Archive for the category “Forests & Wildlife”

News update

5 reasons why Tibets melting ice is a disaster for India, Europe and US
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
Did you know that rivers originating in Tibets glaciers supply water to 1.3 billion people? Thats equivalent to the entire population of India. But these glaciers are fast disappearing due to global warming. Tibets sustainability is crucial for sustenance of the world, but this fact is not commonly known. The glaciers are just the tip of the iceberg.

The Gulf will soon be too hot for human beings – literally
Scroll.in
A study by Jeremy S Pal and Elfatih AB Eltahir of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds that human beings will not be able to survive in the Gulf just 65 years from now. Our results expose a specific regional hot spot where climate change, in the absence of significant mitigation, is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future, the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, said.

World set to use more energy for cooling than heating
The Guardian UK
The world faces a looming and potentially calamitous “cold crunch”, with demand for air conditioning and refrigeration growing so fast that it threatens to smash pledges and targets for global warming. Worldwide power consumption for air conditioning alone is forecast to surge 33-fold by 2100 as developing world incomes rise and urbanisation advances. Already, the US uses as much electricity to keep buildings cool as the whole of Africa uses on everything; China and India are fast catching up. By mid-century people will use more energy for cooling than heating (Also read: How America became addicted to air conditioning).

The Rapid and Startling Decline Of World’s Vast Boreal Forests
Jim Robbins, Yale Environment 360
Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the fate of the huge boreal forest that spans from Scandinavia to northern Canada. Unprecedented warming in the region is jeopardizing the future of a critical ecosystem that makes up nearly a third of the earth’s forest cover. (Also read: Why have thousands of trees dropped dead in New South Wales?)

How our energy problem leads to a debt collapse problem
Gail Tverberg
Usually, we don’t stop to think about how the whole economy works together. A major reason is that we have been lacking data to see long-term relationships. In this post, I show some longer-term time series relating to energy growth, GDP growth, and debt growth–going back to 1820 in some cases–that help us understand our situation better.

What happened to peak oil? The cycle of a meme and of its
Ugo Bardi
Unlike Nibiru or the E-Cat, peak oil is a serious concept, backed up by a lot of research. However, it didnt really get viral enough to become a mainstream meme. The main problem, here, may have been the choice of the term: peak oil conjures a specific moment in time when something exceptional should happen, even though it is not clear what. When people saw that nothing special was happening, they lost interest. The decline of the peak oil meme was helped by the anti-memetic system that created effective antimemes such as they have been predicting peak oil already for 30 years ago.

Money Cannot Manufacture Resources (Podcast)
Kurt Cobb
As any fourth grader will tell you, a finite system will not yield unlimited resources. But that perspective is not shared by those controlling the printing presses. And so they print and print and print, yet remain flummoxed when supply (and increasingly, demand for that matter) does not increase the way they expect.

The Passing of Bhaskar Save: What The ‘Green Revolution’ Did for India
Colin Todhunter, Countercurrents.org
Masanobu Fukuoka, the legendary Japanese organic farmer once described Bhaskar Hiraji Saves farm as “the best in the world, even better than my own!” By using traditional methods, he demonstrated on his farm that yield is superior to any farm using chemicals in terms of overall quantity, nutritional quality, taste, biological diversity, ecological sustainability, water conservation, energy efficiency and economic profitability. Bhaskar Save died on 24 October 2015 at age 93.

News update

Capitalism is Mother Earths Cancer: World Peoples Summit Issues 12 Demands
Common Dreams
Decrying capitalism as a threat to life, an estimated 7,000 environmentalists, farmers, and Indigenous activists from 40 countries convened in the Bolivian town of Tiquipaya for this weekends World Peoples Conference on Climate Change, aiming to elevate the demands of social movements and developing countries in the lead-up to upcoming United Nations-led climate talks. Capitalism is Mother Earths cancer, Bolivian President Evo Morales told the crowd, which also heard over the course of the three-day conference from United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon as well as other Latin American leaders.

