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EXPLAINER: What are the key climate themes at Davos?

EXPLAINER: What are the key climate themes at Davos?


While the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine will be focuses of the World Economic Forum’s gathering of business and government leaders, so too will climate change. It’s captured the world’s attention in unignorable and devastating ways.


The acceleration of rising temperatures, the ferocity and costliness of major weather events, and the impact, particularly on people in developing countries, have pushed the issue from one of science to something that touches every aspect of life, including (or, perhaps especially) business and economics.

Of the roughly 270 panels Monday through Thursday, one-third are about climate change or its direct effects. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate and Alok Sharma, president of last year’s international climate conference COP26, are among the climate leaders expected in the Swiss resort town of Davos.

At the forum’s first in-person gathering in two years, the climate panels are as varied as the issue. They range from combating “eco-anxiety” to helping debt-ridden countries finance a renewable transition. Here’s a look at some broader themes that are likely to emerge:

ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL, GOVERNANCE

Workers set the stage prior to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, Sunday, May 22, 2022. (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP)

Several panels will wrestle with an approach to investing that considers the environment and other key factors. Known by the acronym ESG, it’s become a force, with trillions of dollars invested in companies that meet certain criteria.

When it comes to climate change, ESG can be important. For individual investors all the way up to firms and government agencies that analyze how companies operate, disclosures and public declarations are paramount. They can be the basis of evaluating a company’s emissions, environmental impact and financial risks tied to climate change.

They are also controversial and raise questions: Should certain declarations be mandatory? Should they be standardized and regulated, and by whom? Or has the ESG movement already gone too far, ultimately hindering investment and doing little to rein in greenhouse gas emissions?

Viewpoints sometimes fall along political lines. In the U.S., many Republicans call them “woke,” while many on the left, particularly environmentalists and campaigners, argue that ramping up reporting and transparency could lead to real change.

Many managers of some of the world’s largest mutual funds have argued ESG is essential to evaluate risk. Just last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the approach had “been weaponized by phony social justice warriors.”

ENERGY TRANSITION AND ‘NET ZERO’

People walk in front of the congress center where the World Economic Forum take will place, on the eve of the event in Davos, Switzerland, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2022. The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum is taking place in Davos from May. 22 until May. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The world’s top climate scientists have warned that significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions this decade is necessary to minimize warming and avoid the most devastating effects to the planet. That will require major changes in how business is done, from the way products are produced to how they are transported.

Several panels will look at areas where businesses have successfully transitioned much of their energy portfolio to renewables, the role of finance and government to incentivize or mandate changes, and strategies to keep businesses accountable. Despite heightened consciousness and pledges by businesses, emissions are going up worldwide.

“Moving climate debate from ambition to delivery” is a title of one panel that sums up the enormous challenge.

Sessions will look at sectors, like decarbonizing shipping and aviation, renewable transition plans and the challenges of achieving them in countries like China and India. There will be discussion of strategies to ensure major shifts are inclusive and consider people in historically marginalized countries, which are feeling some of the most intense effects of climate change.

An important current through all the discussions will be identifying what “net zero” is — and isn’t — when looking at pledges from companies and countries. Moving away from fossil fuels like coal and oil to renewables like solar and wind can reduce emissions and get a company closer to goals of taking an equal amount of emissions out of the atmosphere as it puts in.

But a transition to renewables often makes up only a small part of company plans. Many rely on balancing their carbon footprint by investing in forest restoration or other projects. While better than nothing, experts note that depending on carbon offsets doesn’t represent a shift in business practices.


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Middelgruden Offshore Wind Farm in Denmark. Image credit: UN.

DENMARK WANTS TO BUILD TWO ENERGY ISLANDS TO SUPPLY MORE RENEWABLE ENERGY TO EUROPE


They would serve as a hub for offshore wind farms along the coast.

CLEAN ENERGY MET A RECORD-BREAKING 38 PERCENT OF GLOBAL POWER DEMAND IN 2021


50 countries now generate more than 10% of power from wind and solar sources.


WAR IN UKRAINE AND THE FUTURE OF ENERGY

Russia’s war in Ukraine will loom large at the conference. When it comes to climate change, the conflict raises two central questions: How should countries respond to energy shocks from reducing or being cut off from Russian oil and gas? And will the war hasten the transition to renewable energies or help fossil fuel companies maintain the status quo?

Since the war began, there has been no shortage of businesses, environmentalists and political leaders trying to influence the answers to those questions, which will carry over to Davos.

