Tag Archives: India

Farmers face double trouble as world warms

At risk from heat and drought in a warming world, farmers face double trouble in two or more great farming regions at once.

LONDON, 30 November, 2018 – US researchers have confirmed that continued global warming means farmers face double trouble: a heightened possibility of a suddenly hungrier world, as ever-higher average global temperatures increase the probability of devastating heat and drought in two great agricultural regions of the world simultaneously.

This is not the first such warning. In October, a separate team of researchers used a different approach to find that continued climate change could increase the possibility of a return of the conditions that triggered the global drought and famine of 1875-78, which may have claimed 50 million lives.

Also in October, researchers at the University of Washington focused on the possible recurrence of three shifts in regional climate that combined to cause colossal harvest failure in India, China and Brazil.

This time, Californian scientists report in the journal Science Advances that they simply looked at the record of temperature change and the mathematical probabilities associated with it.

In the last century, thanks to profligate combustion of fossil fuels and the consequent increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the world has warmed on average by around 1°C.

“The default is to use historical probabilities. But … assuming that those historical probabilities will continue into the future doesn’t accurately reflect the current or future risk”

“If it’s getting warmer everywhere, then it’s more likely to be hot in two places at once, and it’s probably also more likely to be hot when it’s also dry in two places at once,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, of Stanford’s school of earth, energy and environmental sciences.

“When we look in the historical data at the key crop and pasture regions, we find that before anthropogenic climate change, there were very low odds that any two regions would experience those really severe conditions simultaneously,” he said.

“The global marketplace provides a hedge against localised extremes, but we’re already seeing an erosion of that climate buffer as extremes have increased in response to global warming.”

For most of human history harvest failure has been a hazard, but losses in one region have usually been balanced by gains in another. The global famine that began with the Asian monsoon failure of 1875 was a rare event, made more damaging by imperial mismanagement by the European powers.

Lengthening odds

But climate change brings with it the double jeopardy of low crop yields in two great zones of agricultural production at the same time. The odds of both low rainfall and high temperatures in the same year in both China and India – two great farming nations, with the two biggest populations – were, in 1980, just one in 20. These have now increased to more than one in seven.

“So what used to be a rare occurrence can now be expected to occur with some regularity, and we have very strong evidence that global warming is the cause,” said Professor Diffenbaugh.

The researchers found that, if the world continued burning fossil fuels under the notorious business-as-usual scenario, the chances that average temperatures would rise well beyond the range normally experienced in the mid-20th century would, in many regions, increase by 75%.

The researchers also found that – were the world to honour the promise of the Paris Climate Accord of 2015, to contain global warming to well below 2°C by 2100 – the risk of double trouble for two separate regions simultaneously is curbed.

Extremes increase

Extremes of heat by themselves pose a risk to crop yields and, increasingly, more parts of the world are more at risk  of harvest losses.

The Californian scientists looked at multiple risks in one region at the same time – high winds, storm surges, calamitous tropical cyclones, and also low humidity, high temperatures, high winds and lethal wild fires – and then the probability that similar or slightly different multiple hazards could overtake another region in the same year.

The implication is that with increasing average global temperatures, the kinds of hazards farmers and communities expect to confront could be about to change. For centuries, societies made decisions based on the probabilities they already understood.

“The default is to use historical probabilities,” said Professor Diffenbaugh. “But our research shows that assuming that those historical probabilities will continue into the future doesn’t accurately reflect the current or future risk.” – Climate News Network

At risk from heat and drought in a warming world, farmers face double trouble in two or more great farming regions at once.

LONDON, 30 November, 2018 – US researchers have confirmed that continued global warming means farmers face double trouble: a heightened possibility of a suddenly hungrier world, as ever-higher average global temperatures increase the probability of devastating heat and drought in two great agricultural regions of the world simultaneously.

This is not the first such warning. In October, a separate team of researchers used a different approach to find that continued climate change could increase the possibility of a return of the conditions that triggered the global drought and famine of 1875-78, which may have claimed 50 million lives.

Also in October, researchers at the University of Washington focused on the possible recurrence of three shifts in regional climate that combined to cause colossal harvest failure in India, China and Brazil.

This time, Californian scientists report in the journal Science Advances that they simply looked at the record of temperature change and the mathematical probabilities associated with it.

In the last century, thanks to profligate combustion of fossil fuels and the consequent increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the world has warmed on average by around 1°C.

“The default is to use historical probabilities. But … assuming that those historical probabilities will continue into the future doesn’t accurately reflect the current or future risk”

“If it’s getting warmer everywhere, then it’s more likely to be hot in two places at once, and it’s probably also more likely to be hot when it’s also dry in two places at once,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, of Stanford’s school of earth, energy and environmental sciences.

“When we look in the historical data at the key crop and pasture regions, we find that before anthropogenic climate change, there were very low odds that any two regions would experience those really severe conditions simultaneously,” he said.

“The global marketplace provides a hedge against localised extremes, but we’re already seeing an erosion of that climate buffer as extremes have increased in response to global warming.”

For most of human history harvest failure has been a hazard, but losses in one region have usually been balanced by gains in another. The global famine that began with the Asian monsoon failure of 1875 was a rare event, made more damaging by imperial mismanagement by the European powers.