Why Earth’s future will depend on how we build our cities
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post
It may be the most important number on Earth: 1,000 gigatons. That’s roughly how much carbon dioxide humanity has left to emit, scientists say, in order to have a two-thirds chance of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above the temperature in pre-industrial times — and thus, staying within what has often been deemed a “safe” climate threshold. A new report, though, finds that if we don’t build cities more wisely, using much greener infrastructure, then they could be a crucial factor that tips the planet over the 1,000 gigaton line — and indeed, that they could play this role in just five years time.

Europes greenhouse gas emissions fall to record low
The Guardian UK
Greenhouse gas emissions in Europe have plunged to the lowest level ever recorded after the EU’s member states reported an estimated 23% drop in emissions between 1990 and 2014. The bloc has now overshot its target for 2020 of cutting emissions by one-fifth – at the same time that its economy grew by 46%, according to the EU’s climate chief, Miguel Arias Canete .

Integrated Energy Policy Formulated To Boost The Energy Sector
Mondaq.com
In order to provide a collective policy covering all sources of energy including renewable energy sources, the Government of India has formulated an Integrated Energy Policy. The said policy outlines a roadmap to develop energy supply options and increased exploitation of renewable energy sources. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy aims at a capacity addition of about 30,000 MW power during the 12th Five Year Plan from the various renewable energy sources available in the country.

16 commercial building spaces can save 8,960 Mwh/year: TERI Study
The Economic Times
Sixteen commercial building spaces, including that of Wipro, Tata ChemicalsBSE 0.57 % and Genpact, have the potential to save 8,960 megawatt hours a year, which is sufficient to power 2,400 rural homes, says a study. Energy saving in 100 such buildings can power more than 12,000 rural homes, stated a energy audit report of 16 commercial buildings across the country by The TERI Centre of Excellence, launched by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and United Technologies Corp (UTC) in 2014.

Indias coal-fueled economy taking a toll on environment and rural villagers
LA Times
In central Indias coal-rich Singrauli district, recently labeled one of the countrys most polluted areas, residents and activists have long complained that abuses by energy companies go unpunished. Each and every company is violating environmental norms, including Sasan, said Ashwani Kumar Dubey, a Singrauli resident and lawyer who has challenged the coal industry in Indias Supreme Court. But nothing happens because these companies run the economy of the country.

Indias climate tech revolution is starting in its villages
The Guardian UK
Solar panels drive a water pump that irrigates the fields of farmer Raman Bhai Parmar, 65, who grows bananas, rice and wheat on seven acres of land. Parmar’s solar energy pump is one of the technologies being promoted by a new project designed to help rural Indians adapt to climate change. The project, run by the international NGO, aims to create 1,000 so-called climate smart villages across six Indian states including Haryana, Punjab and Gujarat.

A nomads’ legend keeps the Indian wolf alive: An unconventional conservation story
Scroll.in
Unlike local farmers and herders, the nomads never chased, hunted or hurt the wolves. The filmmakers soon uncovered a legend of three brothers, one of whom is cheated out of his share by the other two. He leaves but not before bestowing a curse that he would come back to claim his due. The tribesmen consider the wolf to be that brother, returning to take what’s rightfully his. It’s possible that this fraternal feeling between tribe and wolf saved Bent Ear and his family.

Long reads: a selection of articles

The Colonial Origins of Conservation: The Disturbing History Behind US National Parks
Stephen Corry, Truthout
Conservations achievements dont alter the fact that its rooted in two serious and related mistakes. The first is that it conserves wildernesses, which are imagined to be shaped only by nature. The second is that it believes in a hierarchy, with superior, intelligent human beings at the top. Many conservationists still believe that they are uniquely endowed with the foresight and expertise to control and manage so-called wildernesses and that everyone else must leave, including those who actually own them and have lived there for generations.

These notions are archaic; they damage people and the environment. The second also flouts the law, with its perpetual land grabs. For natures sake as well as our own, its crucial to expose how these ideas grew and flourished, to understand just how mistaken they are. Theres an ongoing attempt to wipe from the map the quagmire around conservations wellspring, to pretend its all now transparent and sunlit. It isnt.