“Energy Security and the European Green Deal” is one panel where participants are expected to argue that the way forward is away from fossil fuels. But European countries, some of which are heavily reliant on Russia for energy, also are scrambling to find other sources of natural gas and oil to meet short-term needs.

While no sessions explicitly make the case for a doubling down on reliance on fossil fuels or expanding extraction or exploration, if the last few months are any guide, those points of view will certainly be present.

Source:

Peter Prengaman via Associated Press



World’s oceans at most acidic level in 26,000 years, climate report warns

World’s oceans at most acidic level in 26,000 years, climate report warns


The world’s oceans grew to their warmest and most acidic levels on record last year, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday, as United Nations officials warned that war in Ukraine threatened global climate commitments.


Oceans saw the most striking extremes as the WMO detailed a range of turmoil wrought by climate change in its annual “State of the Global Climate” report. It said melting ice sheets had helped push sea levels to new heights in 2021.

“Our climate is changing before our eyes. The heat trapped by human-induced greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a statement.

The report follows the latest U.N. climate assessment, which warned that humanity must drastically cut its greenhouse gas emissions or face increasingly catastrophic changes to the world’s climate. read more

Taalas told reporters there was scant airtime for climate challenges as other crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine, grabbed headlines.

Selwin Hart, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s special adviser on climate action, criticised countries reneging on climate commitments due to the conflict, which has pushed up energy prices and prompted European nations to seek to replace Russia as an energy supplier.


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Scientists have found what could be a 'secret weapon' in the battle against climate change

SCIENTISTS HAVE DISCOVERED A MICROSCOPIC OCEAN PREDATOR WITH A TASTE FOR CARBON


The single-celled microbe, which is capable of photosynthesis as well as hunting and eating prey, could be “a secret weapon in battle against climate change”.

HAWAIIAN CORALS SHOW SURPRISING RESILIENCE TO WARMING OCEANS FROM CLIMATE CHANGE


A long-term study of Hawaiian coral species provides a surprisingly optimistic view of how they might survive warmer and more acidic oceans resulting from climate change.


DANGEROUS INCREASE

“We are … seeing many choices being made by many major economies which, quite frankly, have the potential to lock in a high-carbon, high-polluting future and will place our climate goals at risk,” Hart told reporters.

On Tuesday, global equity index giant MSCI warned that the world faces a dangerous increase in greenhouse gases if Russian gas is replaced with coal. read more

The WMO report said levels of climate-warming carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere in 2021 surpassed previous records.

Globally, the average temperature last year was 1.11 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial average – as the world edges closer to the 1.5C threshold beyond which the effects of warming are expected to become drastic. read more

“It is just a matter of time before we see another warmest year on record,” Taalas said.

Oceans bear much of the brunt of the warming and emissions. The bodies of water absorb around 90% of the Earth’s accumulated heat and 23% of the carbon dioxide emissions from human activity.

The ocean has warmed markedly faster in the last 20 years, hitting a new high in 2021, and is expected to become even warmer, the report said. That change would likely take centuries or millennia to reverse, it noted.

The ocean is also now its most acidic in at least 26,000 years as it absorbs and reacts with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Sea level has risen 4.5 cm (1.8 inches) in the last decade, with the annual increase from 2013 to 2021 more than double what it was from 1993 to 2002.

The WMO also listed individual extreme heatwaves, wildfires, floods and other climate-linked disasters around the world, noting reports of more than $100 billion in damages.

Source:

Jake Spring at Reuters



Earth’s Atmospheric CO2 Hasn’t Been This High In Millions of Years

Earth’s Atmospheric CO2 Hasn’t Been This High In Millions of Years


“Either we drive the fossil fuel industry into extinction—or the human race.”


Climate scientists and concerned citizens are sounding the alarm as daily, weekly, and monthly records for atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to be shattered while the fossil fuel-powered capitalist economic system responsible for skyrocketing greenhouse gas pollution plows ahead.

New data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that the weekly average CO² concentration at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii reached 421.13 parts per million (ppm) from May 8 to May 14—the highest in recorded history and up from 418.34 ppm one year ago and 397.38 ppm one decade ago.

“We simply do not know a planet like this,” meteorologist Eric Holthaus said Monday. “We are in a climate emergency.”

According to NOAA, the daily average CO² concentration at Mauna Loa hit 422.04 ppm on May 14, just slightly below the agency’s all-time record of 422.06 ppm observed on April 26. Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, meanwhile, measured 421.68 ppm of CO² at Mauna Loa on May 13, which they consider the daily record as of Monday.

