Thursday, August 11, 2016

Climate Science: Revolution is Here

  Climate science: revolution is here PAUL ROGERS 11 August 2016     A host of innovations in energy technology is transforming the climate-change outlook – one of the world's three required paradigm shifts.
Heatwaves of more than 50⁰C in Iraq and India in recent weeks are yet further indications that climate disruption is a present-day reality, not something for the future that the world can respond to at leisure. They come in the wake of many months of increasing global temperatures and successively escalating years: 2014 the warmest on record, 2015 exceeding that, and 2016 confidently expected to be even higher (see "The climate pioneers: look south", 22 June 2016)   None of this should come as any surprise, since climate scientists have been warning repeatedly that the global climate is starting to become unstable. That judgment was reflected in the decision at the Paris climate summit in December 2015 to revise its aim for global-temperature increases: a limit of 1.5⁰C instead of the previous target of 2.0⁰C.    Many states agreed to the new objective, which was seen as the major achievement of the Paris meeting. But it has now become clear that on present trends, there is very little chance of it being achieved (see "Scientists warn mankind will miss crucial climate change target – eight months after agreeing it", Independent, 7 August 2016). Indeed, figures for February-March 2016 showed an increase of 1.38⁰C, already very near to the long-term target, even as all the indications suggest there will be major additional rises in the next few years.   In any case, many climate scientists and energy analysts argue that the current targets for reducing emissions are far too low. This is because carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has a slow rate of circulation, meaning that – even if the rate of emissions is brought under control – there is a considerable 'lag' phase before concentrations are reduced. More      

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Irony of climate

The Irony of Climate | Worldwatch Institute   
  Archaeologists suspect that a shift in the planet's climate thousands of years ago gave birth to agriculture. Now climate change could spell the end of farming as we know it.   High in the Peruvian Andes, a new disease has invaded the potato fields in the town of Chac­llabamba. Warmer and wetter weather associated with global climate change has allowed late blight-the same fungus that caused the Irish potato famine-to creep 4,000 meters up the mountainside for the first time since humans started growing potatoes here thousands of years ago. In 2003, Chacllabamba farmers saw their crop of native potatoes almost totally destroyed. Breeders are rushing to develop tubers resistant to the "new" disease that retain the taste, texture, and quality preferred by Andean populations.   Meanwhile, old-timers in Holmes County, Kansas, have been struggling to tell which way the wind is blowing, so to speak. On the one hand, the summers and winters are both warmer, which means less snow and less snowmelt in the spring and less water stored in the fields. On the other hand, there's more rain, but it's falling in the early spring, rather than during the summer growing season. So the crops might be parched when they need water most. According to state climatologists, it's too early to say exactly how these changes will play out-if farmers will be able to push their corn and wheat fields onto formerly barren land or if the higher temperatures will help once again to turn the grain fields of Kansas into a dust bowl. Whatever happens, it's going to surprise the current generation of farmers.   Asian farmers, too, are facing their own climate-related problems. In the unirrigated rice paddies and wheat fields of Asia, the annual monsoon can make or break millions of lives. Yet the reliability of the monsoon is increasingly in doubt. For instance, El Niño events (the cyclical warming of surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean) often correspond with weaker monsoons, and El Niños will likely increase with global warming. During the El Niño-induced drought in 1997, Indonesian rice farmers pumped water from swamps close to their fields, but food losses were still high: 55 percent for dryland maize and 41 percent for wetland maize, 34 percent for wetland rice, and 19 percent for cassava. The 1997 drought was followed by a particularly wet winter that delayed planting for two months in many areas and triggered heavy locust and rat infestations. According to Bambang Irawan of the Indonesian Center for Agricultural Socio-Economic Research and Development, in Bogor, this succession of poor harvests forced many families to eat less rice and turn to the less nutritious alternative of dried cassava. Some farmers sold off their jewelry and livestock, worked off the farm, or borrowed money to purchase rice, Irawan says. The prospects are for more of the same: "If we get a substantial global warming, there is no doubt in my mind that there will be serious changes to the  monsoon," says David Rhind, a senior climate researcher with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.   Archaeologists believe that the shift to a warmer, wetter, and more stable climate at the end of the last ice age was key for humanity's successful foray into food production. Yet, from the American breadbasket to the North China Plain to the fields of southern Africa, farmers and climate scientists are finding that generations-old patterns of rainfall and temperature are shifting. Farming may be the human endeavor most dependent on a stable climate-and the industry that will struggle most to cope with more erratic weather, severe storms, and shifts in growing season lengths. While some optimists are predicting longer growing seasons and more abundant harvests as the climate warms, farmers are mostly reaping surprises.   Toward the Unknown (Climate) Region   For two decades, Hartwell Allen, a researcher with the University of Florida in Gainesville and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been growing rice, soybeans, and peanuts in plastic, greenhouse-like growth chambers that allow him to play God. He can control-"rather precisely"-the temperature, humidity, and levels of atmospheric carbon. "We grow the plants under a daily maximum/minimum cyclic temperature that would mimic the real world cycle," Allen says. His lab has tried regimes of 28 degrees C day/18 degrees C night, 32/22, 36/26, 40/30, and 44/34. "We ran one experiment to 48/38, and got very few surviving plants," he says. Allen found that while a doubling of carbon dioxide and a slightly increased temperature stimulate seeds to germinate and the plants to grow larger and lusher, the higher temperatures are deadly when the plant starts producing pollen. Every stage of the process-pollen transfer, the growth of the tube that links the pollen to the seed, the viability of the pollen itself-is highly sensitive. "It's all or nothing, if pollination isn't successful," Allen notes. At temperatures above 36 degrees C during pollination, peanut yields dropped about six percent per degree of temperature increase. Allen is particularly concerned about the implications for places like India and West Africa, where peanuts are a dietary staple and temperatures during the growing season are already well above 32 degrees C: "In these regions the crops are mostly rain-fed. If global warming also leads to drought in these areas, yields could be even lower." More

