories, says: “I was working so hard, and usually I sweat so much. But in the weeks before the monsoon I felt my forehead was always dry. It made me feel sick.” Anshujyoti Das, who works for Express Weather, a private weather research organisation that aims to provide location-specific weather forecasts, says the dry heat indicates certain changes in weather patterns. He says: “We cannot claim that this is the direct result of climate change, but we can’t brush the issue under the carpet. We must conduct studies to ascertain the reasons behind such unusual weather patterns.” One possible cause for the dry conditions is thought to be the absence of the north-westerly storms that usually lash Kolkata and surrounding areas in the run-up to the monsoon. On average, five to seven such storms hit in April and May, but this year only one was recorded. There was also an absence of moisture-laden winds blowing from the south. Due to the conditions, the local government authorities extended summer vacations at 57,000 primary schools and more than 18,000 secondary schools. And the city police in Kolkata decided that traffic constables aged 55 and above should be relieved of their duties because of the extreme heat. Dilip Adak, a senior officer at Kolkata’s traffic department, said: “We try to help [traffic policemen] by providing oral rehydration kits and umbrellas, but often that is not enough.”

Driving up prices

About half of India’s 1.25 billon people are involved in agriculture and are dependent on the summer monsoon rains. The late arrival of the monsoon can have a serious impact, driving up prices of many agricultural goods. The latest report from the Indian Meteorological Department shows that the monsoon has not only arrived late but is less intense than normal, with many areas receiving well below average rainfall. Climate change and the influence of an El Niño – a periodic warming of waters in the western Pacific that affects prevailing trade winds, with serious consequences on both sides of the Pacific and Indian Oceans – are seen as important influences on the behaviour of the monsoon– Climate News Network

• Shiba Nanda Basu is a reporter with The Statesman newspaper, Kolkata, India.

• Additional reporting by Kieran Cooke.

India’s lethal heat wave strikes again

Large numbers of people die in India each year because of heat waves − and as climate change takes hold and the country swelters again, doctors are warning the public to take extra precautions Chennai, 28 May − Kumar Srinivasan, a 34-year-old policeman, is struggling to cope with the heat as he controls traffic at a busy city-centre road junction in Chennai, South India. “I feel like a roasted chicken,” he says. “But it’s actually worse, since I am alive while the chicken would have gone to rest in heaven.” India is sizzling under hot winds as many parts of the country suffer temperatures hovering above 40˚C. And officials in the National Weather Forecasting Center of the India Metrological Department have warned that “heat waves to severe heat wave conditions would prevail in isolated parts of the country in the last week of May”. As the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports confirm that India will continue to get hotter because of climate change, doctors are concerned that the public needs to be warned of the danger they are in. Excess heat is already claiming many lives. Research published earlier this year in the journal Plos One showed that in May 2010, when the Indian city of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat experienced a heat wave with record-breaking maximum temperatures of 46.8˚C, an estimated 1,344 deaths occurred − 43% higher than expected.

Road fatalities

Another chilling statistic in 2012, recently published by the National Crime Records Bureau, is that 5.4% of the total 22,960 road fatalities in India were attributable to heat strokes. That is more than 1,000 people. The Indian government has done its bit to make the summer slightly more bearable for policemen such as Srinivasan, providing them with packets of aerated fruit juices and buttermilk (yoghurt diluted in water), as well as sunglasses. “I am just waiting for the summer to be over, or for some of the summer showers that sometimes happen during June,” Srinivasan says before stepping out of the shade of his little booth to start directing traffic manually again in the scorching heat because a power failure has cut out the traffic lights. Indian politicians, trying to woo voters, put up water pandals (small stalls made of dried palm/coconut leaves) to supply water, and even buttermilk at times, to the public during the recent election period. In fact, the Indian elections are deliberately timetabled to avoid the worst part of summer, and the entire election process this time was completed by the second week of May, when the sun was beginning to get harsh.. Doctors at the government’s Rajiv Gandhi General Hospital in Chennai have asked the public to take preventive measures to avoid heat strokes – including wearing light-coloured, loose-fitting cotton clothes, staying hydrated, and avoiding strenuous exercise during the day.

“The maximum temperature will reach 40˚C  in many places in Tamil Nadu . . .  It’s going to be sweltering hot.”

And the Regional Meterological Centre (RMC) in Chennai has been publishing weather projections for the state of Tamil Nadu on its website, keeping people informed with with regular updates of  projections of average temperatures for one week for every district in the state. S.R. Ramanan, director of the RMC, told Climate News Network: “The maximum temperature will reach 40˚C  in many places in Tamil Nadu in the coming days.  It’s going to be sweltering hot.” While rich and middle-class Indians go for upgraded refrigerators, air conditioners and coolers, the poor households have to settle for earthen pots to keep drinking water cool. The plight of people is the same, or even worse, in most parts of tropical India during the hostile summers, particularly since fast-moving urbanisation is taking its toll on trees, which are being chopped down to make way for new high-rise buildings, roads and shopping malls