Those record-breaking daily and weekly measurements came after the monthly average CO² concentration at Mauna Loa surpassed 420 ppm for the first time in human history, with NOAA observing 420.23 ppm in April compared with Scripps at 420.02 ppm.

Pieter Tans, a senior scientist at NOAA, recently told Axios that “it is likely May will be higher still.”

“The window to act on climate change is closing,” American Clean Power warned recently on social media. “Accelerating the transition to clean energy will help reduce emissions and secure a healthier future for all.”

Twenty years ago, the highest monthly average CO² concentration was 375.93 ppm, according to NOAA. In 1958, the first year scientists began collecting data at Mauna Loa, it was 317.51 ppm.

Climate scientist James Hansen, who alerted congressional lawmakers to the life-threatening dangers of the climate crisis in 1988, has long called for reducing atmospheric CO² to below 350 ppm, and there is now a scientific consensus that the livability of the planet decreases beyond such a concentration.

Nevertheless, the annual rate of increase in CO² levels over the past six decades is now roughly 100 times faster than earlier increases that occurred naturally thousands of years ago.


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SATELLITES DISCOVER HUGE AMOUNTS OF UNDECLARED METHANE EMISSIONS


“These are large emissions, and we see quite a lot of them on the global scale, much more than we had expected.”

Fog on the western slope of the Andes mountains in Ecuador. Climate change has intensified the water cycle – the movement of water on Earth – by about twice as much as models had predicted, research shows. Photograph: Rosanne Tackaberry/Alamy

CLIMATE CHANGE IS INTENSIFYING EARTH’S WATER CYCLE AT TWICE THE PREDICTED RATE, RESEARCH SHOWS


Rising temperatures pushing much more freshwater towards poles than climate models previously estimated


“The world effectively has made no serious progress compared to what is required,” Tans said earlier this month. “We really need to focus on decreasing emissions and we haven’t had much success globally because the rate of increase of CO² remains as high as it has been in the last decade.”

“CO² has a longevity of hundreds to thousands of years,” he noted, “so we are really making a very long-term climate commitment.”

Speaking with the Financial Times recently, Tans added that “we are going in the wrong direction, at maximum speed.”

California-based activist Joe Sanberg put it even more bluntly last week.

“It’s shocking that we’re staring down the barrel of the greatest existential crisis humanity has ever faced and we still haven’t passed a Green New Deal,” Sanberg tweeted. “Time is running out. Either we drive the fossil fuel industry into extinction—or the human race.”

Source:

Kenny Stancil at Common Dreams



Insect decline could massively increase food bills, warn scientists

Insect decline could massively increase food bills, warn scientists


The number of flying insects has declined by nearly 60 per cent in less than 20 years, an alarming new survey has found.


The huge drop threatens our entire ecosystem, scientists behind the study have warned – but we can still turn things around.

What do the survey results show?

Using data uploaded by members of the public through the Bugs Matter app, scientists from conservation trust Buglife counted the number of bug ‘splats’ on car number plates across the UK.

The researchers compared results from nearly 5,000 journeys in the summer of 2021 with a similar study from 2004.

The findings were extremely troubling.

In England, the number of squashed bugs declined by 65 per cent. Welsh data showed a 55 per cent decline, while Scotland recorded a decline of 28 per cent.

The results reveal “huge losses,” warns Buglife Director of communications and fundraising Paul Hetherington.

“It’s likely that things will get worse rather than better without us doing potentially quite a lot of work to intervene,” he adds.

Habitat destruction, pesticide use, and climate change have all contributed to the stark decline.

Why do insect declines matter?

Flying bugs are critical for biodiversity.

Insects are food for animals such as birds, bats, reptiles, and fish. They also perform vital roles such as pollination of crops and wildflowers and nutrient recycling. Beetles, wasps, and dragonfly families also act as predators for smaller insects helping with pest control.

If they die out, the entire ecosystem – and food production system – would suffer.

“We tend to take [insects] for granted, they’re in the background and we don’t notice them, but they are absolutely crucial to life as we know it,” Hetherington says.

“If we lost pollinators in the UK alone, you’d be putting £2 billion ( € 2.37 billion) on your food bill.

“We’re worried about inflation now, imagine how bad inflation would be then.

“[If we lose] dung beetles, another quarter of a billion pounds on our food bills every year.”

The environmental effects would also be catastrophic.

If we lost pollinators in the UK alone, you’d be putting £2 billion on your food bill.

