Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: Scientist Hope They Have a Solution for Dying Coral

July 20, 2018

Australia announced plans Friday to explore concepts such as firing salt into clouds and covering swathes of water with a thin layer of film in a bid to save the embattled Great Barrier Reef.

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed reef, about the size of Japan or Italy, is reeling from two straight years of bleaching as sea temperatures rise because of climate change.

Experts have warned that the 2,300-kilometre (1,400-mile) long area could have suffered irreparable damage.

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While the government has pledged to tackle climate change — the greatest threat to the world’s largest living structure — there has also been a push to explore shorter-term measures to buy the reef some time.

Canberra in January offered Aus$2.0 million (US$1.5 million) to attract innovative ideas to protect the site, which is also under pressure from farming runoff, development and the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish.

Six schemes selected out of a total of 69 submissions will be tested to see if they are feasible.

One selected concept is cloud brightening where salt crystals harvested from seawater are fired into clouds, making them more reflective and therefore deflecting solar rays back into space.

David Mead, a researcher at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said the idea might seem wacky but the proposal has real potential.

“The team have been looking at using a very fine nozzle to pump small droplets of salt water at the rate of several billion per second,” he told national broadcaster ABC.

“The water vaporises and you’re left with a salt particle which will float around, and if you can introduce those into the system you can increase the amount of sunlight reflected back.”

Another idea was a biodegradable “sun shield”, where an ultra-thin film containing light-reflecting particles covers some reef waters to protect corals from heat stress.

“The great thing about the film is it is only a molecule thick so you can swim straight through it and it’ll just keep self-forming,” Andrew Negri from the Australian Institute of Marine Science told the ABC.

Other short-listed projects include mass producing coral larvae with the aid of 3D-printed surfaces to support new growth, and large-scale harvesting and relocation of larvae.

The experimental commissions came as Canberra said Friday it was updating its Aus$2.0 billion “Reef 2050” plan — first unveiled in 2015 — to protect the reef, with further measures to improve water quality.



See also:

The Great Barrier Reef Is Losing Its Ability to Recover from Bleaching Events




Nissan admits falsifying emissions data on cars made in Japan

July 9, 2018

Nissan admitted Monday that data on exhaust emissions and fuel economy had been deliberately “altered”, dealing a blow to the Japanese car giant’s efforts to recover from an inspection scandal last year.

The company did not say how many cars were affected by the falsifications, which were uncovered during voluntary tests of all parts of Nissan’s operations conducted in the wake of last year’s scandal.

© AFP | Nissan said tests on exhaust emissions and fuel economy had ‘deviated from the prescribed testing environment’

It said that tests on exhaust emissions and fuel economy had “deviated from the prescribed testing environment”.

In addition, it said inspection reports had been drawn up “based on altered measurement values”.

Nissan’s share price dropped 4.56 percent to 1,003.5 yen after it said it would make a statement on exhaust measurements following a report of falsification.

The firm vowed a “full and comprehensive investigation” into its latest fake data scandal.



Great Barrier Reef: Tourist industry wakes up to reef’s climate risks

July 8, 2018

Tourist operators on the Great Barrier Reef are shifting their stance on climate change, with the peak industry body opposing Adani’s “mega coal mine”, and acknowledging fossil fuel use has to be phased out.

In an unprecedented declaration, a year in the making, the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) and Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) called on “all our political leaders…to fight for the future of our reef”.

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Great Barrier Reef tour operators are shifting their stance on climate change, and the threat it poses for corals in Australia and around the world.

Photo: Dean Miller, Great Barrier Reef Legacy

“The carbon pollution from coal, oil and gas is heating the air and the oceans to dangerous levels,” the statement said, noting the record marine heatwaves in 2016 and 2017 had damaged coral reefs worldwide. “It’s not too late to save our Reef but time is critical.”

“On climate change, I’m sold,” Col McKenzie, AMPTO’s long-serving chief executive, told Fairfax Media. “It’s a man-made issue.”

By Peter Hannam

The declaration has already drawn dozens of signatories among tourist businesses and adds to local calls for climate action from local government such as Douglas Shire council.