Loss of shade

The loss of the natural shade of avenue trees means that it’s not just humans who are suffering. The bovine population roams around the streets looking for any tiny puddle of urban gutter water to quench their thirst, and the government’s forest department has had to build concrete tanks and fill them with water to try to prevent animals from suffering dehydration. Many milkmen live in urban areas and do not take enough care of their cows to protect them from the summer heat, and the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University has also found that many aged animals suffer kidney failures in the summer season because of dehydration. Meanwhile, as more people die every year in India due to heat strokes, social activists are calling for the government to take up initiatives to protect people and spread awareness about preventive measures. “Curbing privatisation of water and ensuring supply of good quality drinking water for the residents is a major step to avoid dehydration and heat strokes,” said Chennai social activist A.Devaneyan. “The government health department should conduct awareness campaigns to inform people about taking additional care of elders and children during the summer.” Devaneyan pointed out that the rising number of players in the bottled drinking water industry has also led to rising prices. He said: “A one-litre bottle now costs 20 rupees. How many can afford that?” Not surprisingly, the popularity of the Tamil Nadu state chief minister, Ms Jayalalithaa Jayaram, also rose after she recently ordered her government to supply water at 10 rupees per bottle − half the price of the “private” water. – Climate News Network.

  • Pramila Krishnan is based in Chennai as Principal Correspondent of the Deccan Chronicle, an English-language newspaper in India.

Large numbers of people die in India each year because of heat waves − and as climate change takes hold and the country swelters again, doctors are warning the public to take extra precautions Chennai, 28 May − Kumar Srinivasan, a 34-year-old policeman, is struggling to cope with the heat as he controls traffic at a busy city-centre road junction in Chennai, South India. “I feel like a roasted chicken,” he says. “But it’s actually worse, since I am alive while the chicken would have gone to rest in heaven.” India is sizzling under hot winds as many parts of the country suffer temperatures hovering above 40˚C. And officials in the National Weather Forecasting Center of the India Metrological Department have warned that “heat waves to severe heat wave conditions would prevail in isolated parts of the country in the last week of May”. As the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports confirm that India will continue to get hotter because of climate change, doctors are concerned that the public needs to be warned of the danger they are in. Excess heat is already claiming many lives. Research published earlier this year in the journal Plos One showed that in May 2010, when the Indian city of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat experienced a heat wave with record-breaking maximum temperatures of 46.8˚C, an estimated 1,344 deaths occurred − 43% higher than expected.

Road fatalities

Another chilling statistic in 2012, recently published by the National Crime Records Bureau, is that 5.4% of the total 22,960 road fatalities in India were attributable to heat strokes. That is more than 1,000 people. The Indian government has done its bit to make the summer slightly more bearable for policemen such as Srinivasan, providing them with packets of aerated fruit juices and buttermilk (yoghurt diluted in water), as well as sunglasses. “I am just waiting for the summer to be over, or for some of the summer showers that sometimes happen during June,” Srinivasan says before stepping out of the shade of his little booth to start directing traffic manually again in the scorching heat because a power failure has cut out the traffic lights. Indian politicians, trying to woo voters, put up water pandals (small stalls made of dried palm/coconut leaves) to supply water, and even buttermilk at times, to the public during the recent election period. In fact, the Indian elections are deliberately timetabled to avoid the worst part of summer, and the entire election process this time was completed by the second week of May, when the sun was beginning to get harsh.. Doctors at the government’s Rajiv Gandhi General Hospital in Chennai have asked the public to take preventive measures to avoid heat strokes – including wearing light-coloured, loose-fitting cotton clothes, staying hydrated, and avoiding strenuous exercise during the day.

“The maximum temperature will reach 40˚C  in many places in Tamil Nadu . . .  It’s going to be sweltering hot.”

And the Regional Meterological Centre (RMC) in Chennai has been publishing weather projections for the state of Tamil Nadu on its website, keeping people informed with with regular updates of  projections of average temperatures for one week for every district in the state. S.R. Ramanan, director of the RMC, told Climate News Network: “The maximum temperature will reach 40˚C  in many places in Tamil Nadu in the coming days.  It’s going to be sweltering hot.” While rich and middle-class Indians go for upgraded refrigerators, air conditioners and coolers, the poor households have to settle for earthen pots to keep drinking water cool. The plight of people is the same, or even worse, in most parts of tropical India during the hostile summers, particularly since fast-moving urbanisation is taking its toll on trees, which are being chopped down to make way for new high-rise buildings, roads and shopping malls

Loss of shade

The loss of the natural shade of avenue trees means that it’s not just humans who are suffering. The bovine population roams around the streets looking for any tiny puddle of urban gutter water to quench their thirst, and the government’s forest department has had to build concrete tanks and fill them with water to try to prevent animals from suffering dehydration. Many milkmen live in urban areas and do not take enough care of their cows to protect them from the summer heat, and the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University has also found that many aged animals suffer kidney failures in the summer season because of dehydration. Meanwhile, as more people die every year in India due to heat strokes, social activists are calling for the government to take up initiatives to protect people and spread awareness about preventive measures. “Curbing privatisation of water and ensuring supply of good quality drinking water for the residents is a major step to avoid dehydration and heat strokes,” said Chennai social activist A.Devaneyan. “The government health department should conduct awareness campaigns to inform people about taking additional care of elders and children during the summer.” Devaneyan pointed out that the rising number of players in the bottled drinking water industry has also led to rising prices. He said: “A one-litre bottle now costs 20 rupees. How many can afford that?” Not surprisingly, the popularity of the Tamil Nadu state chief minister, Ms Jayalalithaa Jayaram, also rose after she recently ordered her government to supply water at 10 rupees per bottle − half the price of the “private” water. – Climate News Network.