Lengthening odds

But climate change brings with it the double jeopardy of low crop yields in two great zones of agricultural production at the same time. The odds of both low rainfall and high temperatures in the same year in both China and India – two great farming nations, with the two biggest populations – were, in 1980, just one in 20. These have now increased to more than one in seven.

“So what used to be a rare occurrence can now be expected to occur with some regularity, and we have very strong evidence that global warming is the cause,” said Professor Diffenbaugh.

The researchers found that, if the world continued burning fossil fuels under the notorious business-as-usual scenario, the chances that average temperatures would rise well beyond the range normally experienced in the mid-20th century would, in many regions, increase by 75%.

The researchers also found that – were the world to honour the promise of the Paris Climate Accord of 2015, to contain global warming to well below 2°C by 2100 – the risk of double trouble for two separate regions simultaneously is curbed.

Extremes increase

Extremes of heat by themselves pose a risk to crop yields and, increasingly, more parts of the world are more at risk  of harvest losses.

The Californian scientists looked at multiple risks in one region at the same time – high winds, storm surges, calamitous tropical cyclones, and also low humidity, high temperatures, high winds and lethal wild fires – and then the probability that similar or slightly different multiple hazards could overtake another region in the same year.

The implication is that with increasing average global temperatures, the kinds of hazards farmers and communities expect to confront could be about to change. For centuries, societies made decisions based on the probabilities they already understood.

“The default is to use historical probabilities,” said Professor Diffenbaugh. “But our research shows that assuming that those historical probabilities will continue into the future doesn’t accurately reflect the current or future risk.” – Climate News Network

Humans put conservation reserves at risk

In theory conservation reserves are set aside to preserve wild creatures. But then the humans move in. Land almost twice the area of India is threatened.

LONDON, 8 June, 2018 – Many of the world’s conservation reserves, intended to safeguard species at risk of survival, are increasingly unable to provide effective refuge.

At least one third of all the forests, grasslands, wetlands and mangroves notionally protected by laws to safeguard the wild things that evolved with them are under intense human pressure, according to the first detailed study for 25 years.

Major road systems criss-cross African wildlife reserves, cities have grown up in national park areas, and farmland and buildings blight landscapes supposedly reserved for endemic species at hazard from extinction. Altogether 6 million square kilometres (2.3m square miles) of protected land, researchers say, are “under intense human pressure.”

Since the global Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was agreed in 1992, the area of the world declared as protected has doubled in size, and more than 202,000 patches of conservation area and national park cover 14.7% of the Earth’s land surface.

“A well-run protected area network is essential in saving species. If we allow our protected area network to be degraded there is no doubt biodiversity losses will be exacerbated”

Some of these areas are strictly for conservation of biodiversity; some permit limited human exploitation but are still intended mainly to provide habitat for the wild creatures.

Australian and Canadian scientists report in the journal Science that they examined what they call “human footprint” maps of the globe to make their assessment. The human footprint metric incorporates built environments, intensive agriculture, pasture lands, human population density, night-time lights, roads, railways and navigable waterways.

The scientists found that only 42% of these lands were free of measurable human pressure. But 32.8%, an area of more than 6m sq km – almost twice the size of India – counted as under intense pressure.

What worried the scientists most was what happened to some landscapes that were intact and in a natural state when declared as protected: since 1993, around 280,000 square kilometres of such wilderness had shifted from low disturbance to intense human pressure: this is an area almost as large as Italy.

Complete human dependence

Almost three fourths of the world’s nations – that is, 137 countries – have 50% of their protected land under intense human pressure. “If one assumes that protected land under intense human pressure does not contribute towards conservation targets,” the scientists write, “we show that 74 of 111 nations that have reached a level of 17% protected coverage would drop out of that list.”

Almost all human resources – including food and drink, fabrics and medicines – are derived from the planet’s biodiversity: even the coal, natural gas and petrol that drives the human economy was once wild forest and reed bed. Researchers have repeatedly stressed the importance of biodiversity to all human economic activity – they call it natural capital – and warned that continued loss of wild native plants and animals could have catastrophic consequences. The authors of the Science study warn that if human pressure increases, the goals of the CBD will be severely undermined.

“A well-run protected area network is essential in saving species,” said Kendall Jones of the University of Queensland. “If we allow our protected area network to be degraded there is no doubt biodiversity losses will be exacerbated.”

And his co-author James Watson of the World Conservation Society said: “Most importantly, we’ve got to recognise that these jewels in the crown need support – there are some protected areas that are safeguarding nature and that still haven’t got any evidence of human encroachment in them. We must ensure these values are maintained.” – Climate News Network

In theory conservation reserves are set aside to preserve wild creatures. But then the humans move in. Land almost twice the area of India is threatened.

LONDON, 8 June, 2018 – Many of the world’s conservation reserves, intended to safeguard species at risk of survival, are increasingly unable to provide effective refuge.

At least one third of all the forests, grasslands, wetlands and mangroves notionally protected by laws to safeguard the wild things that evolved with them are under intense human pressure, according to the first detailed study for 25 years.

Major road systems criss-cross African wildlife reserves, cities have grown up in national park areas, and farmland and buildings blight landscapes supposedly reserved for endemic species at hazard from extinction. Altogether 6 million square kilometres (2.3m square miles) of protected land, researchers say, are “under intense human pressure.”