Imogen Zethoven, the society’s reef campaign director, said the tourism industry had been “in a state of shock” after the first bout of mass coral bleaching in 2016, and had resisted discussing climate change.

But a second bout in 2017 brought a recognition that a warming planet “is an existential threat to the reef and the tourism industry”, Ms Zethoven said.


Tony Fontes, a dive operator based in the Whitsundays since the 1980s, called AMPTO’s shift “a huge step”.

“It’s overdue but it is happening,” Mr Fontes said. “Basically we need a mass campaign” to protect the reef.

How far the tourist industry push dovetails with the anti-Adani campaign remains to be seen.

Bob Manning, Cairns Regional Council mayor, doubts opposition to the Indian miner’s proposed giant Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin “gets us anywhere”.

Still, “Adani has done us no favour overseas”, Mr Manning said. “It’s hard for us to say we are responsibly managing the reef…but at the same time we’re letting those coal ships through.”

A spokeswoman for Adani said the company remains “100 per cent committed to the Carmichael project and are confident of securing finance”.

“Strict safety and environmental standards already governing shipping along the Queensland coast will ensure there is no impact to the Great Barrier Reef,” she said.

‘Global issue’

Ian Macfarlane, chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council, said coal from the basin “is high energy, lower emission coal when compared with lower quality, higher emission coals sourced from Indonesia and India”.

“The addressing of climate change is a global issue and requires all countries to be involved in lowering emissions,” he said.

Mark Read, acting director of field management at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, said the tourism industry’s new stance comes even as visitor numbers rebound to record levels.

“These are the people who spend their lives taking people out, [who have] lived and breathed and tried to make a living through these tough times,” Dr Read said.

Still, the authority is not in a position to discuss curbs on Australian coal, such as the Adani mine.

Climate change “is the thing that the global community most desperately needs to tackle if we’re going to…give the reef a real possible chance for a long-term future,” Dr Read said.

The author travelled to the Great Barrier Reef courtesy of the Climate Council.

A Climate Shakedown Flops

June 30, 2018

A federal judge tosses the left coast’s suit against fossil fuels.

A undated file picture of the Chevron oil refinery in El Segungo, California.
A undated file picture of the Chevron oil refinery in El Segungo, California. PHOTO: ARMANDO ARORIZO/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY



The first wave of lawsuits to make oil companies atone for their alleged climate sins was beaten back this week by federal Judge William Alsup. One hope is that this victory for judicial sanity will stop the tide of litigation from spreading across the country.

The cities of San Francisco and Oakland sued BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell, demanding billions of dollars to remedy future environmental damage caused by fossil fuels. The Supreme Court ruled in AEP v. Connecticut (2011) that regulating emissions is the Environmental Protection Agency’s bailiwick. But the cities tried to circumvent the ruling by arguing that the mere production and sale of oil is a public nuisance.

Judge Alsup, a Bill Clinton appointee, rightly refrained from trying to regulate global carbon emissions from the bench. The problem of climate change “deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case. While it remains true that our federal courts have authority to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming, courts must also respect and defer to the other co-equal branches of government,” he wrote.

The judge also ridiculed the notion that fossil fuels are a public nuisance and even suggested that they have been a boon for humanity. “Our industrial revolution and the development of our modern world has literally been fueled by oil and coal. Without those fuels, virtually all of our monumental progress would have been impossible,” he noted. Fetch the smelling salts for Tom Steyer.

Judge Alsup shrewdly saw through the gambit by Democratic politicians and plaintiff attorneys to loot big oil companies to pad their coffers. Six other California cities and counties, Seattle, New York and Massachusetts have filed similar suits. While Judge Alsup’s ruling doesn’t bind other courts, his ruling is a sound legal guide for them to follow.

Appeared in the June 30, 2018, print edition.

Once a climate leader, Germany risks being ‘left behind’: Al Gore

June 26, 2018

After years of leadership on climate change, Germany risks being left behind as other countries move more aggressively to cut their reliance on coal and phase out the internal combustion engine, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said on Tuesday.