  • Pramila Krishnan is based in Chennai as Principal Correspondent of the Deccan Chronicle, an English-language newspaper in India.

No way back for West Antarctic glaciers

Satellite data analysis reveals the ominous news that the melting glaciers of West Antarctica have passed the ‘point of no return’ as the southern hemisphere gets warmer LONDON, 22 May – The glaciers of the West Antarctic may be in irreversible retreat, according to the evidence of satellite data analysed by scientists at the US space agency Nasa. The study of 19 years of data, due to be reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, confirms the ominous news that the southern hemisphere is not just warming − it is that it is warming in a way that speeds up the melting of the West Antarctic glaciers. Long ago, glaciologists began to wonder whether the West Antarctic ice sheet was inherently unstable. The water locked in the ice sheet in the Amundsen Sea region – the area the Nasa researchers examined − is enough to raise global sea levels by more than a metre. If the whole West Antarctic ice sheet turned to water, sea levels would rise by at least five metres.

Steady change

What the latest research has revealed is a steady change in the glacial grounding line, which is the point in a glacier’s progress towards the sea where its bottom no longer scrapes on rock but starts to float on water. It is in the nature of a glacier to flow towards the sea, and at intervals to calve an iceberg that will then float away and melt. The puzzle for scientists has been to work out whether this process has begun to accelerate. Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine, thinks it has. He and his research partners believe that European Space Agency satellite data has recorded the points at which the grounding lines can be identified in a series of West Antarctic glaciers monitored between 1992 and 2011, as the glaciers flexed in response to the movement of tides. All the grounding lines had retreated upstream, away from the sea − some by more than 30 kilometres. The grounding lines are all buried under hundreds of metres of ice, and are difficult to identify. The shift of ice in response to tidal ebb and flow provides an important clue. It also signals an acceleration of melting, because it is the glacier’s slowness that keeps the sea levels static. As it inches towards the sea, there is time for more snow and ice to pile up behind it.

Speeds up

But if the water gets under the ice sheet, it reduces friction and accelerates the passage of frozen water downstream. So the whole glacier speeds up, and the grounding line moves yet further upstream. Something similar has been reported from the glaciers of Greenland. And once the process starts, there is no obvious reason why it would stop. The melting will still be slow, but the latest evidence indicates that it seems to be inexorable. “We’ve passed the point of no return,” Prof Rignot says. “At current melt rates, these glaciers will be history within a few hundred years. “The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable. The fact that the retreat is happening simultaneously over a large sector suggests it was triggered by a common cause, such as an increase in the amount of ocean heat beneath the floating sections of the glaciers. At this point, the end of this sector appears to be inevitable.” – Climate News Network

Satellite data analysis reveals the ominous news that the melting glaciers of West Antarctica have passed the ‘point of no return’ as the southern hemisphere gets warmer LONDON, 22 May – The glaciers of the West Antarctic may be in irreversible retreat, according to the evidence of satellite data analysed by scientists at the US space agency Nasa. The study of 19 years of data, due to be reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, confirms the ominous news that the southern hemisphere is not just warming − it is that it is warming in a way that speeds up the melting of the West Antarctic glaciers. Long ago, glaciologists began to wonder whether the West Antarctic ice sheet was inherently unstable. The water locked in the ice sheet in the Amundsen Sea region – the area the Nasa researchers examined − is enough to raise global sea levels by more than a metre. If the whole West Antarctic ice sheet turned to water, sea levels would rise by at least five metres.

Steady change

What the latest research has revealed is a steady change in the glacial grounding line, which is the point in a glacier’s progress towards the sea where its bottom no longer scrapes on rock but starts to float on water. It is in the nature of a glacier to flow towards the sea, and at intervals to calve an iceberg that will then float away and melt. The puzzle for scientists has been to work out whether this process has begun to accelerate. Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine, thinks it has. He and his research partners believe that European Space Agency satellite data has recorded the points at which the grounding lines can be identified in a series of West Antarctic glaciers monitored between 1992 and 2011, as the glaciers flexed in response to the movement of tides. All the grounding lines had retreated upstream, away from the sea − some by more than 30 kilometres. The grounding lines are all buried under hundreds of metres of ice, and are difficult to identify. The shift of ice in response to tidal ebb and flow provides an important clue. It also signals an acceleration of melting, because it is the glacier’s slowness that keeps the sea levels static. As it inches towards the sea, there is time for more snow and ice to pile up behind it.