Monday, July 18, 2016

Reconstructing Arctic History

Reconstructing Arctic History | CIRES 
  There's little doubt that Arctic sea ice is shrinking, but a new study looking back to the 1850s reveals that today's ice loss is unprecedented in extent and rate. To understand what’s happening with the Arctic ice pack, scientists need access to as much data as they can get their hands on. But reliable satellite data on the frozen north extends back only to 1978 and most historical sources cover only the twentieth century. John Walsh, Chief Scientist at the International Arctic Research Center with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, knew they could do better. “We knew there was useful information out there that goes back into the 1800s,” he says. “We wanted to provide some benchmarks so we could place the retreat we’ve seen in Arctic sea ice in a longer context.”   Other scientists wanted to do the same. Walsh heard from climate change modelers who needed more information to reconstruct the Arctic’s atmospheric history. So, Walsh went to NOAA with a proposition: To make a data product that could be used by modelers to characterize sea ice back to 1850. And a natural partner for building this database was the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), part of CIRES, where a small team funded by NOAA was already experienced in using data from sources such as the military and old charts and maps to create a more robust picture. The final product, “Gridded Monthly Sea Ice Extent and Concentration, 1850 Onward," is described in a paper out in the July issue of Geographical Review.      This data set expands on an earlier product that begins in 1901. “We wanted to extend and improve on the data we already had,” says CIRES' Florence Fetterer, the NOAA liaison at NSIDC. “So we gathered historical sources of sea ice information and filled spatial and temporal gaps using an analog method.” More

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cuba's Second Special Period - 2016

The Great Change: Cuba's Second Special Period - 2016 
Batista and his rival Ernesto "Che" Guevara
  Cuba’s economy minister told the Cuban Parliament last week, in a closed session, that the country would have to cut fuel consumption nearly a third in the second half of this year because the Venezuelan spigot was slowly squeezing shut. Venezuelan oil exports to Cuba have dropped 40% since January. As the news rippled out through Havana there was a universal sense of Déjà vu. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, won’t be fooled again (as George W. Bush said in his being-folksy mode, unable to recall where he was in the fool-me-twice-shame-on-me proverb and so reverting to a rock anthem lyric from his Yale fraternity days).   Venezuela is running dry, as is neighboring Mexico, and bargain basement crude sales to bolster Venezuela’s economy don’t help. Venezuela can no more supply the Citgo stations in Havana than it can keep the lights on in hospitals in Caracas.   With air routes opening, tourist hotels being planned, and Havana’s notorious nightclubs a shorter hop than Las Vegas for half the population of the United States, Cubans only have to hold their breath while they turn off the fans 8 hours per day.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A new era of conflict

We have entered a new era of conflict, warns new book by Emeritus Professor Paul Rogers 
  The causes of conflict are many and deep – economic, political, societal, environmental, demographic. n his new book, Irregular War (IB Tauris) , he reflects on Isis, al-Qaida, Boko Haram, Al Shabab, and the Taliban - all separate manifestations, he says, of a new non-state dynamic driving international conflict through asymmetric and hybrid warfare.   But their significance is more fundamental. They are part of what Rogers calls “an historical shift towards revolts from the margins”. And such revolts are made more likely by “the widening global socio-economic divide and the onset of climate disruption”.   In this holistic approach, he points to the enormous and growing gap between the world’s rich and poor. But the old division between rich countries and poor countries no longer applies as figures from the US demonstrate dramatically.    Rogers points to David Hulme’s book, Global Poverty: Global Governance and Poor People in the Post-2015 Era – while the global poverty rate may be declining slowly, the relative poverty rate in high-income countries has increased, and has more than doubled in the developing world. Meanwhile, the global military-industrial complex consumes some $1,700 bn a year.   There are likely to be two fundamental trends threatening world security, according to Rogers. One is “the increasing marginalisation of the majority of the world’s people caused by the workings of the neo-liberal system of international economic activity” which concentrates most of the fruits of economic growth in the hands of a transglobal elite of some 1.5bn people. More