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Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore attends an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Germany, June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Speaking to Reuters in Berlin as a new German government commission met to discuss setting an end-date for coal-fired energy, Gore noted that there had not been any meaningful reductions in German carbon dioxide emissions for four years.

“If I were a citizen of Germany, I would be concerned about Germany being left behind,” said Gore, who is in Berlin to train hundreds of climate activists as part of his “Climate Reality” initiative.

“One can’t rest on one’s laurels. The leadership provided in years past created a reality that now no longer exists. Other countries are moving much faster than Germany,” he said.

In her early years in office, Angela Merkel was referred to at home as the “Klimakanzlerin”, or climate chancellor, for securing commitments at the European and G8 level to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Germany was also an early leader in solar power.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore attends an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Germany, June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

But in recent years, in an attempt to shield its large auto industry, Berlin has pushed back against efforts in Brussels to toughen emissions targets.

In part because of Merkel’s decision to end Germany’s reliance on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011, it has also been slow to shut down its polluting coal plants.

It has acknowledged that it won’t meet its own target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.


Gore, who won an Oscar and shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his climate change documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, said he had “immeasurable respect” for Merkel and acknowledged that she was operating in a difficult political landscape, but urged Germany to re-establish its leadership on the climate.

Like Hillary Clinton in 2016, Gore won the popular vote in the presidential election in 2000 but ended up losing – to Republican George W. Bush – due to the Electoral College system, which awards points based on the states won.

He said he understood concerns in Europe about the policies of President Donald Trump, who has hit Europe with trade tariffs and pulled the United States out of the global Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal with major powers.

But he predicted that the transatlantic relationship with Washington’s European allies would survive, and said U.S. mid-term elections in the November could bring about “big change” if the Democrats wrest back control of Congress.

“I think that Trump is making so many mistakes and making so many enemies that the outcome I hope for in November may be echoed by the outcome two years later,” said Gore.

He said Trump’s victory over Clinton may eventually be looked upon as an “anomaly”.

Reporting by Noah Barkin; Editing by Kevin Liffey


Satellite images show damage to South China Sea shoals — Some blaming Chinese clam diggers

June 17, 2018
Satellite images posted by Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, compare the situation of Panatag Shoal in 2009, 2014 and 2016. From left: the undisturbed coral reef segment in 2009; the visible reef damage allegedly caused by Chinese boats which use propellers to harvest giant clams in 2014, two years after Beijing took control of the area; and even more damage with deep scars outlined by the shadows (highlighted) in 2016, when 300 square meters of formerly pristine reef were turned into rubble.
Evelyn MacairanJanvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) – June 17, 2018 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Publicly-available satellite images show the considerable damage supposedly made by Chinese clam diggers in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal since 2012, an international maritime law expert posted on social media yesterday.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, shared satellite images taken from Google Earth that showed changes in the shoal since the Chinese took control of the resource-rich area six years ago.

“Using Google Earth, one can measure about 552 hectares of the back (inner) reef of Scarborough Shoal visibly destroyed by clam diggers since 2012,” he said in a post on his social media accounts.

“That’s visible damage, by the way. Only ground-truthing can provide a truly accurate assessment,” he added.

In an earlier post, Batongbacal posted three satellite images of the shoal which showed what he said are scars left by Chinese fishermen that used propellers to cut the reef in order to dislodge giant clams.

“The third, taken a few months after the arbitral award handed down in 2016, shows even more scars and indicating complete destruction of the area shown (approximately 2.5-kilometer distance from end to end),” he wrote.

“All this destruction took place with the China Coast Guard keeping watch over the shoal. In 2016, the CSIS AMTI (Center for Strategic and International Studies-Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative) estimated roughly half of the total reef area of Scarborough to have been destroyed,” he added.

Batongbacal noted that Chinese boats continued to carry out this activity until 2017 as seen by photos taken by the media during maritime air patrols.

He said the recent complaints of Filipino fishermen against Chinese Coast Guard taking their fish indicate activities that continuously damage the shoal.