The Global Race to the Bottom
Lucia Pradella, Jacobin Mag
The acute hardship European workers are facing is part of an international process of impoverishment.
Unemployment has reached unprecedented heights in Western Europe, wages are declining, and attacks on organized labor are intensifying. Nearly a quarter of Western Europe’s population, about 92 million people, was at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2013. That’s nearly 8.5 million more people than before the crisis.

The poverty, material deprivation, and super-exploitation traditionally associated with the Global South are reemerging in the rich parts of Europe. The crisis is undermining the “European social model,” and its assumption that employment protects individuals from poverty. The number of working poor — employed workers in households with an annual income below the poverty threshold — is growing, and austerity is going to make things much worse in the future.

The weight of the world
Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker
[Profile of Christiana Figueres, the UNs climate chief ]
I asked what would happen if the emissions line did not, in fact, start to head down soon. Tears welled up in her eyes and, for a moment, she couldn’t speak.

“Ask all the islands,” she said finally. “Ask Bangladesh. We just can’t let that happen. Do we have the right to deprive people of their homes just because I want to own three S.U.V.s? It just doesn’t make any sense. And it’s not how we think of ourselves. We don’t think of ourselves as being egotistical, immoral individuals. And we’re not. Fundamentally, we all have a morality bedrock. Every single human being has that.”

Living without money: what I learned
Mark Boyle, The Guardian UK

With little idea of what I was to expect, or how I was to go about it, seven years ago I began living without money. Originally intended as a one-year experiment in ecological living, I wanted to explore how it felt as a human being to live without the trappings and security that money had long-since afforded me. While terrifying and tough to begin with, by the end of the first year I somehow found myself more content, healthier and at peace than I had ever been. And although three years later I made a difficult decision to re-enter the monetary world – to establish projects that would enable others to loosen the grip that money has on their lives – I took from it many lessons that have changed my life forever.

For the first time I experienced how connected and interdependent I was on the people and natural world around me, something I had previously only intellectualised. It is not until you become physically aware of how your own health is entirely reliant on the health of the great web of life, that ideas such as deep ecology absorb themselves into your arteries, sinews and bones.

If the air that filled my lungs became polluted, if the nutrients in the soil that produced my food became depleted, or if the spring water which made up 60% of my body became poisoned, my own health would suffer accordingly. This seems like common sense, but you wouldn’t think so by observing the way we treat the natural world today. Over time, even the boundaries of what I considered to be “I” became less and less clear.

News update

Burning all fossil fuels will melt entire Antarctic ice-sheet, study shows
The Guardian, UK
Burning all the world’s coal, oil and gas would melt the entire Antarctic ice-sheet and cause the oceans to rise by over 50m, a transformation unprecedented in human history. The conclusion of a new scientific study shows that, over the course of centuries, land currently inhabited by a billion people would be lost below water. “For the first time we have shown there is sufficient fossil fuel to melt all of Antarctica,” said Ricarda Winkelmann, at the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who led the research published in the journal Science Advances.

Sooty South Asian air and global warming
Nalaka Gunawardene, Scidev.net
Carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas capable of causing global warming and is not the worst culprit. Black carbon, methane, hydrofluorocarbons and ground level ozone need to be controlled. In South Asia black carbon from cooking stoves and fuels like diesel, coal and wood are problematic.

Indian govt to allow private sector to manage 40% of forests
Hindustan Times
The government is set to throw open the management of up to 40% of Indian forests to the private sector to revive degraded forests but experts warn it may destroy complex ecosystems and deprive local communities of a livelihood. The environment ministry issued guidelines to the states last month, where it argued it didn’t have the resources to manage forests well and laid down the procedure to lease out degraded forests to private companies, who would “carry out afforestation and extract timber”.

Cleaning coal instead of wishing it away
Rahul Tongia, The Hindu
So called “clean coal” is under development worldwide. But carbon capture and sequestration is some years away from commercialisation, let alone competitive commercialisation. Thus, “cleaner coal” — in the form of more efficient coal plants — requires innovation to work well with Indian (high-ash) coal. Such efforts need support, ranging from technology, to policy support and financing.