Speeds up

But if the water gets under the ice sheet, it reduces friction and accelerates the passage of frozen water downstream. So the whole glacier speeds up, and the grounding line moves yet further upstream. Something similar has been reported from the glaciers of Greenland. And once the process starts, there is no obvious reason why it would stop. The melting will still be slow, but the latest evidence indicates that it seems to be inexorable. “We’ve passed the point of no return,” Prof Rignot says. “At current melt rates, these glaciers will be history within a few hundred years. “The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable. The fact that the retreat is happening simultaneously over a large sector suggests it was triggered by a common cause, such as an increase in the amount of ocean heat beneath the floating sections of the glaciers. At this point, the end of this sector appears to be inevitable.” – Climate News Network

Mild climate spurs Genghis Khan's cavalry

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Scientists have unearthed possible evidence that climate change played a role in the expansion of the Mongol empire of Genghis Khan. They say an exceptionally warm period promoted grass growth, vital for the Mongols’ legendary horses.

LONDON, 12 March – Climate change – already implicated in the fall of Bronze Age civilisations in the Mediterranean and in the Indus Valley  – may also account for the rise of one of the most fearsome empires in history.

US researchers mapping the pattern of rainfall in medieval Mongolia think they may have identified a season of plenty that put Genghis Khan on the road towards world domination.

Archaeologists and climate scientists have identified sustained drought as a reason for the fall of the Minoan civilisation in Crete, and the decay of the Harappan culture in 1,000 years earlier. But a team from Columbia University report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that annual growth rings in a trove of stunted larches and Siberian pines in the Khangai mountains of Mongolia tell a different story.

Rings record

The seasonal growth rings record a chronicle of harsh dry centuries dating back to 658AD. But between the years 1211 to 1230, something unusual happened.

Rain fell, and central Mongolia had one of the wettest periods in its history. The same period was unusually warm. Since those years coincide with the rise of the Mongol empire the connection suggested itself immediately: the Mongols were herdsmen and nomads.

Wet and warm weather means plenty of grass. Suddenly, tribesmen who wandered far to find grazing space had a surplus of feed, and soon of animals, including a glut of war horses and cattle.

The Mongol cavalry were famous for their horsemanship. “The weather may literally have supplied the Mongols with the horsepower they needed to do what they did,” says Neil Pederson of Columbia’s Lamont Doherty Observatory.

All conquering

For a brief period, the Mongols, led by a commander of remarkable military and political genius, and then by his descendants, conquered and ruled most of modern Russia, Korea, China, Persia, India, the Middle East and eastern Europe.

There is never just one reason for a civilisation’s rise or fall, and historians have also argued that the Mongol invasions might have been driven instead by hunger and poverty in the Mongol heartland.

So the researchers would like to back up their tree ring evidence with studies of lake sediments, analyses of historical documents and so on, to establish that the steppes really could have provided for the great khan and his horde. The jury is still out.

The tree rings also show that after the first growth of the Mongol empire, the climate returned to its normal cold dry state. In the last 40 years, temperatures have risen. And since 1990, the country has experienced a series of devastating summer droughts often followed by a more than usually long cold winter.

Modern day drought

After the last such, an estimated eight million animals died, herdsmen became impoverished, and the poorest have moved to the capital of Ulaanbaatar, which is now home to half of the nation’s 3 million people.

“That last big drought is an example of what may happen in the future, not just in Mongolia but in a lot of inner Asia,” says Pederson. “The heat is a double whammy – even if the rainfall doesn’t change, the landscape is going to get drier.”

The potential consequences for modern Mongolia, the authors warn, could be severe.- Climate News Network

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Scientists have unearthed possible evidence that climate change played a role in the expansion of the Mongol empire of Genghis Khan. They say an exceptionally warm period promoted grass growth, vital for the Mongols’ legendary horses.

LONDON, 12 March – Climate change – already implicated in the fall of Bronze Age civilisations in the Mediterranean and in the Indus Valley  – may also account for the rise of one of the most fearsome empires in history.

US researchers mapping the pattern of rainfall in medieval Mongolia think they may have identified a season of plenty that put Genghis Khan on the road towards world domination.

Archaeologists and climate scientists have identified sustained drought as a reason for the fall of the Minoan civilisation in Crete, and the decay of the Harappan culture in 1,000 years earlier. But a team from Columbia University report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that annual growth rings in a trove of stunted larches and Siberian pines in the Khangai mountains of Mongolia tell a different story.

Rings record

The seasonal growth rings record a chronicle of harsh dry centuries dating back to 658AD. But between the years 1211 to 1230, something unusual happened.

Rain fell, and central Mongolia had one of the wettest periods in its history. The same period was unusually warm. Since those years coincide with the rise of the Mongol empire the connection suggested itself immediately: the Mongols were herdsmen and nomads.

Wet and warm weather means plenty of grass. Suddenly, tribesmen who wandered far to find grazing space had a surplus of feed, and soon of animals, including a glut of war horses and cattle.

The Mongol cavalry were famous for their horsemanship. “The weather may literally have supplied the Mongols with the horsepower they needed to do what they did,” says Neil Pederson of Columbia’s Lamont Doherty Observatory.

All conquering

For a brief period, the Mongols, led by a commander of remarkable military and political genius, and then by his descendants, conquered and ruled most of modern Russia, Korea, China, Persia, India, the Middle East and eastern Europe.

There is never just one reason for a civilisation’s rise or fall, and historians have also argued that the Mongol invasions might have been driven instead by hunger and poverty in the Mongol heartland.