Duterte told: Protect fishermen, not yourself

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate urged President Duterte yesterday to send the Philippine Coast Guard to Panatag Shoal to protect fishermen from alleged harassment by the Chinese.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on the Laity (ECL) chairman Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said Duterte’s lackluster protest contributed to Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea, while Sen. Richard Gordon stressed the government cannot afford to remain docile in dealing with China if it wants to be taken seriously in its claims over its territories.

In his blog “Panaghoy,” Pabillo said Duterte is responsible for China’s encroachment into Philippine territory, bullying of Filipino fishermen and destruction of marine resources.

Pabillo pointed out that during Duterte’s term, China was able to bring in more military hardware to the disputed West Philippine Sea, which is also being claimed by other countries including the Philippines.

The Manila bishop said Duterte takes the matter lightly, even claiming that China promised to protect him from foreign detractors who might attempt to oust him from the presidency.

“Duterte and his administration have not made any fuss on China’s moves and aggressiveness. He just jokes about them and even makes innuendoes that China will protect him and not allow him to fall. If this is the message he sends out, China on its part will not hesitate to do what it wants,” Pabillo said.

“So again we can say that Duterte has a great influence in the Chinese aggression even if he does not have any direct hand in it,” Pabillo noted.

Pabillo said there is not even any strongly-worded protest against “our big neighbor” even if Filipino fishermen are already being harassed in their own territories.

“The Chinese have even the gall to claim that it is by their own goodwill that Filipinos fish in their (that is, our) seas,” Pabillo said.

Pabillo also pointed out that China is not a defender of human rights or the rule of law, does not accept international law if it is not to its advantage and uses its might to bully a poor neighbor, like what it is doing in the West Philippine Sea.

“China can easily bully us too if we allow it to gain any foothold in our territories and in our policies. Duterte too is playing the same game. He has no moral compass to guide him,” Pabillo said.

Even if Duterte has often said that he loves the Philippines, the bishop doubted his sincerity.

Pabillo said the Chief Executive has “no love of country… He uses situations just to his own advantage. He does not care about the Filipinos or about the future of the country.”

Zarate, for his part, said the President should send the PCG to accompany or escort the hapless fisherfolk at Panatag Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, or in other Philippine-claimed areas in the West Philippine Sea.

“We have to show China that we are serious in defending our people as well as our territory. Our officials should always assert our independence, instead of them acting as apologists for China, which apparently now treats the Philippines as her vassal state,” Zarate said.

China took control of Panatag Shoal in 2012 after a standoff between Chinese and Philippine vessels. Beijing refused to honor an agreement mediated by the United States to end the standoff and made it appear that the Philippines backed down, the previous administration said.

Under the 2016 United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s territorial claim over the whole of the South China Sea, including a large part of the country’s exclusive economic zone, Panatag Shoal was declared a traditional fishing ground of Filipinos, Chinese and Vietnamese.

“China is apparently treating the Duterte administration as a pushover by doing what they want in Bajo de Masinloc and the rest of the (West Philippine Sea) without nary a whimper from Malacañang,” Zarate said.

“We are not saying that we declare war on China. But what we need is for Malacañang to stand up for our fisherfolk and our territory. We have already suggested in the past the filing of a diplomatic protest and increasing patrols of our seas, among others. One thing is clear though, the government must do something now to stop this invasion of China,” Zarate said.

Zarate also cautioned the US against exacerbating tension in the disputed sea.

“The situation in the West Philippine Sea is already getting serious. The US and China should stop their sabre rattling so as to lessen tension. The Philippines and other small claimants are in a situation akin to having two bullies in their backyard raring for a fight and thrashing each other without regard for the backyard or the houses nearby,” he said.

He urged claimant-states like the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia to work together to ease tension in the West Philippine Sea.

Fishermen from Zambales and Pangasinan have reported that Chinese Coast Guard personnel have been taking part of their catch in Panatag Shoal area and that Chinese fishermen have destroyed coral reefs there.

Seek foreign help 

Gordon said the government must be more aggressive in dealing with China, which has been claiming areas in the disputed South China Sea and clearly establishing a military presence there.

In an interview over dwIZ, Gordon said the Philippines’ claims over the West Philippine Sea would not be taken seriously by China since it has no military might to speak of at all.