Coal mining sector running out of time, says Citigroup
The Guardian, UK
US banking giant Citigroup says the global coal industry is set for further pain, predicting an acceleration of mine closures, liquidations and bankruptcies. The value of listed coal companies monitored by Citi has shrunk from $50bn (£32bn) in 2012 to $18bn in 2015, a trend it believes will continue. “On the demand side we think thermal coal is cyclically and structurally challenged and that current market conditions are likely to persist,” it says in a report.

Coal prices hit 12-year low as demand from China, India down
Kseboa.org
Coal futures have fallen to 12-year lows, hit by soaring production and a slowdown in global buying, including from India and China which until recently have been pillars of strong demand. Benchmark API2 2016 coal futures last settled at $52.85 a tonne, a level not seen since November 2003. The contract is now over 75 percent below its 2008 all-time peak and more than 60 percent below its most recent high following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan

$250 billion opportunity to invest in renewables: Piyush Goyal
Live Mint
India has a $250 billion investment opportunity in the renewable energy space, said Piyush Goyal, minister of power, coal and renewable energy, at Mint’s fifth energy conclave in New Delhi on Friday. This includes the peripheral transmission and generation segments as well. India plans to have 100,000 megawatts (MW) of solar energy capacity by 2022. The government has also set a target of generating 60,000MW from wind power by then.

Is This The Breakthrough Fusion Researchers Have Been Waiting For?
Michael McDonald, Oilprice.com
Fusion power may have just had the long-awaited breakthrough its backers have been waiting years for. A small secretive company in California called Tri Alpha Energy has been working on fusion power for years. It has built a machine that forms a high temperature ball of superheated gas and holds it together for 5 milliseconds without decay. That tiny timeframe is enough to get backers of the technology excited as it represents a huge leap forward in comparison with other techniques tried in the past.

The choir that sings out of tune
Nimesh Ved, The Hindu
A friend asked me on Facebook if we consider the impact of travel, especially air travel, on our ecological footprint. Surprisingly, many justified it as a ‘positive’ action. How can anyone justify flying in and out repeatedly for conferences? Doesn’t going for a study tour, for example, leave its own ecological footprint? We cannot do without travel and its resulting ecological footprint, but can we at least be conscious of the issue, discuss it and look at our own actions critically?

Picturing the End of Fossil Fuels
Bill McKibben
In the energy world, though, I’m willing to bet that these images are poison to the fossil fuel industry. It’s not just because of their sheer inhuman oversized ugliness, but because they manage to look somehow so antique. Or rather, so modern in a postmodern world. Even without understanding the science of climate change—the horror that the carbon from that digger and that drill rig is driving—you have a visceral sense that they’re in the wrong moment, the wrong mood.

 

In the news: Modi govt and the state of the environment

Outlook Magazine

Mangroves in peril Navi Mumbai airport site

 

How The NDA Is Whittling Down Green Norms

  • Change in definition of no-go area in dense forest, leaving more area open for project
  • Keeping powers with the Centre to even allow projects in ‘no-go areas’ of dense forests
  • Proposal to allow firms to take over afforestation, thus jeopardising the rights of tribals
  • Role of gram sabhas diluted or taken away under blanket consent for development
  • Automatic approval to highway and other defence projects near border areas
  • Moratorium lifted on new projects in several highly polluting industrial areas
  • National Green Tribunal role sought to be diluted by taking away the right to appeal to it

For years the proposal to develop a second airport for Bombay at Navi Mumbai had been awaiting environmental clearance. The issue had been the rivers and the mangroves near the selected site. With one stroke, all the concerns—including the stipulation to create a mangrove san­ctuary—have been brushed aside by the Narendra Modi government. Late last month, Union minister of environment and forests Prakash Javadekar gave the green signal to the project on the condition that the mangroves should be made unattractive for birds, given their potential threat to flying aircraft.

“In effect it would mean destroying the mangroves to stop birds from nesting there,” says Ulka Mahajan, an environment activist. “The intentions are very clear now; it is all only about corporates. The government is happy to wipe out nature.” The move will also destroy fish breeding in the shallow waters of the mangrove.  “It is ridiculous to say you can plant mangroves,” says Girish Raut, environmentalist and expert on mangroves. “It took hundreds and thousands of years for ecosystems to evolve and it takes one project to wipe it out.”

