Archive for the month “August, 2015”

Report on the first Ecologise! workshop

Letter from Shreekumar of Sangatya Commune, 
who hosted the first Ecologise! workshop

DSC00436
We had a good beginning to the Ecologise programme with the first 
orientation camp held at Sangatya Commune, Nakre, Karkala.  Read more…

Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change

Climate Change: A Warning From Islam

Bill McKibben, New York Review of Books


Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos

Ziglab Lake, Jordan, 2009

On August 19, a convocation of some sixty leading Muslim clerics and religious scholars from around the planet, spurred by the growing siege of climate disasters affecting the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, issued an Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change. It was far shorter than Pope Francis’s much discussed encyclical issued early in the summer, but it arrived in much the same spirit:

Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward [khalifah] on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger of ending life as we know it on our planet. This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and the earth’s fine equilibrium [mīzān] may soon be lost.

Read more…

News update

Doomsday in 10 years: India may run out of water by 2025
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
We know quite well that water is scarce. Many even imagine that a Third World War will be fought over water. Nonetheless, the thought of taps running dry doesnt come naturally. But maybe it is time to wake up doomsday is likely just 10 years from now. This alarming figure was emphasised in the last Parliament session. In the Question Hour, Sanwar Lal Jat, the junior minister for water resources, quoted a study by a private consulting firm that said India wont have enough water for its people by 2025.

How India Can Cut Short-term Carbon Emissions 70%
Darryl DMonte, IndiaSpend
As India works on its voluntary commitments to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Indian experts have explained how the country could cut its carbon emissions from short-lived climate pollutants by nearly three-fourths using low-cost methods and, in the process, transform the lives of the poor. The US, EU and China are among the major countries which have declared their commitments; the global community is waiting to see what India does.

The Latest Science on Global Warming (by James Hansen & others)
Eric Zuesse, Countercurrents.org
Previous estimates of the coastal cities that will be flooded out of existence have been overly optimistic. The situation will likely be worse than has been projected. But measures can be taken that will probably succeed at preventing the outcome from being even worse than that.

July 2015 was warmest month ever recorded for the globe
Science Daily
The July average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.46°F (0.81°C) above the 20th century average. As July is climatologically the warmest month for the year, this was also the all-time highest monthly temperature in the 1880-2015 record, at 61.86°F (16.61°C), surpassing the previous record set in 1998 by 0.14°F (0.08°C).

Plan for Paris: looking beyond emission cuts
Sujatha Byravan and Sudhir Chella Rajan, South Asia Monitor
In the lead up to the Paris Climate Summit — Conference of Parties (CoP) 21 — an important buzzword in international climate circles is INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) that each country needs to commit itself to as its climate policy. Much of this is tacitly expected to mean a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions rather than adaptation, which would be about transforming or changing systems and institutions to enable us live in a warmer world. While we eventually have to reduce emissions to zero in order not to completely destroy the earth’s ecosystems, we also need to learn how to live on a planet that is on average at least about 2-3 degrees Celsius warmer than in pre-industrial times.

Entering the Mega-Drought Era in America
William deBuyes, Tom Dispatch
On the U.S. Drought Monitor’s current map, a large purple bruise spreads across the core of California, covering almost half the state. Purple indicates “exceptional drought,” the direst category, the one that tops both “severe” and “extreme.” If you combine all three, 95% of the state is covered. In other words, California is hurting.

Why an Oil Glut May Lead to a New World of Energy
Michael T. Klare, Tom Dispatch
Major producers continue to pump out record levels of crude and world demand remains essentially flat. The result: a global oil glut that is again driving prices toward the energy subbasement.  While most oil-company executives continue to insist that a turnaround is sure to occur in the near future, some analysts are beginning to wonder if what’s underway doesn’t actually signal a fundamental transformation of the industry.

Wind Energy Could Blow U.S. Coal Industry Away
Oilprice.com
Though solar energy has become the poster child for renewable energy generally, the strongest player in the game, for now, is wind. Wind leads solar energy in capacity installed as well as output (world solar capacity passed 200 GW this year); and other than a few welcome cases (so far) where PV comes in under 5 cents per kWh, wind is generally cheaper.