So the researchers would like to back up their tree ring evidence with studies of lake sediments, analyses of historical documents and so on, to establish that the steppes really could have provided for the great khan and his horde. The jury is still out.

The tree rings also show that after the first growth of the Mongol empire, the climate returned to its normal cold dry state. In the last 40 years, temperatures have risen. And since 1990, the country has experienced a series of devastating summer droughts often followed by a more than usually long cold winter.

Modern day drought

After the last such, an estimated eight million animals died, herdsmen became impoverished, and the poorest have moved to the capital of Ulaanbaatar, which is now home to half of the nation’s 3 million people.

“That last big drought is an example of what may happen in the future, not just in Mongolia but in a lot of inner Asia,” says Pederson. “The heat is a double whammy – even if the rainfall doesn’t change, the landscape is going to get drier.”

The potential consequences for modern Mongolia, the authors warn, could be severe.- Climate News Network

 

Mild climate spurs Genghis Khan’s cavalry

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Scientists have unearthed possible evidence that climate change played a role in the expansion of the Mongol empire of Genghis Khan. They say an exceptionally warm period promoted grass growth, vital for the Mongols’ legendary horses. LONDON, 12 March – Climate change – already implicated in the fall of Bronze Age civilisations in the Mediterranean and in the Indus Valley  – may also account for the rise of one of the most fearsome empires in history. US researchers mapping the pattern of rainfall in medieval Mongolia think they may have identified a season of plenty that put Genghis Khan on the road towards world domination. Archaeologists and climate scientists have identified sustained drought as a reason for the fall of the Minoan civilisation in Crete, and the decay of the Harappan culture in 1,000 years earlier. But a team from Columbia University report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that annual growth rings in a trove of stunted larches and Siberian pines in the Khangai mountains of Mongolia tell a different story.

Rings record

The seasonal growth rings record a chronicle of harsh dry centuries dating back to 658AD. But between the years 1211 to 1230, something unusual happened. Rain fell, and central Mongolia had one of the wettest periods in its history. The same period was unusually warm. Since those years coincide with the rise of the Mongol empire the connection suggested itself immediately: the Mongols were herdsmen and nomads. Wet and warm weather means plenty of grass. Suddenly, tribesmen who wandered far to find grazing space had a surplus of feed, and soon of animals, including a glut of war horses and cattle. The Mongol cavalry were famous for their horsemanship. “The weather may literally have supplied the Mongols with the horsepower they needed to do what they did,” says Neil Pederson of Columbia’s Lamont Doherty Observatory.

All conquering

For a brief period, the Mongols, led by a commander of remarkable military and political genius, and then by his descendants, conquered and ruled most of modern Russia, Korea, China, Persia, India, the Middle East and eastern Europe. There is never just one reason for a civilisation’s rise or fall, and historians have also argued that the Mongol invasions might have been driven instead by hunger and poverty in the Mongol heartland. So the researchers would like to back up their tree ring evidence with studies of lake sediments, analyses of historical documents and so on, to establish that the steppes really could have provided for the great khan and his horde. The jury is still out. The tree rings also show that after the first growth of the Mongol empire, the climate returned to its normal cold dry state. In the last 40 years, temperatures have risen. And since 1990, the country has experienced a series of devastating summer droughts often followed by a more than usually long cold winter.

Modern day drought

After the last such, an estimated eight million animals died, herdsmen became impoverished, and the poorest have moved to the capital of Ulaanbaatar, which is now home to half of the nation’s 3 million people. “That last big drought is an example of what may happen in the future, not just in Mongolia but in a lot of inner Asia,” says Pederson. “The heat is a double whammy – even if the rainfall doesn’t change, the landscape is going to get drier.” The potential consequences for modern Mongolia, the authors warn, could be severe.- Climate News Network  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Scientists have unearthed possible evidence that climate change played a role in the expansion of the Mongol empire of Genghis Khan. They say an exceptionally warm period promoted grass growth, vital for the Mongols’ legendary horses. LONDON, 12 March – Climate change – already implicated in the fall of Bronze Age civilisations in the Mediterranean and in the Indus Valley  – may also account for the rise of one of the most fearsome empires in history. US researchers mapping the pattern of rainfall in medieval Mongolia think they may have identified a season of plenty that put Genghis Khan on the road towards world domination. Archaeologists and climate scientists have identified sustained drought as a reason for the fall of the Minoan civilisation in Crete, and the decay of the Harappan culture in 1,000 years earlier. But a team from Columbia University report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that annual growth rings in a trove of stunted larches and Siberian pines in the Khangai mountains of Mongolia tell a different story.

Rings record

The seasonal growth rings record a chronicle of harsh dry centuries dating back to 658AD. But between the years 1211 to 1230, something unusual happened. Rain fell, and central Mongolia had one of the wettest periods in its history. The same period was unusually warm. Since those years coincide with the rise of the Mongol empire the connection suggested itself immediately: the Mongols were herdsmen and nomads. Wet and warm weather means plenty of grass. Suddenly, tribesmen who wandered far to find grazing space had a surplus of feed, and soon of animals, including a glut of war horses and cattle. The Mongol cavalry were famous for their horsemanship. “The weather may literally have supplied the Mongols with the horsepower they needed to do what they did,” says Neil Pederson of Columbia’s Lamont Doherty Observatory.