Since the global Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was agreed in 1992, the area of the world declared as protected has doubled in size, and more than 202,000 patches of conservation area and national park cover 14.7% of the Earth’s land surface.

“A well-run protected area network is essential in saving species. If we allow our protected area network to be degraded there is no doubt biodiversity losses will be exacerbated”

Some of these areas are strictly for conservation of biodiversity; some permit limited human exploitation but are still intended mainly to provide habitat for the wild creatures.

Australian and Canadian scientists report in the journal Science that they examined what they call “human footprint” maps of the globe to make their assessment. The human footprint metric incorporates built environments, intensive agriculture, pasture lands, human population density, night-time lights, roads, railways and navigable waterways.

The scientists found that only 42% of these lands were free of measurable human pressure. But 32.8%, an area of more than 6m sq km – almost twice the size of India – counted as under intense pressure.

What worried the scientists most was what happened to some landscapes that were intact and in a natural state when declared as protected: since 1993, around 280,000 square kilometres of such wilderness had shifted from low disturbance to intense human pressure: this is an area almost as large as Italy.

Complete human dependence

Almost three fourths of the world’s nations – that is, 137 countries – have 50% of their protected land under intense human pressure. “If one assumes that protected land under intense human pressure does not contribute towards conservation targets,” the scientists write, “we show that 74 of 111 nations that have reached a level of 17% protected coverage would drop out of that list.”

Almost all human resources – including food and drink, fabrics and medicines – are derived from the planet’s biodiversity: even the coal, natural gas and petrol that drives the human economy was once wild forest and reed bed. Researchers have repeatedly stressed the importance of biodiversity to all human economic activity – they call it natural capital – and warned that continued loss of wild native plants and animals could have catastrophic consequences. The authors of the Science study warn that if human pressure increases, the goals of the CBD will be severely undermined.

“A well-run protected area network is essential in saving species,” said Kendall Jones of the University of Queensland. “If we allow our protected area network to be degraded there is no doubt biodiversity losses will be exacerbated.”

And his co-author James Watson of the World Conservation Society said: “Most importantly, we’ve got to recognise that these jewels in the crown need support – there are some protected areas that are safeguarding nature and that still haven’t got any evidence of human encroachment in them. We must ensure these values are maintained.” – 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

Water scarcity threat to India and South Africa

More than a third of India’s electricity supply is at risk from water scarcity, which also threatens urban life in parts of South Africa.

LONDON, 23 January, 2018 – Water scarcity is now a real threat in two developing countries at the forefront of efforts to reduce climate change, India and South Africa.

This is not the tragically familiar story of extreme weather, stunted crops and foreshortened lives. It is a different sort of threat: to urban life, to industrial development, and to attempts to end poverty.

More than 80% of India’s electricity comes from thermal power stations, burning coal, oil, gas and nuclear fuel. Now researchers from the US-based World Resources Institute, after analysing all of India’s 400+ thermal power plants, report that its power supply is increasingly in jeopardy from water shortages.

The researchers found that 90% of these thermal power plants are cooled by freshwater, and nearly 40% of them experience high water stress. The plants are increasingly vulnerable, while India remains committed to providing electricity to every household by 2019.

Between 2015 and 2050 the Indian power sector’s share of national water consumption is projected to grow from 1.4 to nine per cent, and by 2030, 70% of the country’s thermal power plants are likely to experience increased competition for water from agriculture, industry and municipalities.

Power sector choking

“Water shortages shut down power plants across India every year,” said O P Agarwal of WRI India. “When power plants rely on water sourced from scarce regions, they put electricity generation at risk and leave less water for cities, farms and families. Without urgent action, water will become a chokepoint for India’s power sector.”

Between 2013 and 2016 14 of India’s 20 largest thermal utility companies experienced one or more shutdowns because of water shortages. WRI calculates that shutdowns cost these companies over INR 91 billion ($1.4 billion) in potential revenue from the sale of power.

It says water shortages cancelled out more than 20% of the country’s growth in electricity generation in 2015 and 2016.

The report offers solutions, including notably a move towards solar and wind energy. India already has a target for 40% of its power to come from renewables by 2030, under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“Renewable energy is a viable solution to India’s water-energy crisis,” said Deepak Krishnan, co-author of the report. “Solar PV and wind power can thrive in the same water-stressed areas where thermal plants struggle…”

A policy brief produced by WRI and the International Renewable Energy Agency details ways for India’s power sector to reduce water usage and carbon emissions by 2030.

“The challenge exceeds anything a major city has had to face anywhere in the world since the Second World War or 9/ll”

In Africa the dangers of water scarcity for one of the continent’s best-known cities, Cape Town, are imminent and, some believe, almost apocalyptic.

The city faces the prospect within three months of becoming the world’s first major city to run out of water, al-Jazeera reports.

It says the city’s water supplies are now so low that in late April it will declare “Day Zero”, the day when its reservoirs fall below a combined capacity of 13.5%.

This will mean Cape Town turning off the taps, except in the poorest neighbourhoods, and installing around 200 water collection sites across the city.