The Navi Mumbai airport project is just one of the many instances that highlight the BJP government’s cavalier attitude toward environment in its desire to speed up mandatory green clearan­ces for projects. Safe­guards for land, water bodies and environment are being carefully dil­u­ted. The policies of the government are steering us to a situation that poses a clear threat to India’s green spaces.

Closely linked to speedy environment clearances for infrastructure and other projects are forest clearances and the proposed land acquisition bill. While the former is being tweaked unmindful of the damage to green belts, the latter is yet another assault on the rights of farmers and tribals who will have little or no say in whosoever wants to acquire their land for setting up an enterprise or infrastructure project.

It reeks of a clear pattern. In an analysis of one year of Modi sarkar, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) director general Sunita Narain observed that incremental changes have been made to “ease the process” of project clearances. A major cause of concern, according to the think-tank, is the shift in responsibility of project clearances from the Centre to state agencies minus any capacity building or accountability. The states can now take their own decision on thermal power, irrigation, mining and other projects. Also, like many other development experts, the CSE has questioned the dilution of the public hearing process. Political activist M. Kodanda Ram points to the Polavaram dam project in Andhra Pradesh. Work started under UPA rule, despite violations galore—from not seeking public opinion, improper land acquisition to lack of statutory rehabilitation. In 2011, then environment minister Jairam Ramesh withdrew the environment clearance and stalled the project till the reorganisation of states.

“But now the NDA has given the state government indication of support for the completion of the project, though the clearances are still not available,” says Ram. “In this particular case, the damages to the forest and tribals who are going to be displaced is huge.” Both Orissa and Chhattisgarh have filed cases against the project in the Supreme Court.

A preliminary assessment by US-based Rights and Resources Group on the implementation of the Forest Rights Act has found a decided lack of effort to recognise the rights of forest-dwellers. Despite the law having granted traditional forest-dwellers community forest resource (CFR) rights, the study based on government data points out that so far “the total forest area over which CFR rights have been recognised is less than 5,00,000 hectares or barely 1.2 per cent of the CFR rights potential in the country”. Continue reading

Also from Outlook: Make (Money in India) by Ashish Kothari
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had some time back suggested that one solution to climate change is to switch off street lamps on moonlit nights. Really? Encourage polluting industries and coal-based power plants across India, shove aside forests for expressways, and incentivise rapid growth in motorcars … and then compensate all these carbon emissions by switching off street lamps a few nights a year? Who is Mr Modi trying to fool? Read article

From Catchnews.in: How the govt lets green sinners judge themselves
Corporates and governments pushing for projects with environmental consequences hire experts, who study such impacts. Since field visits by the ministry are rare, clearances are granted based exclusively on data from such experts. Over the years, examples of studies with false information, plagiarism, and deliberate underestimation of impacts have become common. These studies, called environmental impact assessments (EIA) are also often marred by conflicts of interest. Read article

 

Crucial Petition on the Compensatory Afforestation Bill

Urgent! Calling all citizens to endorse this campaign to prevent over 35,000 Crores being wasted on meaningless tree planting projects. Let’s demand a better Compensatory Afforestation Bill! Act Now by signing this petition!

Conservation India

Dear Friend,
For over a decade, user agencies that have been permitted non-forest activities on forestland, including mines, highways, dams, and energy projects, have been depositing compensatory levies into a special fund known as the Compensatory Afforestation Management Planning Authority (CAMPA). Today, this fund has grown to over 35,000 crores. The government now plans to devolve 90% of this amount to state governments to carry out afforestation activities. However, past experience has proven that not only are afforestation projects in India highly corruption-ridden and ineffective, they also end up creating nothing but monoculture plantations of non-native species with zero biodiversity value.
Currently, the Compensatory Afforestation Bill 2015 is before a Rajya Sabha Standing Committee, which has solicited public comments. Through this petition, we would like to tell the committee that destroyed forests and other complex natural habitats cannot be compensated by simply planting trees elsewhere. We would also like to suggest to this committee how the CAMPA fund can be used to genuinely benefit India through investments for assisting natural regeneration; defragmenting large blocks of forest through strategic land acquisitions; creation of wildlife corridors; and other measures based on good science.  It would be a great tragedy if this 35,000 crore rupees accumulated as a result of the destruction of priceless natural habitats is squandered away on meaningless tree planting schemes.
We would like as many signatures as possible on this petition, so please sign it now and encourage others to do so as well.  Your participation is crucial, so please act now!