He recalled how China refrained from acting so aggressively when the US still had its military bases in the Philippines.

With the American bases long gone, Gordon said there is nothing standing in the way of China doing what it wants in the disputed waters.

Gordon urged the government to reach out to its allies such as the US, Japan, New Zealand, Korea and Australia for support.

He said the Philippines must make its presence felt in the West Philippine Sea by building its own structures there, whether these are airfields, buildings or any structure to show signs of occupation.

Gordon said diplomatic protests against China should also be filed if this has not yet been done in order to show that the country would not allow itself to be bullied.

Even if these actions could result in some form of retaliation from China, Gordon said the country should be ready to accept this because pushing back is the right thing to do.

Gordon said it is time the government takes the strengthening of the armed forces seriously because this has been neglected by all of the previous administrations.

He recalled how he pushed for the allocation of 13 percent of the collections from the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law for building up the military, but this was not carried.

“You cannot have any bargaining chip if you don’t have a strong armed forces,” Gordon said.

Gordon said he has met with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to find out what the military needs in the 2019 national budget.  – With Jess Diaz, Marvin Sy


Antarctic ice melting has nearly tripled in five years

June 14, 2018

The melting of Antarctica is accelerating at an alarming rate, with about three trillion tons of ice disappearing since 1992, an international team of ice experts said in a new study.

In the last quarter century, the southern-most continent’s ice sheet – a key indicator of climate change – melted into enough water to cover Texas to a depth of nearly 13 feet (4 meters), scientists calculated. All that water made global oceans rise about three-tenths of an inch (7.6 millimeters).

© Hamish Pritchard, Nature Publishing Group, AFP | “Ice-speaking, the situation is dire,” says Twila Moon of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

From 1992 to 2011, Antarctica lost nearly 84 billion tons of ice a year (76 billion metric tons). From 2012 to 2017, the melt rate increased to more than 241 billion tons a year (219 billion metric tons), according to the study Wednesday in the journal Nature .

“I think we should be worried. That doesn’t mean we should be desperate,” said University of California Irvine’s Isabella Velicogna, one of 88 co-authors. “Things are happening. They are happening faster than we expected.”

Part of West Antarctica, where most of the melting occurred, “is in a state of collapse,” said co-author Ian Joughin of the University of Washington.

The study is the second of assessments planned every several years by a team of scientists working with NASA and the European Space Agency. Their mission is to produce the most comprehensive look at what’s happening to the world’s vulnerable ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland.

NASA Earth


Ice losses from Antarctica have tripled since 2012, increasing global sea levels by 0.12 inch (3 millimeters) in that timeframe alone, according to a major new international climate assessment funded by @NASA and @esa. 

Outside experts praised the work as authoritative.

Unlike single-measurement studies, this team looks at ice loss in 24 different ways using 10 to 15 satellites, as well as ground and air measurements and computer simulations, said lead author Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds in England.

It’s possible that Antarctica alone can add about half a foot (16 centimeters) to sea level rise by the end of the century, Shepherd said. Seas also rise from melting land glaciers elsewhere, Greenland’s dwindling ice sheet and the fact that warmer water expands.

“Under natural conditions we don’t expect the ice sheet to lose ice at all,” Shepherd said. “There are no other plausible signals to be driving this other than climate change.”

Shepherd cautioned that this is not a formal study that determines human fingerprints on climate events.

Forces “that are driving these changes are not going to get any better in a warming climate,” said University of Colorado ice scientist Waleed Abdalati, a former NASA chief scientist who wasn’t part of the study team.

In Antarctica, it’s mostly warmer water causing the melt. The water nibbles at the floating edges of ice sheets from below. Warming of the southern ocean is connected to shifting winds, which are connected to global warming from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, Shepherd said.

More than 70 percent of the recent melt is in West Antarctica.

The latest figures show East Antarctica is losing relatively little ice a year – about 31 tons (28 metric tons) – since 2012. It was gaining ice before 2012.

So far scientists are not comfortable saying the trend in East Antarctica will continue. It is likely natural variability, not climate change, and East Antarctica is probably going to be stable for a couple decades, said study co-author Joughin.