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Sustainable Energy Finance Update: World Bank and India Team Up on Solar, US$1 Billion Pledged for Sustainable Energy in Pacific

1 July 2016: The New Energy Outlook 2016, a long-term forecast published in June by Bloomberg New Energy Finance 

(BNEF), predicts that coal and gas prices will remain lower than expected. However, with wind and solar costs anticipated to dip relatively lower, the Outlook assures that a fundamental transformation toward renewables is still in the works, with US$7.8 trillion in clean energy investments projected from 2016-2040.


With much of this investment being channeled through international finance institutions such as the multilateral development banks (MDBs), these institutions are significantly contributing to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) and, consequently, SDG 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts), as well as the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which was adopted in December 2015.


Nonetheless, according to BNEF, it will require trillions more to rein in emissions enough to stay within the Paris Agreement's 2°C limit. This month's Sustainable Energy Finance Update provides a snapshot of the types and extent of emissions-reducing renewable energy projects receiving international public support, as well as those projects aimed at “turning the light on” for those lacking electricity access. [BNEF Press Release] [New Energy Outlook 2016]


Diverse Renewable Energy Technologies Supported Worldwide


A good mix of renewable energy technologies – biomass, hydropower, geothermal, solar, wind, etc. – can both increase the reliability of the power system and decrease risk in an investment portfolio. Much of the finance news this month mixed technologies this way, with many announcements combining support for two or more renewable technologies. In addition, even where investments focused on one specific project type, there were a wide variety of technologies surfacing to the headlines.


A seven-year tranche of a US$130 million loan from the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) to Banco Galicia, for example, is aimed at financing various sustainable energy projects in Argentina. The projects, ranging from solar, wind, biomass and geothermal to energy and water efficiency projects, will take advantage of Argentina's unique wind and solar resources, grid structure and current energy sector reform process. [IFC Press Release]


During the Pacific Energy Conference hosted by the Government of New Zealand and the EU on 7 June, US$1 billion was committed for sustainable energy projects in the Pacific, representing the potential for every type of renewable energy project imaginable to receive support. Those making pledges included the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Australia, the EU, Japan, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the World Bank. [Government of New Zealand Press Release] [Pacific Energy Conference 2016 Website]


Cambodia's investment plan under the World Bank's Climate Investment Funds (CIF) Scaling Up Renewable Energy in Low-Income Countries Program (SREP) was endorsed on 17 June at the CIF governing bodies' meetings. The approved US$30 million is anticipated to leverage US$135 million from other sources, while supporting both solar and biomass energy development, including solar home systems, rooftop solar, mini-grids, utility-scale solar plants and a biomass power project. [CIF Press Release]


IFC is taking its first equity stake in Viet Nam's power sector, investing in a 16% share in Gia Lai Electricity Joint Stock Company to help it expand its hydropower portfolio, as well as invest in wind and solar. With 84.4 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity in small-scale run-of-the-river systems, the company is one of the largest private hydropower developers in Viet Nam. [IFC Press Release]


IFC is also becoming a shareholder of Akfen Energy in Turkey, with a 16.7% stake that will help the company almost triple its renewable energy production. Its current portfolio consists of solar and hydropower operations, and the company is expanding into wind. [IFC Press Release]




With India planning to reach 100 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity by 2022, the World Bank announced it is planning to support the country's efforts with US$1 billion in lending over the course of fiscal year 2017. India is also leading the International Solar Alliance (ISA) of 121 countries, which aims to mobilize US$1 trillion in investments by 2030. The World Bank signed an agreement with ISA in June, under which it will develop a roadmap for mobilizing financing and developing financial instruments for solar. [World Bank Feature Story] [World Bank Press Release]


The Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC) of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), has mobilized financing of US$44.7 million for Los Loros solar photovoltaic (PV) plant in Chile, which will have a total capacity of 54 MW and sell its electricity to the spot market of Chile's Central Interconnected System. The French Development Agency is also lending US$19.7 million to the project. [IDB Press Release]


IIC has also announced the financing for El Salvador's first-ever utility scale solar PV plant, to total 100 MW when finished. Loans from IIC come to US$87.7 million, while additional lending of US$30 million will be provided by the French Development Agency. [IDB Press Release]