All conquering

For a brief period, the Mongols, led by a commander of remarkable military and political genius, and then by his descendants, conquered and ruled most of modern Russia, Korea, China, Persia, India, the Middle East and eastern Europe. There is never just one reason for a civilisation’s rise or fall, and historians have also argued that the Mongol invasions might have been driven instead by hunger and poverty in the Mongol heartland. So the researchers would like to back up their tree ring evidence with studies of lake sediments, analyses of historical documents and so on, to establish that the steppes really could have provided for the great khan and his horde. The jury is still out. The tree rings also show that after the first growth of the Mongol empire, the climate returned to its normal cold dry state. In the last 40 years, temperatures have risen. And since 1990, the country has experienced a series of devastating summer droughts often followed by a more than usually long cold winter.

Modern day drought

After the last such, an estimated eight million animals died, herdsmen became impoverished, and the poorest have moved to the capital of Ulaanbaatar, which is now home to half of the nation’s 3 million people. “That last big drought is an example of what may happen in the future, not just in Mongolia but in a lot of inner Asia,” says Pederson. “The heat is a double whammy – even if the rainfall doesn’t change, the landscape is going to get drier.” The potential consequences for modern Mongolia, the authors warn, could be severe.- Climate News Network  

What happens when the oil runs out?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE A new book by Jeremy Leggett, The Energy of Nations: Risk blindness and the road to renaissance, predicts a grim future if our oil-dependent society refuses to change. LONDON, 24 September – It is early 2007 and Jeremy Leggett, environmental campaigner and renewable energy entrepreneur, is on the top floor of a skyscraper in Hong Kong, taking part in a BBC debate on fossil fuels with the head of Shell and other chief executives. Though Leggett is cast in the role of attack dog in the debate, the exchange – initially at least – is polite. The man from Shell says fossil fuels will continue to be a dominant part of the global energy scene for years ahead. Leggett says if that’s the case, then we’re all in for a very rough ride. As CO2 levels go up, the polar ice will melt and sea levels rise. The world economy could collapse. The Shell executive says the world has to have energy – and that’s what companies like his provide. And anyway, energy companies are enterprises, not governments – Shell is not ultimately responsible for the type of energy produced around the globe. “There you have it, I think”, says Leggett. “Shell is not responsible for the energy used in the world. The drug pusher’s argument.” Those of us who write about climate change, fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions do not have an easy time of it. These subjects are not, after all, particularly sexy ones. Pessimism abounds. We struggle to find some good news. Heaven forbid that we might, at times, be glum and boring. Leggett has the great gift of making his subject – the energy sector and its impact on climate change – as readable as any good novel. In part this is due to the layout of his book. Slabs of material about the dot.com bubble, the credit crunch, the ill-fated climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009 or “Peak Oil” – one of the book’s core topics – are broken up by short anecdotes. Leggett is founder and chairman of Solarcentury, the UK’s fastest-growing renewable energy company over the past 13 years. At a gathering of the renewable industry’s great and good, he is introduced to Prince Charles. The heir to the throne approves of Leggett’s photovoltaic panel products but really doesn’t like their colour. There are meetings with financiers and lots of fossil fuel executives. Leggett is continuously frustrated and saddened by the lack of concern about the build-up of CO2 emissions and climate change. The book highlights plenty of conspiracies and a good measure of short termism and amateurishness. A meeting is held at 10 Downing Street with the British prime minister and his chancellor to discuss the difficulties companies such as Leggett’s have in raising bank funding. “As we file out of Number Ten, it strikes me that watching Cameron and Osborne in action has been like reviewing a certain kind of undergraduate project. I saw many of these in my days as an academic. Bright and enthusiastic students, usually from public schools, who are good at talking, but who haven’t really done much preparation work at all.”

State of denial

While some energy company executives are willing to admit the enormity of the problems the world faces in relation to climate change, the industry goes blithely on, mining fossil fuels and pushing CO2 into the atmosphere. Leggett says a series of bubbles are about to burst, with devastating consequences. One is the oil resource bubble. The fossil fuel lobby continuously overstates, by vast amounts, the quantity of oil that still awaits extraction. Meanwhile oil prices continue to rise – from about $20 per barrel in 2000 to around $110 now. Fossil fuel and mining companies are greatly overvalued on the stock market, basing much of their worth on assets which, if climate change is to be tackled, have to remain under the ground. That’s another bubble waiting to go bang.