​Please do share widely.
Best wishes,

Ramki
Conservation India

News update

Continued destruction of Earths plant life places humans in jeopardy
Science Daily
Unless humans slow the destruction of Earths declining supply of plant life, civilization like it is now may become completely unsustainable, according to a paper published recently by University of Georgia researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. You can think of the Earth like a battery that has been charged very slowly over billions of years, said the studys lead author, John Schramski, an associate professor in UGAs College of Engineering. The suns energy is stored in plants and fossil fuels, but humans are draining energy much faster than it can be replenished.

Worlds Oceans Could Rise Higher, Sooner, Faster Than Most Thought Possible
Common Dreams
If a new scientific paper is proven accurate, the international target of limiting global temperatures to a 2°C rise this century will not be nearly enough to prevent catastrophic melting of ice sheets that would raise sea levels much higher and much faster than previously thought possible. According to the new study—which has not yet been peer-reviewed, but was written by former NASA scientist James Hansen and 16 other prominent climate researchers—current predictions do not take into account the feedback loop implications of what will occur if large sections of Greenland and the Antarctic are consumed by the worlds oceans.

Heat is Piling Up in the Depths of the Indian Ocean
Climate Central
The world’s oceans are playing a game of hot potato with the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists have zeroed in on the tropical Pacific as a major player in taking up that heat. But while it might have held that heat for a bit, new research shows that the Pacific has passed the potato to the Indian Ocean, which has seen an unprecedented rise in heat content over the past decade.

Nonlinear: New York, London, Shanghai underwater in 50 years?
Kurt Cobb
Those under the impression that climate change is advancing at a constant and predictable rate dont understand the true dynamics of the issue. The rate of increase of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, the main driver of climate change, went from 0.75 parts per million (ppm) per year in 1959 to about 1.5 ppm each year through the 1990s, to 2.1 ppm each year from 2002 to 2012, and finally to 2.9 ppm in 2013. The fear is that the ability of the oceans and plants to continue to absorb half the carbon dioxide human civilization expels into the atmosphere each year may have become impaired. That means more carbon dioxide is remaining in the atmosphere where concentrations are building at the fastest rate ever recorded in the modern era.

Climate change: world’s wealthiest understand, but only half see it as threat
The Guardian UK
People living in the world’s wealthiest nations generally understand what climate change is but in many countries just half perceive it to be a threat, new research has found. The analysis of perceptions in 119 countries found living standards and relative wealth are “poor predictors” of whether someone considers climate change to be a severe risk. While more than 75% of people in Australia, the US, UK and most of the rest of Europe were aware of climate change, far fewer considered it to be detrimental to themselves or their families.

Nine Reasons Why Low Oil Prices May “Morph” Into Something Much Worse
Gail Tverberg
It looks to me as though we are heading into a deflationary depression, because the prices of commodities are falling below the cost of extraction. We need rapidly rising wages and debt if commodity prices are to rise back to 2011 levels or higher. This isn’t happening. Instead, we are seeing commodity prices fall further and further. Let me explain some pieces of what is happening.

Hardins tragedy of the commons explained with a practical example: a tourist trap in Florence
Ugo Bardi
Garrett Hardins idea of The Tragedy of the Commons has become well known, but not always really understood. In my case, I can say that I have big troubles in having my students grasping its mechanism; that is the interplay of individual advantage versus public goods; the basic factor that leads to what we call overexploitation. So, let me propose a different example for the mechanism of overexploitation, based on a real event that happened to me. Maybe it can explain the concept better.