Another study in Nature on Wednesday found that East Antarctic ice sheet didn’t retreat significantly 2 million to 5 million years ago when heat-trapping carbon dioxide levels were similar to what they are now.

Twila Moon, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center who wasn’t part of the studies, said “ice-speaking, the situation is dire.”


India will abolish all single-use plastic by 2022, vows Narendra Modi

June 6, 2018

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Country will also introduce a campaign against marine litter and a pledge to make 100 national monuments litter-free

India will eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022, prime minister Narendra Modi has announced.

The pledge is the most ambitious yet of the global actions to combat plastic pollution that are taking place in 60 nations around the world. Modi’s move aims to drastically stem the flow of plastic from the 1.3 billion people living in the fastest growing economy in the world.

“The choices that we make today will define our collective future,” said Modi on Tuesday. “The choices may not be easy. But through awareness, technology, and a genuine global partnership, I am sure we can make the right choices. Let us all join together to beat plastic pollution and make this planet a better place to live.”

A UN report issued on Tuesday – World Environment Day – showed dozens of nations acting to cut plastic, including a ban on plastic bags in Kenya, on styrofoam in Sri Lanka and the use of biodegradable bags in China.

A tax on single-use plastic bags in the UK has slashed their use, and ministers have banned microbeads in personal hygiene products. But prime minister Theresa May’s pledge to end “avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042” was criticised as far too slow.

Plastic waste pictured on Juhu beach in Mumbai.
 Plastic waste pictured on Juhu beach in Mumbai. Photograph: Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

Millions of tonnes of plastic enter the seas each year, choking whales and other creatures, much of it in Asia. Plastic pollution has been found across the globe, from the most remote oceanic islands to high Swiss peaks. Microplastics have now also been found in tap water and human foodaround the world, with unknown implications for health.

Writing in the Guardian on Tuesday, Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said: “Let there be no doubt: we are on edge of a plastic calamity.” But he praised India’s initiative: “They have shown that political motivation, turned into practical action, can inspire the world and ignite real change.”

India, which has 7,500km of coastline, also announced a national marine litter action campaign and a programme to measure how much plastic enters India’s coastal waters. The nation will also pledge to make 100 national monuments litter-free, including the Taj Mahal.

“Environmental degradation hurts the poor and vulnerable the most,” Modi said. “It is the duty of each one of us to ensure that material prosperity does not compromise our environment.”

In 2014, Modi pledged to bring electricity to the almost 20,000 that still lacked power by 2019. On 28 April, he claimed this had been achieved.

See also CNN:

India’s Modi calls for crackdown on plastic pollution on World Environment Day

China’s rising emissions prove Trump right on Paris Agreement 

June 6, 2018
Nothing horrifies the intelligentsia more than President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change. But, based on new information on China’s emissions, it increasingly looks like the president made the right call.
The Hill

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© Getty Images

Nothing horrifies the intelligentsia more than President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change. But, based on new information on China’s emissions, it increasingly looks like the president made the right call.

Just last week, an analysis from Greenpeace indicated that China’s 2018 carbon emissions were on track to grow at the fastest rate in six years. The study, based on government data regarding the use of coal and other energy sources, shows carbon output rising 4 percent in the first quarter of this year. Analysts are projecting similar gains over the next several quarters.

The weakness of the Paris Agreement was that it was lopsided, requiring little from China and a great deal from the U.S. President Obama committed the United States to reducing carbon emissions in 2025 by 26 to 28 percent, which would have meant a substantial jump in electricity costs.

By contrast, China committed to boosting non-fossil fuels to around 20 percent of its overall energy mix by 2030 (a project already underway) and a “hope” that emissions might peak at that time. As one analyst commented in the New York Times, “What China is pledging to do here is not a lot different from what China’s policies are on track to deliver.”

As vague as its goals were, it is becoming clear that the country is unlikely to meet them. To do so would require sacrificing growth to rein in pollution. Since the Chinese Communist Party has pledged to double China’s 2010 GDP by 2020 and to create a “moderately prosperous society” by 2021, that is extremely unlikely.