The Energy of Nations:  It'll get worse before it gets better

The Energy of Nations: It’ll get worse before it gets better

And then there’s the so-called fracking revolution and bubble number three.  The whole business in the US has been over-hyped, says Leggett, often by Wall Street financiers keen to make a quick killing on fracking company stocks.  Many sites are already seeing sharp declines in extractable oil and gas. Dreams about “Saudi America” are just that – dreams. “Logic seems to have flown out the window somewhere”, says Leggett. The narrative bounces along, but the conclusion is grim. Leggett predicts an oil resources crash in 2015 or soon after, followed by financial mayhem far greater than that experienced in the 2008 credit crunch. Maybe we’re collectively suicidal, says Leggett. Societies collapsed in the past because they could not adapt to, or recognise, resource stresses. But then maybe the world would finally wake up. The idea of perpetual growth could be ditched. “I do not pretend that things won’t get much worse before they get better. There will be rioting. There will be food kitchens. There will be blood. There already have been, after the financial crash of 2008. But the next time will be much worse.” The hope, for Leggett, is that a new era of renewable energy and localised power supplies will arise. But first, better dive under the duvet and prepare for the deluge. – Climate News Network The Energy of Nations is published by Taylor & Francis on 26 September in the UK and 7 November in the US. The retail price will be £19.99 or $31.95.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE A new book by Jeremy Leggett, The Energy of Nations: Risk blindness and the road to renaissance, predicts a grim future if our oil-dependent society refuses to change. LONDON, 24 September – It is early 2007 and Jeremy Leggett, environmental campaigner and renewable energy entrepreneur, is on the top floor of a skyscraper in Hong Kong, taking part in a BBC debate on fossil fuels with the head of Shell and other chief executives. Though Leggett is cast in the role of attack dog in the debate, the exchange – initially at least – is polite. The man from Shell says fossil fuels will continue to be a dominant part of the global energy scene for years ahead. Leggett says if that’s the case, then we’re all in for a very rough ride. As CO2 levels go up, the polar ice will melt and sea levels rise. The world economy could collapse. The Shell executive says the world has to have energy – and that’s what companies like his provide. And anyway, energy companies are enterprises, not governments – Shell is not ultimately responsible for the type of energy produced around the globe. “There you have it, I think”, says Leggett. “Shell is not responsible for the energy used in the world. The drug pusher’s argument.” Those of us who write about climate change, fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions do not have an easy time of it. These subjects are not, after all, particularly sexy ones. Pessimism abounds. We struggle to find some good news. Heaven forbid that we might, at times, be glum and boring. Leggett has the great gift of making his subject – the energy sector and its impact on climate change – as readable as any good novel. In part this is due to the layout of his book. Slabs of material about the dot.com bubble, the credit crunch, the ill-fated climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009 or “Peak Oil” – one of the book’s core topics – are broken up by short anecdotes. Leggett is founder and chairman of Solarcentury, the UK’s fastest-growing renewable energy company over the past 13 years. At a gathering of the renewable industry’s great and good, he is introduced to Prince Charles. The heir to the throne approves of Leggett’s photovoltaic panel products but really doesn’t like their colour. There are meetings with financiers and lots of fossil fuel executives. Leggett is continuously frustrated and saddened by the lack of concern about the build-up of CO2 emissions and climate change. The book highlights plenty of conspiracies and a good measure of short termism and amateurishness. A meeting is held at 10 Downing Street with the British prime minister and his chancellor to discuss the difficulties companies such as Leggett’s have in raising bank funding. “As we file out of Number Ten, it strikes me that watching Cameron and Osborne in action has been like reviewing a certain kind of undergraduate project. I saw many of these in my days as an academic. Bright and enthusiastic students, usually from public schools, who are good at talking, but who haven’t really done much preparation work at all.”

State of denial

While some energy company executives are willing to admit the enormity of the problems the world faces in relation to climate change, the industry goes blithely on, mining fossil fuels and pushing CO2 into the atmosphere. Leggett says a series of bubbles are about to burst, with devastating consequences. One is the oil resource bubble. The fossil fuel lobby continuously overstates, by vast amounts, the quantity of oil that still awaits extraction. Meanwhile oil prices continue to rise – from about $20 per barrel in 2000 to around $110 now. Fossil fuel and mining companies are greatly overvalued on the stock market, basing much of their worth on assets which, if climate change is to be tackled, have to remain under the ground. That’s another bubble waiting to go bang.

The Energy of Nations:  It'll get worse before it gets better

The Energy of Nations: It’ll get worse before it gets better

And then there’s the so-called fracking revolution and bubble number three.  The whole business in the US has been over-hyped, says Leggett, often by Wall Street financiers keen to make a quick killing on fracking company stocks.  Many sites are already seeing sharp declines in extractable oil and gas. Dreams about “Saudi America” are just that – dreams. “Logic seems to have flown out the window somewhere”, says Leggett. The narrative bounces along, but the conclusion is grim. Leggett predicts an oil resources crash in 2015 or soon after, followed by financial mayhem far greater than that experienced in the 2008 credit crunch. Maybe we’re collectively suicidal, says Leggett. Societies collapsed in the past because they could not adapt to, or recognise, resource stresses. But then maybe the world would finally wake up. The idea of perpetual growth could be ditched. “I do not pretend that things won’t get much worse before they get better. There will be rioting. There will be food kitchens. There will be blood. There already have been, after the financial crash of 2008. But the next time will be much worse.” The hope, for Leggett, is that a new era of renewable energy and localised power supplies will arise. But first, better dive under the duvet and prepare for the deluge. – Climate News Network The Energy of Nations is published by Taylor & Francis on 26 September in the UK and 7 November in the US. The retail price will be £19.99 or $31.95.