Resilience: A New Conservation Strategy for a Warming World
Jim Robbins, Yale Environment 360
Resilience, in a nutshell, means preserving options — no one can predict the climate future with any certainty and how the biodiversity deck will be reshuffled. So that means protecting landscapes that maintain as wide a variety of characteristics to preserve as many species as possible, in order to maintain both ecological function as the world changes and the ability to recover from disturbance.

Shashank Kela: Some notes on the ecological crisis in India

Who cares about the environment? Some notes on the ecological crisis in India

Shashank Kela

The past few months have been exceptional, in one respect at least, for the Indian press: a serious structural problem has actually been given the attention it deserves. The Economic Times continues to play a prominent part in discussing air pollution in Delhi – there is no other city in the world where it is so bad. Nor is this all: including Delhi, India now boasts thirteen out of twenty cities with the worst air. More recently, the uproar over supposedly high levels of lead in a brand of junk food led to a (very) few articles on groundwater contamination: after all, the reason why lead and other poisons get into food is because they are present in the soil in which crops grow. Another piece, in the Guardian this time, speculated that the recent Sahelian heat wave in the Deccan might be a symptom of climate change (an “extreme” climate event of the kind likely to become all too common).[1]

These stories are only a tiny fraction of those that could be reported, for we are already in the throes of an unprecedented environmental crisis. Large swathes of our agricultural soils are contaminated or saline. Pesticide residues and heavy metals form part of our food. The air of our major cities is unfit to breathe. Freshwater availability is declining; most rivers, especially in the south, do not flow at all, or only seasonally, since their runoff is impounded in dams and used for irrigation (with very high rates of seepage and evaporation loss). Groundwater tables are falling as a consequence of over extraction and the disappearance of vegetative cover enabling percolation. The pattern of weather is being reset with gaps and lags – the available evidence indicates that the onset of the monsoon is changing and precipitation becoming more uneven. Our offshore seas are denuded of marine life thanks to trawler fishing at ever greater distances. Himalayan glaciers are shrinking with obvious long-term consequences for the hydrology of river systems dependent upon snow-melt. Sudden, destructive floods, exacerbated by embankments and dams, the building over of river valleys and floodplains, have become a regular occurrence. Read more…

News update

Will Teslas home battery really transform our energy infrastructure?
The Guardian UK
“The goal is complete transformation of the entire energy infrastructure of the world,” Tesla founder Elon Musk told reporters as he launched the electric car company’s new home power storage battery. “This is actually within the power of humanity to do. It is not impossible.” Electricity storage is the “missing link” in weaning the economy off fossil fuels, said the entrepreneur with characteristic understatement.

Audi has successfully made diesel fuel from carbon dioxide and water
Science Alert
German car manufacturer Audi has reportedly invented a carbon-neutral diesel fuel, made solely from water, carbon dioxide and renewable energy sources. Audi has now set up a pilot plant in Dresden, Germany, operated by clean tech company Sunfire, which will pump out 160 litres of the synthetic diesel every day in the coming months.

India: Solar Will Be the Most Competitive Energy Choice
Tobias Engelmeier
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has just published its new “Energy Technology Perspectives” outlining the global trends until 2050 (refer). Here are some of the key findings and the implications they might have for India. (Also read: A New Tariff Policy to Accelerate Indias Renewables Growth)

Overview of Our Energy Modeling Problem
Gail Tverberg
We live in a world with limits, yet our economy needs growth. How can we expect this scenario to play out? My view is that this problem will play out as a fairly near-term financial problem, with low oil prices leading to a fall in oil production. But not everyone comes to this conclusion. What were the views of early researchers? How do my views differ?

As Planet Warms, One in Six Species Face Total Extinction: Study
Common Dreams
One in six of all animal and plant species on Earth could become extinct from impacts related to climate change if human society does not dramatically reduce its emission of greenhouse gases, according to new research published in the journal Science. Mark Urban, the lead author of the new study, says its most worrying findings are not set in stone but should come as a warning to humanity and world leaders that action on climate must come soon if the planet is to maintain its existing biodiversity and ability to support life.