Water usage in the Western Cape province, which includes Cape Town,  is now limited to a daily ration of 87 litres per person. If Day Zero dawns, that will drop to about 25 litres. The World Health Organisation says about 20 litres should be enough “to take care of basic hygiene needs and basic food hygiene”.

Rains start later

The province has had three years of drought. Kevin Winter, a senior lecturer in environmental science at the University of Cape Town, told al-Jazeera that as a winter rainfall region, people would normally expect rainfall to start somewhere around April.

“But that’s no longer the case, it comes a whole lot later at the end of June, or in early July, if we are lucky,” he said. “We are experiencing a rapid change in our weather patterns, which is increasingly evident of a climate change…”

Bridgetti Lim Bandi, who has lived in the city all her life, said Cape Town’s rainfall pattern had changed dramatically within the last two decades. “We don’t have a traditional Cape Town winter any more,” she told al-Jazeera.

Helen Zille is premier of the Western Cape province. She wrote on 22 January in the Daily Maverick: “The question that dominates my waking hours now is: When Day Zero arrives‚ how do we make water accessible and prevent anarchy?

“And if there is any chance of still preventing it‚ what is it we can do? …the challenge exceeds anything a major city has had to face anywhere in the world since the Second World War or 9/ll.” – Climate News Network

More than a third of India’s electricity supply is at risk from water scarcity, which also threatens urban life in parts of South Africa.

LONDON, 23 January, 2018 – Water scarcity is now a real threat in two developing countries at the forefront of efforts to reduce climate change, India and South Africa.

This is not the tragically familiar story of extreme weather, stunted crops and foreshortened lives. It is a different sort of threat: to urban life, to industrial development, and to attempts to end poverty.

More than 80% of India’s electricity comes from thermal power stations, burning coal, oil, gas and nuclear fuel. Now researchers from the US-based World Resources Institute, after analysing all of India’s 400+ thermal power plants, report that its power supply is increasingly in jeopardy from water shortages.

The researchers found that 90% of these thermal power plants are cooled by freshwater, and nearly 40% of them experience high water stress. The plants are increasingly vulnerable, while India remains committed to providing electricity to every household by 2019.

Between 2015 and 2050 the Indian power sector’s share of national water consumption is projected to grow from 1.4 to nine per cent, and by 2030, 70% of the country’s thermal power plants are likely to experience increased competition for water from agriculture, industry and municipalities.

Power sector choking

“Water shortages shut down power plants across India every year,” said O P Agarwal of WRI India. “When power plants rely on water sourced from scarce regions, they put electricity generation at risk and leave less water for cities, farms and families. Without urgent action, water will become a chokepoint for India’s power sector.”

Between 2013 and 2016 14 of India’s 20 largest thermal utility companies experienced one or more shutdowns because of water shortages. WRI calculates that shutdowns cost these companies over INR 91 billion ($1.4 billion) in potential revenue from the sale of power.

It says water shortages cancelled out more than 20% of the country’s growth in electricity generation in 2015 and 2016.

The report offers solutions, including notably a move towards solar and wind energy. India already has a target for 40% of its power to come from renewables by 2030, under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“Renewable energy is a viable solution to India’s water-energy crisis,” said Deepak Krishnan, co-author of the report. “Solar PV and wind power can thrive in the same water-stressed areas where thermal plants struggle…”

A policy brief produced by WRI and the International Renewable Energy Agency details ways for India’s power sector to reduce water usage and carbon emissions by 2030.

“The challenge exceeds anything a major city has had to face anywhere in the world since the Second World War or 9/ll”

In Africa the dangers of water scarcity for one of the continent’s best-known cities, Cape Town, are imminent and, some believe, almost apocalyptic.

The city faces the prospect within three months of becoming the world’s first major city to run out of water, al-Jazeera reports.

It says the city’s water supplies are now so low that in late April it will declare “Day Zero”, the day when its reservoirs fall below a combined capacity of 13.5%.

This will mean Cape Town turning off the taps, except in the poorest neighbourhoods, and installing around 200 water collection sites across the city.

Water usage in the Western Cape province, which includes Cape Town,  is now limited to a daily ration of 87 litres per person. If Day Zero dawns, that will drop to about 25 litres. The World Health Organisation says about 20 litres should be enough “to take care of basic hygiene needs and basic food hygiene”.

Rains start later

The province has had three years of drought. Kevin Winter, a senior lecturer in environmental science at the University of Cape Town, told al-Jazeera that as a winter rainfall region, people would normally expect rainfall to start somewhere around April.

“But that’s no longer the case, it comes a whole lot later at the end of June, or in early July, if we are lucky,” he said. “We are experiencing a rapid change in our weather patterns, which is increasingly evident of a climate change…”

Bridgetti Lim Bandi, who has lived in the city all her life, said Cape Town’s rainfall pattern had changed dramatically within the last two decades. “We don’t have a traditional Cape Town winter any more,” she told al-Jazeera.

Helen Zille is premier of the Western Cape province. She wrote on 22 January in the Daily Maverick: “The question that dominates my waking hours now is: When Day Zero arrives‚ how do we make water accessible and prevent anarchy?