Germany Struggles With Too Much Renewable Energy
Gaurav Agnihotri, Oilprice.com
Germany and its neighbors are now facing an unusual problem. With the dramatic increase in green energy usage, Germany is generating so much electricity from renewables that it is finding it hard to handle it. The excess electricity that is generated is being spilled over to its neighboring countries, thereby increasing the threat of a power blackout should there be a sudden supply disruption.

Documentary: India’s Coal Addiction

TheWire.in

One of the first pledges made by Narendra Modi’s government was that it would look to double the amount of coal India extracted, from the 565 million tons in 2014 to 1 billion tonnes by 2020. The government said it was a necessary measure to ensure development as well as provide power to the estimated 300 million Indians who don’t have access to electricity.

In the year since, mining permits and environmental clearances have been granted at a rapid pace. The zeal for new mines has been matched by the crackdown on dissent, most notably on environmental groups such as Greenpeace. And communities in coal-rich belts in states like Chhattisgarh say they’re facing unprecedented pressure to give up their lands for mining. Laws empowering these communities have been placed under review.

Even though it is India’s most abundant and easily accessible fuel, scientists say India’s decision to back coal will have devastating consequences on the health of the country’s population as well as the environment. The country already has 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities, and an estimated 230,000 people are likely to die each year because of air pollution caused by burning coal, according to a study by Urban Emissions.

This documentary has visual journalists Vikram Singh and Enrico Fabian traveled from the burning coalfields of Jharia to the coal-fired power plants of Chhattisgarh to document the impact of India’s growing appetite for coal. Their previous work includes Toxic Legacy, a film on the Bhopal survivors ongoing fight for justice and Deadly Medicine, which looked at pharmaceutical drug abuse in India.

Charles Eisenstein: Everything You’ve Been Told About Debt Is Wrong

With the United States’ household debt burden at $11.85 trillion, even the most modest challenges to its legitimacy have revolutionary implications.

Charles Eisenstein, Yes! Magazine

YES! illustration by Steve Brodner.The legitimacy of a given social order rests on the legitimacy of its debts. Even in ancient times this was so. In traditional cultures, debt in a broad sense—gifts to be reciprocated, memories of help rendered, obligations not yet fulfilled—was a glue that held society together. Everybody at one time or another owed something to someone else. Repayment of debt was inseparable from the meeting of social obligations; it resonated with the principles of fairness and gratitude. Read more…

India is now a make-or-break nation for climate change – and the planet’s future

Indias coal dependence has led to rising emissions. Now, even the Chief Economic Advisor has acknowledged that India needs to cut down on them.

Sajai Jose

A new global report has revealed that India’s carbon dioxide emissions growth in 2014 was not only the largest in terms of volume in its own history, but for the first time the country has become the biggest contributor to global emissions growth.

In 2014, the world added an extra 187 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere over 2013 levels, amounting to a 0.5% increase in the sum total of CO2 emissions.  In contrast, India’s emissions from fossil fuel use grew by a startling 8.1% in the same period, amounting to 157 million tons of CO2 more than the previous year’s emissions.

In other words, India has bucked a worldwide trend of slowing carbon emissions to become the fastest-growing major polluter in the world. This marks a significant shift in carbon emissions trends that holds serious implications for climate change.

The first sign that the Indian establishment has taken note of this emerged on Wednesday with a report in the Business Standard stating that Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian has written to the Prime Minister, recommending that India change its strategy on climate change. He has advised that India stop focusing on adaptation to meet the inevitable threats of climate change on the poor and, instead, do more to reduce its own emission, the newspaper said. Read more…

News update

Parliamentary Standing Committee rejects TSR Subramanian report on environmental laws
Down to Earth
A Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) rejected a high-level committee (HLC) report that reviewed various Acts administered by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). The committee precisely noted that some of the essential recommendations made by the HLC “would result in an unacceptable dilution of the existing legal and policy architecture established to protect our environment”.

Over 450 projects being considered for environmental clearance: Government
The Economic Times
More than 450 projects in various sectors are presently being considered by the government for environmental clearance while more than 200 are awaiting forest clearance, Lok Sabha was informed. The number of projects under consideration for environmental clearance in the Ministry (of Environment) are 475 and for approval under Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 are 240, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said in a written reply.