Vatican convenes major climate-change meeting
Nature
On 28 April, scientists, religious figures and policymakers will gather at the Vatican to discuss the science of global warming and the danger posed to the world’s poorest people. The meeting comes as Francis prepares an encyclical letter to bishops on climate change for release this summer, ahead of United Nations climate negotiations in December. The Pope’s strong feelings on the matter are apparent: in January he said that people were “mostly” responsible for recent warming and that they have “slapped nature in the face”.

War and Peace and the Steady-State Economy
Herman Daly
Peace is necessary for real progress, including progress toward a steady state economy. While peace should be our priority, might it nevertheless be the case that working toward a steady state economy would further the goal of peace? Might growth be a major cause of war, and the steady state a necessity for eliminating that cause? I think this is so.

News update

Alice In Shale Gas Wonderland
Julian Darley
It is hard to know where to begin regarding Ambrose Evans-Pritchards article entitled Energy crisis is postponed as new gas rescues the world. But since the speculative world he invokes has more to do with Alice In Wonderland than the hard reality of engineering and science, let us begin at the end.

Peak Oil, Ten or So Years On
Brian Kaller
This blog began seven years and almost a thousand posts ago, and I thought it a good time to take stock. Since the blog itself was inspired by the “peak oil” movement, and since it’s been ten years, by some measures, since the peak, I wanted to assess the state of that community as well.

Is the Age of Renewable Energy Already Upon Us?
Michael Klare
Future historians may look back on 2015 as the year that the renewable energy ascendancy began, the moment when the world started to move decisively away from its reliance on fossil fuels. Those fuels oil, natural gas, and coal will, of course, continue to dominate the energy landscape for years to come, adding billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon to the atmosphere. For the first time, however, it appears that a shift to renewable energy sources is gaining momentum. If sustained, it will have momentous implications for the world economy as profound as the shift from wood to coal or coal to oil in previous centuries.

Coal is dying all by itself
Grist.org
Coal, the No. 1 cause of climate change, is dying. Last year saw a record number of coal plant retirements in the United States, and a study last week from Duke University found that Even China, which produces and consumes more coal than the rest of the world put together, is expected to hit peak coal use within a decade, in order to meet its promise to President Barack Obama to reduce its carbon emissions starting in 2030.

One Of The Most Worrying Trends In Energy
Kurt Cobb
It should seem obvious that it takes energy to get energy. And, when it takes more energy to get the energy we want, this usually spells higher prices since the energy inputs used cost more. It shouldnt be surprising then, that as fossil fuels, which provide more than 80 percent of the power modern society uses, become more energy intensive to extract and refine, there is a growing drag on economic activity as more and more of the economys resources are devoted simply to getting the energy we want.

Putting the Real Story of Energy and the Economy Together
Gail Tverberg
What is the real story of energy and the economy? We hear two predominant energy stories. One is the story economists tell: The economy can grow forever; energy shortages will have no impact on the economy. Another version of the energy and the economy story is the view of many who believe in the “Peak Oil” theory. In my view, the real story of energy and the economy is much less favorable than either of these views. It is a story of oil limits that will make themselves known as financial limits, quite possibly in the near term—perhaps in as little time as a few months or years.

Chinese energy figures suggest much slower growth than advertised
Kurt Cobb
Last year China reported the slowest economic growth in 24 years, about 7.4 percent. But the true figure may actually be much lower, and the evidence is buried in electricity figures which show just 3.8 percent growth in electricity consumption.

Climate change: can the Seneca effect save us?
Ugo Bardi
The Seneca Cliff (or Seneca Collapse). The ancient Roman philosopher said The path of increase is slow, but the road to ruin is rapid. A Seneca Collapse of the worlds economy would surely reduce the chances of a climate disaster, but it would be a major disaster in itself and it might not even be enough.

Subsidies to industries that cause deforestation worth 100 times more than aid to prevent it
The Guardian UK
Brazil and Indonesia spent over 100 times more in subsidies to industries that cause deforestation than they received in international conservation aid to prevent it, according to a report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). The two countries handed out over $40bn (£27bn) in subsidies to the palm oil, timber, soy, beef and biofuels sectors between 2009 and 2012 – 126 times more than the $346m they received to preserve their rainforests from the United Nations’ (UN) REDD+ scheme, mostly from Norway and Germany.

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