Fans of the Paris accord have proudly noted that China’s emissions flattened between 2014 and 2016. But that reported hiatus in Beijing’s long-term carbon growth occurred during a period of economic deceleration. In 2017, with a renewed push for industrial investment and output, emissions again began to grow.

China is key. It is by far the world’s biggest source of carbon emissions, producing more than one quarter of the global total and 81 percent more than the United States. The U.S. is the second-largest; India a distant third.

Unlike China, emissions from the United States have trended lower in recent years. The peak occurred in 2005; overall net emissions in 2016 were 12.1-percent lower than in 2005, and the International Energy Agency reports another drop in 2017.

The main driver of lower emissions in the U.S. has been increased substitution of natural gas for coal in producing electric power. Cleaner natural gas became increasingly competitive with cheap coal thanks to widespread use of newly improved hydraulic fracking techniques.

The United States also implemented higher fuel economy standards for automobiles, but the impact from that measure has been far more limited. Emissions in the electric power sector dropped 25 percent between 2005 and 2016, from 2,401 million metric tons (mmt) to 1,809 mmt.

In transportation, the decline was a more modest 4 percent, from 1,856 mmt to 1,783 mmt. In 2017, according to the IEA, increased use of renewables for power generation was a key contributor to the decline in U.S. emissions.

By contrast, in China, coal use has trended higher recently, driving emissions up. Coal consumption, according to Beijing’s own (questionable) statistics, rose 0.4 percent in 2017, producing some backpedaling among those optimistic about China’s compliance with the Paris accord. Others estimate the increase at between 1 percent and 5 percent.

It is difficult to know, given China’s history of fudging the numbers. In the lead-up to the Paris talks, for instance, it became obvious that China was burning 17 percent more coal than it had admitted, a variance the New York Times described as “immense.”

Make no mistake: China is indeed attempting to reduce the blinding pollution that makes its major cities almost uninhabitable and that routinely shuts down its airports. Officials are ramping up the use of renewables and nuclear power, and they are trying to reduce their power sector’s reliance on coal.

This is not because of President Xi Jinping’s commitment to the Paris Agreement; it is because for several years there have been escalating (illegal) protests about the foul air and water that the political elites in Beijing and Shanghai have been forced to endure.

In a 2015 poll by Pew Research Center, three-quarters of Chinese respondents listed air and water pollution as “very” or “moderately” big problems; only “corrupt officials” ranked higher.

China’s supposed commitment to global emissions reductions is undermined by its sponsorship of coal elsewhere. The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that between 2013 and 2016, Beijing spent $15 billion building coal plants outside of China, mainly in countries included in its “One Belt, One Road” project. Another $13 billion is on tap for similar projects.

Eager to score a foreign policy achievement, Obama committed to promises that could have been met only by retarding U.S. growth.

In his speech announcing his withdrawal, President Trump cited a study by National Economic Research Associates that claimed the Paris Agreement would cost the U.S. 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025, including 440,000 in manufacturing and nearly $3 trillion in lost GDP by 2040. All, according to the study, for a 0.2-degree Celsius change in global warming by the year 2100.

Most important, it would have required the U.S. to hobble one of its greatest competitive weapons: its vibrant fossil fuel industries.

China President Xi Jinping was undoubtedly enthusiastic about a deal that demanded few sacrifices by China but that would have cost America dearly in terms of lost growth and income.

When he said at the start of last fall’s 19th party congress: “No one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests,” he could have been referring to the Paris accord.

Beijing embraces a “China First” view of the world. Thank heavens the U.S. finally has a president who puts his country’s interests first as well.

Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. For 15 years, she has been a columnist for The Fiscal Times, Fox News, the New York Sun and numerous other organizations.


African deforestation: ‘If nothing is done, we may lose everything’

May 30, 2018

Africa’s tropical forests, which include the Congo Basin, are under constant threat. Deutsche Welle speaks to Proforest’s Abraham Baffoe on what stands to be lost and what needs to be done to tackle deforestation.

Abraham Baffoe from Proforest stands in from of a fallen tree.

Africa’s tropical forests include the Guinean Forests of West Africa and the Congo Basin, a sprawling rainforest often referred to as the world’s second set of lungs. The continent’s forests store 171 gigatons of carbon, are home to many plants and animals that exist nowhere else in the world and support an estimated 100 million people.