Paul Hetherington 
Buglife Director of communications and fundraising

If insect declines aren’t halted, eight out of ten wildflower species in the UK could disappear.

The majority of songbirds would die out, with just four or five species able to survive without healthy insect-populations.

What can we do to reverse these declines?

The survey makes for sobering reading, but it’s not too late to save flying bugs.

“On the positive side, because [insects] have relatively short life spans, you can turn things around in a fairly short space of time,” Hetherington says.


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THE FARMER TRYING TO SAVE ITALY’S ANCIENT OLIVE TREES


A fast-spreading bacteria could cause an olive-oil apocalypse.


“If we do the right things, in the right places, we can make a difference.”

Governments have a large role to play too, and can limit habitat loss and reduce mass pesticide usage.

But individuals can play their part too. Letting grass grow long and sowing wildflowers in gardens are crucial to helping increase insect populations. 

“If you plant a group of herbs, and you let them flower, you’ve created the equivalent of a motorway service station, where pollinators can drop off, fill themselves up, and be able to make the distance to the next really good piece of habitat,” he says.

He also encouraged people to download the Buglife app and start recording bug-splats.

“The more people taking part in the survey, the better the data will be, and the more we will be able to pinpoint what’s going on at a much smaller level.”

Source:

Charlotte Elton at euronews.green



Under an orange sky, largest U.S. wildfire menaces New Mexico towns

Under an orange sky, largest U.S. wildfire menaces New Mexico towns


Firefighters in northern New Mexico labored under an apocalyptic orange sky, and vehicles streamed out of the ski area of Angel Fire on Wednesday as wind-driven flames from the state’s second-largest blaze on record roared closer to the mountain resort.


With winds gusting beyond 50 mph (80 kmh) through dense, drought-parched forests, exhausted crews were at loss to stop a wildfire that has raged across a 45-mile swath of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains for more than a month, destroying hundreds of homes.

Spreading through the rugged, tinder-dry landscape with explosive speed, the springtime conflagration has displaced thousands of residents while raising fears that the entire American Southwest was in for a long, brutal fire season.

As smoke hung heavy outside Angel Fire’s supermarket, Almeada Martinson said she planned to pack her photos, guns, two dogs and cat, then evacuate to Taos, 17 miles to the west.

“I’m totally anxious and terrified. This is my home,” said Martinson, 35, general manager of a construction business, as ash swirled around her feet.

The Sangre de Cristo mountains, soaring to over 13,000 feet, have traditionally seen spring storms dumping more than 2 feet of snow. But climate change has diminished the snowpack and brought summer-like temperatures earlier in the year, biologists say, drying out the region and leaving communities more vulnerable to fire.

At Angel Fire’s airstrip, strong winds grounded firefighting helicopters. Seven miles to the south at Black Lake, firefighters huddled around a map and discussed which properties they could try to save.

In immediate danger was the village of Chacon, where locals faced flames on two sides after they stayed behind to defend centuries-old ranches, firefighters said.

To the north, residents of Taos Canyon cut down their own trees to create fire buffers around homes. About 4 miles farther west of downtown Taos – the heart of an area inhabited by indigenous people for 1,000 years – residents were advised to be ready to evacuate on short notice.

At a news briefing late in the day, however, battalion fire chief Todd Abel said the leading edge of the blaze appeared to be heading more toward the north and east, in a direction that would hopefully skirt Taos, a town of about 5,700 people.

In another piece of good news, authorities said mandatory evacuation orders were being lifted on Wednesday evening for a string of small Mora County communities, though other populated areas on the northern edge of the blaze were newly threatened.


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Although unseasonably warm temperatures and extreme low humidity will persist in the days ahead, winds that have howled with gale-force strength for nearly a week are expected to subside on Friday, giving firefighters a bit of a respite, forecasters said.

The blaze, dubbed the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire, has burned over 236,939 acres (95,885 hectares) of land, an area larger than all five boroughs of New York City, with containment lines carved around about a third of its perimeter as of Wednesday evening.

The fire grew out of two blazes that ignited about two weeks apart and later merged into one, the first originating from a prescribed-burn project that ran out of control, according to fire officials. The cause of the second remained under investigation.

In addition to climate change, a century of strict fire suppression and court bans on logging since the 1990s have helped transform New Mexico’s northern forests into overgrown, highly combustible fuel beds, scientists say.