Food waste worsens GHG emissions – FAO

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says food wastage across the world – totalling 1.3 billion tonnes of food annually – is the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions after China and the USA. LONDON, 13 September – The FAO estimates the direct cost to producers of food that goes to waste is currently US $750 billion annually, a figure that excludes wasted fish and seafood. But the FAO says the waste not only causes huge economic losses but is also doing very significant damage to natural resources – climate, water, land and biodiversity. It says its report, Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, is the first study to analyse the impacts of global food waste from an environmental perspective. The authors say: “Without accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from land use change, the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated at 3.3 Gigatonnes [billion tonnes] of CO2 equivalent: as such, food wastage ranks as the third top emitter after the USA and China. “Globally, the blue water footprint (i.e., the consumption of surface and groundwater resources) of food wastage is about 250 cubic kilometres, which is equivalent to the annual water discharge of the Volga river [in Russia], or three times the volume of [Switzerland’s] Lake Geneva. “Finally, produced but uneaten food vainly occupies almost 1.4 billion hectares of land; this represents close to 30% of the world’s agricultural land area.” “We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day,” said the FAO’s director-general, José Graziano da Silva. The FAO has also published a comprehensive tool-kit as a companion to the study; it contains recommendations on how to reduce food loss and waste along the food chain, and details projects around the world that are seeking to tackle the problem. The FAO and the UN Environment Programme are founding partners of the Think Eat Save – Reduce Your Foodprint campaign, which was launched earlier this year and which aims to help to co-ordinate worldwide efforts to cut wastage. The study says 54% of global food wastage occurs during production, post-harvest handling and storage, and 46% at the processing, distribution and consumption stages. As a general trend, developing countries suffer more food losses during the production stages, while food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher in middle and high-income regions. The report says that the later a food product is lost along the chain, the greater the environmental consequences, since the environmental costs incurred during processing, transport, storage and cooking must be added to the initial production costs. Meat production has a substantial impact on the environment in terms of land occupation and carbon footprint, especially in high-income countries and in Latin America, which together account for 80% of all meat wastage. Apart from Latin America, it is high-income regions which are responsible for about 67% of all wasted meat. Fruit wastage contributes significantly to water waste in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, and large volumes of vegetable wastage in industrialised parts of Asia and Europe mean a large carbon footprint for the sector. Wastage of cereals is a significant problem in Asia, affecting carbon emissions as well as water and land use. Rice is a particular problem: paddy fields account for around 20% of human-related emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and a significant amount of rice is wasted. Uneaten food that ends up rotting in landfills is also a large producer of methane, although there is another use to be made of it which can offer worthwhile returns. A British company is among those who are profiting by exploiting them. – Climate News Network

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says food wastage across the world – totalling 1.3 billion tonnes of food annually – is the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions after China and the USA. LONDON, 13 September – The FAO estimates the direct cost to producers of food that goes to waste is currently US $750 billion annually, a figure that excludes wasted fish and seafood. But the FAO says the waste not only causes huge economic losses but is also doing very significant damage to natural resources – climate, water, land and biodiversity. It says its report, Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, is the first study to analyse the impacts of global food waste from an environmental perspective. The authors say: “Without accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from land use change, the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated at 3.3 Gigatonnes [billion tonnes] of CO2 equivalent: as such, food wastage ranks as the third top emitter after the USA and China. “Globally, the blue water footprint (i.e., the consumption of surface and groundwater resources) of food wastage is about 250 cubic kilometres, which is equivalent to the annual water discharge of the Volga river [in Russia], or three times the volume of [Switzerland’s] Lake Geneva. “Finally, produced but uneaten food vainly occupies almost 1.4 billion hectares of land; this represents close to 30% of the world’s agricultural land area.” “We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day,” said the FAO’s director-general, José Graziano da Silva. The FAO has also published a comprehensive tool-kit as a companion to the study; it contains recommendations on how to reduce food loss and waste along the food chain, and details projects around the world that are seeking to tackle the problem. The FAO and the UN Environment Programme are founding partners of the Think Eat Save – Reduce Your Foodprint campaign, which was launched earlier this year and which aims to help to co-ordinate worldwide efforts to cut wastage. The study says 54% of global food wastage occurs during production, post-harvest handling and storage, and 46% at the processing, distribution and consumption stages. As a general trend, developing countries suffer more food losses during the production stages, while food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher in middle and high-income regions. The report says that the later a food product is lost along the chain, the greater the environmental consequences, since the environmental costs incurred during processing, transport, storage and cooking must be added to the initial production costs. Meat production has a substantial impact on the environment in terms of land occupation and carbon footprint, especially in high-income countries and in Latin America, which together account for 80% of all meat wastage. Apart from Latin America, it is high-income regions which are responsible for about 67% of all wasted meat. Fruit wastage contributes significantly to water waste in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, and large volumes of vegetable wastage in industrialised parts of Asia and Europe mean a large carbon footprint for the sector. Wastage of cereals is a significant problem in Asia, affecting carbon emissions as well as water and land use. Rice is a particular problem: paddy fields account for around 20% of human-related emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and a significant amount of rice is wasted. Uneaten food that ends up rotting in landfills is also a large producer of methane, although there is another use to be made of it which can offer worthwhile returns. A British company is among those who are profiting by exploiting them. – Climate News Network