Abraham Baffoe, Africa regional director at Proforest, speaks to Deutsche Welle about the threats facing these forests and the urgent work that needs to be done to tackle deforestation.

DW: What is the state of deforestation in Africa today?  

Abraham Baffoe: Africa houses about the second largest forest block in the world but unfortunately this forest is going, and it is going very fast. Currently in some African countries they are losing forest at a rate of about 2-3 percent per year, in some countries much faster. At this rate, if nothing is done, we may lose everything.

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In the last 100 years, West Africa has lost about 90 percent of forest coverage. In many African countries the only forests left are reserved for permanent forestry, which means they are protected. Now in places like Ghana and the Ivory Coast we don’t have any forest left outside the reserves and now even the reserves are being encroached upon and being degraded by excessive logging and exploitation. In the Congo Basin, where there are still forests outside the reserves, these areas are going very fast because of agriculture, commodity development and farming activity by small-holder farmers.

What are the wider impacts of deforestation on the continent? 

Well frankly speaking, the impact of deforestation, from my point of view, goes beyond what we as human beings can imagine. There are several things we don’t know and so we can’t fully understand what the impact of losing our forest will be.

What we do know is the impact it will have on biodiversity. If you look at the West African Forest, it is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. There are several animals and plants that only exist in these forests. They can’t survive without their habitat, so when you lose the forest, they will also disappear. Then there is the impact in accelerating climate change — that is something we now all know — as well as the huge economic impact. What is also critical is the impact it has on people who depend on the forest socially and economically. For example, there are indigenous people who live in the Congo Basin, and the forest is their source of livelihood. We are destroying the habitat of these people — and that means we are driving them out of this world, which we don’t have the right to do.

Kongobecken Regenwald Nebel Kongo Afrika (picture alliance/ WILDLIFE)The Congo Basin is often referred to as the world’s second set of lungs

How much collaboration is happening between decision makers at the policy level? 

I think collaborating and working together is essential if you really want to address deforestation. Tackling the underlying causes of deforestation is not something that government alone can address. It is also not something the private sector alone can address. It requires collaborative efforts of the private sector, the government and even the communities who live in the forest.

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It is also important that we don’t just think about conservation and protection. We also have to make sure we develop livelihood options and economic opportunities for the local communities. We need to get their support, and we can’t do that if they don’t know how they will survive — how they will get up in the morning and provide food for their children and family.

How significant was the 2016 African Palm Oil Initiative? 

That was where the collaboration all started. It was a significant moment when the key stakeholders in African countries came together and realized that things such as palm oil used for commodities were the major drivers of deforestation.

In Latin America the focus is more on soy and cattle, but we recognized that our focus in Africa needs to be on palm oil. The heart of the initiative is the recognition that government and the private sector needed to work together to create principles on how land should be allocated and used. The initiative is not about saying all palm oil is bad but instead pushing for it to be sourced responsibly and sustainably, and about making sure that the wealth is shared between private companies and the local community. The fact that we had the major countries agree on this is an important mark of progress.

What this means on the ground, is that for instance in Liberia we saw a community saying if farmers come onto our land, we don’t want to just be oil palm plantation workers, we also want to be owners of our palm. And for me that is a phenomenal statement. The Liberian government have integrated the principles of the initiative and stated that no company will be given land without a requirement for the company to create small-holder farms for the community.

As an expert working on this issue, do you feel hopeful about the future of tackling deforestation in Africa? 

If we were to maintain the status quo then I’m going to be very disappointed and feel that there is no hope for the forests of Africa. However, if we keep moving toward more collaboration between the government and private sector, agreeing what needs to be done, then I am very positive and hopeful. But I can’t say I am 100 percent certain about the future — because it is one thing to agree on these principles, like those in the African Palm Oil Initiative, and it is another to translate them into action on the ground.  The agreement only happened two years ago so we haven’t yet seen what it can do. But I’m hopeful that if we go on as we have started then in three or four years there will be concrete impact that can be demonstrated.