Source:

Andrew Hay via Reuters



NYC wants to take 25% of its street space away from cars in favor of a walkable/bikeable city

NYC wants to take 25% of its street space away from cars in favor of a walkable/bikeable city


Back when COVID-19 ravaged New York City and turned the city’s transportation needs upside down, significant portions of the road space were repurposed for non-car use. From bike lanes to public seating and urban parks, roads that previously saw gridlocked traffic were nearly instantly transformed into public spaces that benefitted a wider group of residents.


After being forced to realize the benefits of such repurposing of streets, the city is now asking, “Why shouldn’t it just stay that way?”

It’s all part of a new plan known as NYC 25×25, which is backed by NYC mayor Eric Adams.

The proposal calls for 25% of NYC’s street space to be converted into walkable pedestrian plazas, bike lanes, green space, and bus lanes by 2025.

The logic goes that the vast majority of NYC’s streets being dominated by cars doesn’t benefit most city residents, and it doesn’t really benefit cars either. With traffic-clogged streets moving at an average of 5 mph (8 km/h) in Midtown Manhattan, private automobile transportation in NYC is responsible for a significant portion of the city’s carbon emissions, air pollution, and urban grime.

Meanwhile, pedestrians and cyclists are forced to navigate the crowded fringes of roads, often weaving around parked vehicles and heaps of trash awaiting pickup.

And that’s all before even considering the staggering number of pedestrian and cycling deaths caused by cars in the city.

Repurposing street space would help to both clean the city and better serve its residents.

The executive director of Transportation Alternatives Danny Harris, of the group behind the 25×25 proposal, explained to the Guardian that “space minus cars equals quality of life.”

NYC currently has around 3 million free parking spots lining its streets, which is more than the number of cars registered in the city.

And considering that most NYC residents don’t own a car, but rather use other forms of transportation such as buses, subways, bikes, and walking, dedicating so much space to cars simply doesn’t make sense.

As Harris continued:

If you live in a place where buying a car and spending $10,000 a year on car-related payments is your only way to get around, then your leaders have failed you and your children. Using streets to simply move and store cars is not optimizing that space. We just got blinded by the car industry and this belief that we should put an SUV in every garage.

Right now, we give most of New York to cars – but imagine if sidewalks were bigger, if you could bike or quickly take the bus anywhere you wanted, if you didn’t have huge mounds of garbage on every single street. As New Yorkers, we think of ourselves as being tough. But that doesn’t mean we have to live in filth, or that we should fear death or injury every time we cross the street.


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Transportation Alternatives’ plan for NYC would see the creation of 500 miles (800 km) of dedicated bus lanes, another 500 miles of protected bike lanes, new secure garbage containers to prevent the piling of garbage mounds on sidewalks, and widespread community use of car-free roads.

Ultimately, it would result in the equivalent of 13 Central Parks worth of public space to be reclaimed from cars.

The plan has been endorsed my NYC mayor Eric Adams, who said last month that “these are our streets, and it’s about riding, skateboarding, walking. You know, this is a good place you could come shop, sit down, spend time, and just enjoy the outdoors.”

The trend is part of a larger movement that seeks to turn cities around the world from car-centric to people-centric, creating more bikeable and walkable areas that still help move residents around without the negative impacts of cars.

Cities like Paris are leading the charge with car bans in the city center, an increasingly popular method for governments to create navigable cities that are friendly to pedestrians and personal vehicles like bikes and scooters.

Many countries also offer tax incentives to citizens that choose to ride bikes instead of driving cars. The US flirted with its own e-bike buying tax incentive that seems to have stalled in Congress, though US cities like Denver are going it alone with their own e-bike tax rebates programs.

Source:

Micah Toll at electrek



More Than 90% of Great Barrier Reef Impacted by Sixth Mass Bleaching Event

More Than 90% of Great Barrier Reef Impacted by Sixth Mass Bleaching Event


More than 90 percent of the Great Barrier Reef was impacted by coral bleaching during the Australian summer of 2021-2022. 


This is the conclusion of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which released the results Tuesday of aerial surveys taken of 719 reefs between Torres Strait and the Capricorn Bunker Group.

“The surveys confirm a mass bleaching event, with coral bleaching observed at multiple reefs in all regions,” the authority wrote. “This is the fourth mass bleaching event since 2016 and the sixth to occur on the Great Barrier Reef since 1998.”

The surveys revealed that 654 reefs, or 91 percent of those surveyed, had experienced some bleaching. The bleaching is especially notable this year because it is the first time it has happened under La Niña conditions, which usually result in cooler ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, as AP News pointed out.