Drop demand for finance from rich countries: Arvind Subramanian
Business Standard
Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) Arvind Subramanian has suggested Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to radically alter Indias climate-change policy and negotiation strategy before the new global climate-change agreement, to be finalised in Paris by December this year. In a note to the two ministers which has been reviewed by Business Standard Subramanian has recommended that India should stop insisting that the developed countries provide financing for poor countries to fight climate change, as they are required to under the UN climate convention.

Cochin Airport goes solar
Catch News
The Cochin Airport (CIAL) is now the first in the world to be fully powered by solar energy. No small feat, but one which they managed to accomplish in just six months. Thats exactly how long it took for them to install 46,000 solar panels across 45 acres of land, to achieve a 12MW plant. (Watch video) (Also read: Defunct Indraprastha power station to be converted into solar plant)

India’s war on Greenpeace
Samanth Subramanian, The Guardian UK
A simmering suspicion of foreign influences is written deep into the BJP’s nationalist DNA, and it plays marvellously with its most loyal voters – many of whom proclaim their belief, loudly and often, that western powers are eager to throttle India’s rise. In particular, Modi – who steers his government with stifling control – has never hidden his distaste for NGOs and their “five-star activists”, as he once labelled them.

Four charts that show how India and the world are living beyond their ecological means
Nayantara Narayanan, Scroll.in 
As of Thursday, August 13, 2015, we have used up all the ecological resources that the earth could generate through the entire year, according to calculations by sustainability think tank Global Footprint Network. In other words, from this day – called the Earth Overshoot Day – on we will be overdrawing from our global annual budget of natural resources. (Also read: Earth Overshoot Day: a reminder that our world is dying and we are killing it)

The future isnt what it used to be
Kurt Cobb
The Mad Max franchise survives not because people take its prognostications seriously, but because it is good entertainment. Most moviegoers unconsciously project their apocalyptic fears onto these films to obtain a catharsis. This allows them to put aside any serious concerns about the future as mere fantasy.

How Economic Growth Fails
Gail Tverberg
The economy operates within a finite world, so at some point, a problem of diminishing returns develops. In other words, it takes more and more effort (human labor and use of resources) to produce a given quantity of oil or food, or fresh water, or other desirable products. The problem of slowing economic growth is very closely related to the question: How can the limits we are reaching be expected to play out in a finite world? Many people imagine that we will “run out” of some necessary resource, such as oil, but I see the situation differently.

 

Dunu Roy: A Subaltern View of Climate Change

Dunu Roy, EPW

(Note: In the context of the ongoing debate on climate change and the policies that nation states need to adopt to limit the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the author poses a relevant question: instead of asking what would happen to the world if everyone were to consume energy at the level of the rich “developed” American, we can now enquire why everyone is not consuming at the level of the above-poor “developing” Indian? He also suggests that the way the poor adapt, migrate and progress provides not just a sustainable approach to climate change but also one that addresses resource use.)

Climate change takes place when the carbon cycle is disturbed. One can address this imbalance either by using more effi cient technologies, or by changing the exploitative nature of development. A worldwide analysis shows that it is possible to achieve quality of life indicators at low levels of energy consumption.

India’s per capita emissions are three times lower than the world average, but what reduces India’s average is the very low energy use of the bottom seven deciles of the population. Therefore, theoretically, global climate change would be mitigated if everyone on the planet adapted to consume energy at the level of the working Indian.

Microstudies from Delhi, Visakhapatnam, Jaipur, Allahabad and Kolkata illustrate that at a practical level the poor are demonstrating the “best practice” for mitigating and adapting to climate change. And if resource restoration by the poor through their labour is taken into account, then the difference would be even higher.

Download PDF of article:  A Subaltern View of Climate Change

Animation shows dramatic disappearance of ice from the Arctic

Scroll.in

Its hot out. Everywhere. Even at the poles of the earth. We already know that 2014 was thewarmest year on record and also that sea surface temperatures reached a record high. This has meant storms, droughts, raised sea levels and heat waves and other extreme weather events that have been caused by global warming. Among the most dramatic is the fall in sea ice in the Arctic.

Last years State of the Climate report by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the Arctic had experienced its fourth-warmest year on record and among its lowest minimum sea ice extents. The numbers themselves are easiest to see when charted out.