“And if there is any chance of still preventing it‚ what is it we can do? …the challenge exceeds anything a major city has had to face anywhere in the world since the Second World War or 9/ll.” – Climate News Network

World set for 3.4˚C by 2100

By the end of the century we should expect a world set for 3.4˚C more warmth than pre-industrial levels, analysts find.

BONN, 15 November, 2017 – By approaching 2100, a world set for 3.4˚C will, on present trends, probably be the reality confronting our descendants – slightly less warm than looked likely a year ago, analysts think. That’s the good news, you could say.

But the bad news is twofold. First, this improvement in planetary prospects will still leave the global temperature increase more than twice as high as the internationally agreed target of 1.5˚C. And secondly, it depends largely on the efforts of just two countries – China and India.

They have made significant progress in tackling climate change in the last twelve months. In contrast, a report by the analysts, from the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), says that not only US climate policy has been rolled back under President Trump. Most individual governments’ climate commitments are going in the wrong direction.

The CAT report says the world will – on present trends – still reach 2100 a long way above the 1.5˚C target for the Earth’s maximum tolerable temperature rise, which was endorsed in the Paris Agreement.

The Climate Action Tracker is an independent science-based assessment that each year  tracks countries’ emission commitments and actions. Its members are Climate Analytics, Ecofys and NewClimate Institute.

“It is clear who the leaders are here: in the face of US inaction, China and India are stepping up”

The CAT’s latest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions projections, based on government policies currently in place, suggest they will lead to a 0.2°C decrease in projected warming, to 3.4˚C by 2100, compared with 3.6˚C in November 2016.

This is the first time since the CAT began tracking action in 2009 that policies at a national level have visibly reduced its end-of-century temperature estimate and also reduced the 2030 emissions gap between current policies and what is needed to meet the 1.5°C temperature limit.

The analysts say China’s emissions growth has slowed dramatically: in the first decade of this century, its emissions grew by 110%, but between 2010 and 2015, growth had slowed to only 16%.  China is set to far overachieve its climate commitment, or Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) as countries’ undertakings are known in the UN.

The CAT’s estimate of emissions from China in 2030 is 13 GtCO2e – 0.7 GtCO2e lower than its 2016 estimate. If China continues with its coal abatement, this could drop by another 0.7 GtCO2e.

One Gt is one gigatonne, a billion metric tons; CO2e, carbon dioxide equivalent, expresses the impact of different greenhouse gases in terms of CO2.

Need for review 

Equally, India has increased its climate action, the analysts say. If it fully implemented its Draft Electricity Plan, its emissions in 2030 would be 4.5 GtCO2e – almost 1 GtCO2e lower than the CAT predicted last year.

If India were to strengthen its NDC to match the ambition level of its Draft Electricity Plan, its targeted emissions level would be moving much closer to the range compatible with the Paris target of 1.5˚C.  

“It is clear who the leaders are here: in the face of US inaction, China and India are stepping up,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics.  “However, both need to review – and strengthen – their Paris commitments.”

Niklas Höhne of NewClimate Institute said: “Over the last year, governments have made substantial steps in improving climate policies, and this has had a discernible effect on global emissions projections. For example, in the face of increasingly cheaper renewable energy, many are now actively moving away from coal.” But the CAT shows that many governments are not seizing the opportunities renewables offer.

The report is a mosaic, detailing some encouraging trends. For example, the authors now think global emissions under current policies in 2030 will be at least 1.7 GtCO2e per year lower than last year’s projection. 

Emissions to rise

But there are negative conclusions too. Mainly because of the US’s announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, there has been a significant deterioration in progress to limit expected warming, it finds.

If all governments fully implemented their Paris commitments, the NDCs, the projected global temperature increase in 2100 would be 3.2˚C above pre-industrial levels, up from last year’s 2.8˚C, largely because of the US.

The CAT projects that global emissions are set to rise by 9 to 13% between 2020 and 2030, because of projected emissions growth in countries such as Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. In 17 out of 32 countries it analysed, emissions will increase by more than 20% during this period.

The vast majority of NDCs are not in line with a fair contribution to meet the Paris Agreement’s long-term warming goal, it says. Only seven governments have implemented 2°C or 1.5°C compatible targets, and of these, four are not backed up by sufficient policy action.

At the same time, in 16 out of the 32 countries analysed, emissions are projected to exceed their (already insufficient) NDCs. With the US, they include Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and Canada.  – Climate News Network

By the end of the century we should expect a world set for 3.4˚C more warmth than pre-industrial levels, analysts find.

BONN, 15 November, 2017 – By approaching 2100, a world set for 3.4˚C will, on present trends, probably be the reality confronting our descendants – slightly less warm than looked likely a year ago, analysts think. That’s the good news, you could say.

But the bad news is twofold. First, this improvement in planetary prospects will still leave the global temperature increase more than twice as high as the internationally agreed target of 1.5˚C. And secondly, it depends largely on the efforts of just two countries – China and India.

They have made significant progress in tackling climate change in the last twelve months. In contrast, a report by the analysts, from the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), says that not only US climate policy has been rolled back under President Trump. Most individual governments’ climate commitments are going in the wrong direction.

The CAT report says the world will – on present trends – still reach 2100 a long way above the 1.5˚C target for the Earth’s maximum tolerable temperature rise, which was endorsed in the Paris Agreement.