A solar auction run by Zambia's Industrial Development Corporation, with assistance from IFC as part of the World Bank's Scaling Solar programme, attracted the lowest solar power tariffs seen in Africa to date. The winning bidders submitted proposals at 6.02¢/kilowatt-hour (kWh) (Neoen S.A.S. and First Solar Inc.) and 7.84¢/kWh (Enel S.A). Over the next year, Neoen and First Solar will build a 45 MW plant and Enel will build a 28 MW plant, which will reduce stress on Zambia's hydropower facilities after two years of drought greatly reduced water levels. [IFC Press ReleaseMore



Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Adaptation and Loss and Damage Update: Regions Step up DRR Efforts and Resilience to El NiƱo, Human Mobility, Climate Change and Development Nexus Explored

30 June 2016: As May 2016 became the 13th consecutive month to break the global temperature records, the world's regions' need to adapt to the changing climate grew stronger. 


In 2015-2016, the periodic warming of the central to Eastern tropical Pacific, known as 'El Niño,' was the strongest since 1997-1998, causing some regions to receive more rain, and others to receive no precipitation. These changes impacted agriculture, food security and nutrition among the affected populations. During the past few weeks, the world's regions, States and sectors have redoubled adaptation efforts, focusing on building resilience and managing disaster risks. The news reported in this Update also demonstrate that the role of cooperation, innovation and knowledge dissemination in advancing climate change adaptation efforts cannot be underestimated.


With health, gender, indigenous knowledge and climate migration featuring prominently among the recent weeks' adaptation and loss and damage-related developments, the initiatives reported in this update contribute to a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and accompanying targets, including 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts), 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages), 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), 2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture), 11 (Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) and target 10.7 on migration and mobility, including the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.


Regions Face El Niño Impacts, Droughts, Floods


The statement released by the 43rd Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF 43), convened by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) in Naivasha, Kenya, from 30-31 May 2016, indicates that there is an increased likelihood of La Niña – El Niño's counterpart associated with cooler than average sea surface temperatures in the central and Eastern tropical Pacific Ocean – developing in the second half of 2016 that will affect the Greater Horn of Africa (GHA) region. Floods are also more likely during the rainfall peak months of August and September in Ethiopia, South Sudan and Sudan. [Statement from GHACOF 43] [IGAD Press Release] [WMO Press Release on GHA]


To better understand risks and assess impacts from the 2015-2016 El Niño, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) conducted a 'Regional Consultative Workshop on El Niño in Asia-Pacific' in Bangkok, Thailand, from 7-9 June 2016. Participants from over 12 countries affected by El Niño received training on a standardized methodology to interpret, translate and communicate El Niño-associated risks in a timely manner. [Workshop Concept Note] [Workshop Programme] [ESCAP Workshop Webpage] [ESCAP Press Release]


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) convened a high-level meeting in Rome, Italy, on 30 June 2016, which highlighted the need for long-term action to address El Niño impacts in Central America's 'Dry Corridor,' including by building resilience for food security and nutrition for the most vulnerable populations in the countries affected by the phenomenon.


'Dry Corridor' refers to a group of ecosystems in the dry tropical forests region in Central America extending from the lowlands of the Pacific coastal area to most of central pre-mountain region of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and parts of Costa Rica and Panama. Subject to climate risks such as recurrent droughts, excessive rains and severe flooding, 'Dry Corridor' recently experienced one of the worst droughts in decades.


In the midst of the extreme drought affecting Dry Corridor, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) managing the recently expanded Panama Canal has been promoting climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction (DRR) through sustainable use of water. [UN Press Release] [FAO Calendar] [UNISDR Press Release] [Panama Canal Website]


Also in relation to droughts in Central America, FAO released a report titled 'Drought characteristics and management in the Caribbean,' which calls for countries in the region to enhance their capabilities to deal with more frequent and intense droughts brought about by climate change. The report discusses drought characteristics and management in the Caribbean, identifies national and regional agencies involved in drought management, and reviews information on their work at national and regional levels. It recognizes the vulnerability of the agricultural sector to seasonal droughts and outlines the socioeconomic impacts of droughts on water resources, fisheries, tourism, hydropower and communities' coping capacity. [Drought Characteristics and Management in the Caribbean] [FAO Press Release] [UN Press Release]


Climate change impacts on the poor in coastal Bangladesh were the focus of a World Bank Policy Research Talk by Susmita Dasgupta, Lead Environmental Economist, World Bank. Dasgupta highlighted heightened cyclonic inundation, rising river salinity and increased soil salinity among the current and growing risks with severe consequences for the poor. “Climate change is going to create severe poverty traps,” she noted. “Unless we address the climate change problem now, sustainable poverty reduction will remain a dream.” [World Bank Feature StoryMore