But there is an even simpler way to understand just how much of the Arctic ice has disappeared over just the last few years, thanks in part to global warming. US President Barack Obama made reference to it earlier this month, when he unveiled his biggest plan to tackle climate change yet. Shrinking ice caps forced National Geographic to make the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart, Obama said in his speech.

The makers of the magazine and the atlases indeed confirmed Obamas words, and then put out this handy GIF, combining National Geographic Atlases from 1999 through 2014 to show just how Arctic Ice has melted over that time.

The results are clear to ice. To the untrained eye, it looks as if almost half of Arctic sea ice has disappeared over just 15 years. In a post on its website, National Geographic admitted that the maps werent entirely accurate, but nevertheless offered the best possible way to show a dynamic environment in a static format. And indeed, no one is making the claim that Arctic ice isnt disappearing.

The US National Snow & Ice Data Centre finds that this years ice is well below average for this time of the year. The centre also says that, although the numbers are higher than 2012s, one of the worst year on records, satellite imagery suggests the ice has become rather diffuse (low ice concentrations) with many large broken ice floes surrounded by open water. How soon before the race to the north pole becomes less about sledding and more about swimming?

News update

OMG… Greenland’s ice sheets are melting fast
The Guardian UK
An urgent attempt to study the rate at which Greenland’s mighty ice sheets are melting has been launched by Nasa. The aim of the six-year project, called Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG), is to understand how fast the world’s warming seas are now eroding the edges of the island’s vast icecaps. Warming air temperatures are already causing considerable glacier loss there, but the factors involving the sea that laps the bases of its great ice masses, and which is also heating up, are less well understood.

Snatching Defeat
Albert Bates, The Great Change
Last week we concluded our post on climate change with a quote from James Hansen, the matter is urgent and calls for emergency cooperation among nations. All this year we have been leading up to our collective fin de seicle moment in December, the grand denouement of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol in Paris. At this late date, we are frankly pessimistic for the outcome there.

Undamming Rivers: A Chance For New Clean Energy Source
John Waldman & Karin Limburg, Yale Environment 360
Many hydroelectric dams produce modest amounts of power yet do enormous damage to rivers and fish populations. Why not take down these aging structures, build solar farms in the drained reservoirs, and restore the natural ecology of the rivers?

The Devil in Obama’s New Emissions Target for the US Lies in Base Year Details
Vasudevan Mukunth, The Wire
The US’s carbon dioxide emissions peaked in 2005, at 5,828.63 million metric tons. This convenient choice of a base year allows the US a leeway that’s 18.64% higher than its 1990 emissions – 1990 being the year that the Kyoto Protocol uses as a base. The absence of any rules on what can or can’t constitute base years is leveraged by many countries. In Europe, for example, the base year is 1990 because that’s when emissions peaked followed by a steady decline in industrial activity as well as a growing adoption of renewable energy options.

Japan restarts first nuclear reactor since Fukushima disaster
The Guardian UK
Japan has begun a controversial return to nuclear power generation with the restart of a reactor in the country’s south-west, four and a half years after its faith in atomic energy was shattered by the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi. Kyushu Electric Power, the operator of the Sendai plant, said it had restarted one of the facility’s two reactors on Tuesday morning, in defiance of strong local opposition. The move marks the first time Japan has generated nuclear power since a post-Fukushima shutdown of all its 44 operable reactors two years ago.

Space mining is closer than you think, and the prospects are great
Andrew Dempster, The Conversation
Recently, the American cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson gushed about the prospects of mining in space, and the benefits that might afford humanity. Is this really plausible? What can we mine in space? And will it really deliver world peace, or just another realm for competition and conflict? Perhaps a look at the immediate past and near future may help us answer some of these questions.

Sustainable development is failing but there are alternatives to capitalism
Ashish Kothari, Federico Demaria and Alberto Acosta, The Guardian UK
In the face of worsening ecological and economic crises and continuing social deprivation, the last two decades have seen two broad trends emerge among those seeking sustainability, equality and justice. First there are the green economy and sustainable development approaches that dominate the upcoming Paris climate summit and the post-2015 sustainable development goals (SDGs). To date, such measures have failed to deliver a harmonisation of economic growth, social welfare and environmental protection. Political ecology paradigms, on the other hand, call for more fundamental changes, challenging the predominance of growth-oriented development based on fossil fuels, neoliberal capitalism and related forms of so-called representative democracy.

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