The Climate Action Tracker is an independent science-based assessment that each year  tracks countries’ emission commitments and actions. Its members are Climate Analytics, Ecofys and NewClimate Institute.

“It is clear who the leaders are here: in the face of US inaction, China and India are stepping up”

The CAT’s latest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions projections, based on government policies currently in place, suggest they will lead to a 0.2°C decrease in projected warming, to 3.4˚C by 2100, compared with 3.6˚C in November 2016.

This is the first time since the CAT began tracking action in 2009 that policies at a national level have visibly reduced its end-of-century temperature estimate and also reduced the 2030 emissions gap between current policies and what is needed to meet the 1.5°C temperature limit.

The analysts say China’s emissions growth has slowed dramatically: in the first decade of this century, its emissions grew by 110%, but between 2010 and 2015, growth had slowed to only 16%.  China is set to far overachieve its climate commitment, or Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) as countries’ undertakings are known in the UN.

The CAT’s estimate of emissions from China in 2030 is 13 GtCO2e – 0.7 GtCO2e lower than its 2016 estimate. If China continues with its coal abatement, this could drop by another 0.7 GtCO2e.

One Gt is one gigatonne, a billion metric tons; CO2e, carbon dioxide equivalent, expresses the impact of different greenhouse gases in terms of CO2.

Need for review 

Equally, India has increased its climate action, the analysts say. If it fully implemented its Draft Electricity Plan, its emissions in 2030 would be 4.5 GtCO2e – almost 1 GtCO2e lower than the CAT predicted last year.

If India were to strengthen its NDC to match the ambition level of its Draft Electricity Plan, its targeted emissions level would be moving much closer to the range compatible with the Paris target of 1.5˚C.  

“It is clear who the leaders are here: in the face of US inaction, China and India are stepping up,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics.  “However, both need to review – and strengthen – their Paris commitments.”

Niklas Höhne of NewClimate Institute said: “Over the last year, governments have made substantial steps in improving climate policies, and this has had a discernible effect on global emissions projections. For example, in the face of increasingly cheaper renewable energy, many are now actively moving away from coal.” But the CAT shows that many governments are not seizing the opportunities renewables offer.

The report is a mosaic, detailing some encouraging trends. For example, the authors now think global emissions under current policies in 2030 will be at least 1.7 GtCO2e per year lower than last year’s projection. 

Emissions to rise

But there are negative conclusions too. Mainly because of the US’s announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, there has been a significant deterioration in progress to limit expected warming, it finds.

If all governments fully implemented their Paris commitments, the NDCs, the projected global temperature increase in 2100 would be 3.2˚C above pre-industrial levels, up from last year’s 2.8˚C, largely because of the US.

The CAT projects that global emissions are set to rise by 9 to 13% between 2020 and 2030, because of projected emissions growth in countries such as Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. In 17 out of 32 countries it analysed, emissions will increase by more than 20% during this period.

The vast majority of NDCs are not in line with a fair contribution to meet the Paris Agreement’s long-term warming goal, it says. Only seven governments have implemented 2°C or 1.5°C compatible targets, and of these, four are not backed up by sufficient policy action.

At the same time, in 16 out of the 32 countries analysed, emissions are projected to exceed their (already insufficient) NDCs. With the US, they include Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and Canada.  – Climate News Network

India’s solar power set to outshine coal

India solar power
India solar power

Solar power in India will be cheaper than imported coal by 2020, but replacing the subcontinent’s fossil fuels with renewable energy is an enormous task.

BERLIN, 21 October, 2016 – India wants to provide its entire population with electricity and lift millions out of poverty, but in order to prevent the world overheating it also needs to switch away from fossil fuels.

Although India is blessed with ample sunshine and wind, its main source of energy is coal, followed by oil and gas. Together, they provide around 90% of the total energy demand of the subcontinent – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – with coal enjoying the highest share, at more than 70%.

The 2016 BP Energy Outlook report assumes that India will depend increasingly on imports for its energy. Domestic production can be increased, but the increase will be overtaken by growing demand. BP says that by 2035 gas imports to India will rise by 573%, oil imports by 169% and coal by 85%.

Renewable thinking

But that assumes that renewables will not take off in India. Others think differently. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reckons that by as early as 2020 large photovoltaic ground-mounted systems will be more economical in India than plants powered by imported coal.

Its conclusion is based on what is called the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) – a way of comparing different methods of electricity generation, using the average total cost of building and operating a power plant, divided by its total lifetime energy output.

“Especially for the 400 million Indians who have no access to electricity, solar power would mean access to clean and affordable energy”

Bloomberg says the LCOE for photovoltaic systems is about US$0.10 per solar kilowatt hour, compared with a current levelised cost for coal in Asia of about US$0.07.

Even if coal prices remain steady, which it thinks is unlikely, it believes that the continuing fall in PV prices means that solar energy will be more economic than coal by 2020. Only 10 years ago, solar generation was more than three times the price of coal.

One of the pioneering solar manufacturers, Tata Power Solar, estimates that the potential for solar in India lies at about 130 gigawatts by 2025.

“This would generate more than 675,000 jobs in the Indian solar industry,” says Tata Power Solar’s former CEO, Ajay Goel, now president of solar and chief of new businesses at New Delhi-based ReNew Power . “Especially for the 400 million Indians who have no access to electricity, solar power would mean access to clean and affordable energy.”

Solar benefits

After years of standstill on the subcontinent, India seems to be discovering the benefits of solar energy. So the government has recently updated its National Solar Mission target: now it wants to achieve 175GW of renewable power, which includes 100GW of solar power by 2022.

To meet these goals, India will need to increase the pace of its renewable energy capacity addition sevenfold, from an average 3GW per year to at least 20GW per year. Since 2007, the country has averaged only 15GW of new power capacity each year from all technologies.

Bloomberg believes that these targets are difficult to achieve in the given timeframe and will require a serious overhaul of the power infrastructure, as well as new incentives to drive investment.

The International Energy Authority (IEA) agrees. In a special report on India, the agency says that due to population growth the country will need to provide an extra 600 million people with electricity by 2040.

Uncertainty over the pace at which new large dams or nuclear plants can be built means there is a strong reliance on solar and wind power. The IEA says India has high potential and equally high ambition in these areas to deliver on the pledge to build up a 40% share of non-fossil-fuel capacity in the power sector by 2030.

It believes that 340GW of new wind and solar projects, as well as manufacturing and installation capabilities, can be created by 2040 with strong policy support and declining costs.

According to this scenario, the IEA says, the share of coal in the power generation mix falls from 75% to less than 60%, but coal-fired power still meets half of the increase in power generation.

But both the IEA and Bloomberg warn that inadequate transmission infrastructure, open access issues, the poor financial health of distribution companies and a difficult law-making process within the power sector will be the major issues blocking a flow of investment and the proper growth of renewable energy.

So it remains to be seen whether India will put its ambitious plans into practice. The solar potential is obviously there, and at a competitive price. Now people have to start harvesting energy from the sun. – Climate News Network

Solar power in India will be cheaper than imported coal by 2020, but replacing the subcontinent’s fossil fuels with renewable energy is an enormous task.

BERLIN, 21 October, 2016 – India wants to provide its entire population with electricity and lift millions out of poverty, but in order to prevent the world overheating it also needs to switch away from fossil fuels.

Although India is blessed with ample sunshine and wind, its main source of energy is coal, followed by oil and gas. Together, they provide around 90% of the total energy demand of the subcontinent – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – with coal enjoying the highest share, at more than 70%.

The 2016 BP Energy Outlook report assumes that India will depend increasingly on imports for its energy. Domestic production can be increased, but the increase will be overtaken by growing demand. BP says that by 2035 gas imports to India will rise by 573%, oil imports by 169% and coal by 85%.

Renewable thinking

But that assumes that renewables will not take off in India. Others think differently. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reckons that by as early as 2020 large photovoltaic ground-mounted systems will be more economical in India than plants powered by imported coal.

Its conclusion is based on what is called the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) – a way of comparing different methods of electricity generation, using the average total cost of building and operating a power plant, divided by its total lifetime energy output.

“Especially for the 400 million Indians who have no access to electricity, solar power would mean access to clean and affordable energy”

Bloomberg says the LCOE for photovoltaic systems is about US$0.10 per solar kilowatt hour, compared with a current levelised cost for coal in Asia of about US$0.07.

Even if coal prices remain steady, which it thinks is unlikely, it believes that the continuing fall in PV prices means that solar energy will be more economic than coal by 2020. Only 10 years ago, solar generation was more than three times the price of coal.

One of the pioneering solar manufacturers, Tata Power Solar, estimates that the potential for solar in India lies at about 130 gigawatts by 2025.

“This would generate more than 675,000 jobs in the Indian solar industry,” says Tata Power Solar’s former CEO, Ajay Goel, now president of solar and chief of new businesses at New Delhi-based ReNew Power . “Especially for the 400 million Indians who have no access to electricity, solar power would mean access to clean and affordable energy.”

Solar benefits

After years of standstill on the subcontinent, India seems to be discovering the benefits of solar energy. So the government has recently updated its National Solar Mission target: now it wants to achieve 175GW of renewable power, which includes 100GW of solar power by 2022.

To meet these goals, India will need to increase the pace of its renewable energy capacity addition sevenfold, from an average 3GW per year to at least 20GW per year. Since 2007, the country has averaged only 15GW of new power capacity each year from all technologies.

Bloomberg believes that these targets are difficult to achieve in the given timeframe and will require a serious overhaul of the power infrastructure, as well as new incentives to drive investment.

The International Energy Authority (IEA) agrees. In a special report on India, the agency says that due to population growth the country will need to provide an extra 600 million people with electricity by 2040.

Uncertainty over the pace at which new large dams or nuclear plants can be built means there is a strong reliance on solar and wind power. The IEA says India has high potential and equally high ambition in these areas to deliver on the pledge to build up a 40% share of non-fossil-fuel capacity in the power sector by 2030.

It believes that 340GW of new wind and solar projects, as well as manufacturing and installation capabilities, can be created by 2040 with strong policy support and declining costs.

According to this scenario, the IEA says, the share of coal in the power generation mix falls from 75% to less than 60%, but coal-fired power still meets half of the increase in power generation.

But both the IEA and Bloomberg warn that inadequate transmission infrastructure, open access issues, the poor financial health of distribution companies and a difficult law-making process within the power sector will be the major issues blocking a flow of investment and the proper growth of renewable energy.

So it remains to be seen whether India will put its ambitious plans into practice. The solar potential is obviously there, and at a competitive price. Now people have to start harvesting energy from the sun. – Climate News Network

Asian carbon finds its way home

India and China have good reason to cut their greenhouse emissions, scientists say: soot they are producing is damaging their own water resources.

LONDON, 25 August, 2016 – Black carbon – soot particles that absorb sunlight, spread by fossil fuel combustion  – are thought to accelerate the thinning of the glaciers of Himalaya and Tibet. Scientists have just identified the source of this Asian carbon.

The smears that warm the ice in the Himalayas come from India, they say. And two thirds of the black cloud that settles on the frozen rivers of Tibet is from China.

Since billions of people in the region depend on the steady flow of glacial meltwater down the Indus, the Ganges, the Tsangpo-Brahmaputra, the Mekong, the Yangtze and many other rivers through the summer growing season, the implications are ominous.

But since India and China are two of the three countries that burn fossil fuels to emit the highest levels of climate-warming carbon dioxide, the research also delivers another goad to action.

Pristine snow and ice reflect solar radiation back into space: mountain snows with a high albedo provide their own insulation, and release meltwater slowly throughout the season.

Faster melting

Soot and cinders from forest fires or factory chimneys lower the albedo, because black carbon absorbs solar radiation and accelerates melting.

Shichang Kang of the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, based in Lanzhou, reports in the journal Nature Communications that he and colleagues from China and Sweden focused on identifying the source of carbon particles collected from eight snowpits.

These were on glaciers at what the scientists call the Third Pole – the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountains and the Tibetan Plateau represent the greatest mass of ice on Earth beyond the Arctic and Antarctic – during May and June over the years 2012 to 2014.

They also collected aerosols – particles of black carbon drifting across the region – at seven stations along the Mustang and Langtang valleys in the massif.

Source pinpointed

Then they used a technique called dual-carbon isotope fingerprinting to identify a chemical signature to distinguish whether the soot came from burning vegetation or fossil fuels, and where the samples came from.

Two-thirds of the soot from the Tibetan plateau, they report, came from fossil fuel combustion in China, and much of the remainder from cinders of yak dung, a traditional fuel in Tibet.

The particles sampled from the Himalayas were, they write, equally composed of fragments of burning biomass and fossil fuels from the Indo-Gangetic Plain in North India. So Asian carbon could be storing up problems for a thirsty (and therefore hungry) future.

Black carbon aerosols, the authors report, “are believed to play a considerable role in the melting of mid-latitude glaciers.” And they conclude that their observations could help “guide policy actions aimed to effectively mitigate emissions.” – Climate News Network

India and China have good reason to cut their greenhouse emissions, scientists say: soot they are producing is damaging their own water resources.

LONDON, 25 August, 2016 – Black carbon – soot particles that absorb sunlight, spread by fossil fuel combustion  – are thought to accelerate the thinning of the glaciers of Himalaya and Tibet. Scientists have just identified the source of this Asian carbon.

The smears that warm the ice in the Himalayas come from India, they say. And two thirds of the black cloud that settles on the frozen rivers of Tibet is from China.

Since billions of people in the region depend on the steady flow of glacial meltwater down the Indus, the Ganges, the Tsangpo-Brahmaputra, the Mekong, the Yangtze and many other rivers through the summer growing season, the implications are ominous.

But since India and China are two of the three countries that burn fossil fuels to emit the highest levels of climate-warming carbon dioxide, the research also delivers another goad to action.

Pristine snow and ice reflect solar radiation back into space: mountain snows with a high albedo provide their own insulation, and release meltwater slowly throughout the season.

Faster melting

Soot and cinders from forest fires or factory chimneys lower the albedo, because black carbon absorbs solar radiation and accelerates melting.

Shichang Kang of the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, based in Lanzhou, reports in the journal Nature Communications that he and colleagues from China and Sweden focused on identifying the source of carbon particles collected from eight snowpits.

These were on glaciers at what the scientists call the Third Pole – the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountains and the Tibetan Plateau represent the greatest mass of ice on Earth beyond the Arctic and Antarctic – during May and June over the years 2012 to 2014.

They also collected aerosols – particles of black carbon drifting across the region – at seven stations along the Mustang and Langtang valleys in the massif.

Source pinpointed

Then they used a technique called dual-carbon isotope fingerprinting to identify a chemical signature to distinguish whether the soot came from burning vegetation or fossil fuels, and where the samples came from.

Two-thirds of the soot from the Tibetan plateau, they report, came from fossil fuel combustion in China, and much of the remainder from cinders of yak dung, a traditional fuel in Tibet.

The particles sampled from the Himalayas were, they write, equally composed of fragments of burning biomass and fossil fuels from the Indo-Gangetic Plain in North India. So Asian carbon could be storing up problems for a thirsty (and therefore hungry) future.

Black carbon aerosols, the authors report, “are believed to play a considerable role in the melting of mid-latitude glaciers.” And they conclude that their observations could help “guide policy actions aimed to effectively mitigate emissions.” – Climate News Network

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.