“This is heartbreaking. This is deeply troubling,” Climate Council researcher Simon Bradshaw told AP News. “It shows that our Barrier Reef really is in very serious trouble indeed.”

Coral bleaching occurs when warmer than normal ocean temperatures turn the chemicals that coral-dwelling algae produce into poisons, prompting the coral to expel the algae. Because the algae provide the coral with both nutrients and color, the remaining coral turns white. 

This summer, the waters around the Great Barrier Reef began to heat up in December of 2021, the authority said. Ocean temperatures exceeded historical summer maximums that typically don’t occur until later in the summer. Between December and early April, the area experienced three distinct marine heat waves. The surveys were conducted after the last heat wave, which lasted from March 12 to 23. 

The bleaching recorded in the report does not necessarily mean that the impacted corals will die. 

“It is important to note that bleached coral is stressed but still alive,” the authority wrote. “As water temperatures cool, bleached corals may regain their colour and survive this stress event, as happened in 2020 when there was very low coral mortality associated with a mass bleaching event.”

During back-to-back mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, however, the reef experienced higher death tolls, according to AP News. Scientists predict that this year will be more like 2020.

“The early indications are that the mortality won’t be very high,” the authority’s chief scientist David Wachenfeld said, as AP News reported. 


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However, the reef remains in hot water as long as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. The authority has said that the climate crisis is the single biggest threat to the reef, and a 2020 study found that the reef had already lost more than half its corals in the past 25 years because of human-induced global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that allowing temperatures to rise to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will kill 99 percent of all tropical reefs, while limiting warming to 1.5 degrees could save 30 to 10 percent of them.

The report comes as Australia prepares for federal elections later this month, AP News noted. Current Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party has promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, while the Labor Party has promised steeper cuts of 43 percent by 2030. 

Australian Marine Conservation Society campaign manager Lissa Schindler told The Guardian that reducing emissions should be a priority for the next government. 

“This was a La Niña year, normally characterised by more cloud cover and rain,” she said. “It should have been a welcome reprieve for our reef to help it recover and yet the snapshot shows more than 90% of the reefs surveyed exhibited some bleaching. Although bleaching is becoming more and more frequent, this is not normal and we should not accept that this is the way things are. We need to break the norms that are breaking our reef.”

Source:

Olivia Rosane at EcoWatch



Renewable power is set to break another global record in 2022 despite higher costs and supply chain bottlenecks

Renewable power is set to break another global record in 2022 despite higher costs and supply chain bottlenecks


New capacity for generating electricity from solar, wind and other renewables increased to a record level worldwide in 2021 and will grow further this year as governments increasingly seek to take advantage of renewables’ energy security and climate benefits, according to the International Energy Agency.


The world added a record 295 gigawatts of new renewable power capacity in 2021, overcoming supply chain challenges, construction delays and high raw material prices, according to the IEA’s latest Renewable Energy Market Update. Global capacity additions are expected to rise this year to 320 gigawatts—equivalent to an amount that would come close to meeting the entire electricity demand of Germany or matching the European Union’s total electricity generation from natural gas. Solar PV is on course to account for 60% of global renewable power growth in 2022, followed by wind and hydropower.

In the European Union, annual additions jumped by almost 30% to 36 gigawatts in 2021, finally exceeding the bloc’s previous record of 35 gigawatts set a decade ago. The additional renewables capacity commissioned for 2022 and 2023 has the potential to significantly reduce the European Union’s dependence on Russian gas in the power sector. However, the actual contribution will depend on the success of parallel energy efficiency measures to keep the region’s energy demand in check.

“Energy market developments in recent months—especially in Europe—have proven once again the essential role of renewables in improving energy security, in addition to their well-established effectiveness at reducing emissions,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Cutting red tape, accelerating permitting and providing the right incentives for faster deployment of renewables are some of the most important actions governments can take to address today’s energy security and market challenges, while keeping alive the possibility of reaching our international climate goals.”

Renewables’ growth so far this year is much faster than initially expected, driven by strong policy support in China, the European Union and Latin America, which are more than compensating for slower than anticipated growth in the United States. The US outlook is clouded by uncertainty over new incentives for wind and solar and by trade actions against solar PV imports from China and Southeast Asia.

Based on today’s policy settings, however, renewable power’s global growth is set to lose momentum next year. In the absence of stronger policies, the amount of renewable power capacity added worldwide is expected to plateau in 2023, as continued progress for solar is offset by a 40% decline in hydropower expansion and little change in wind additions.

While energy markets face a wide range of uncertainties, the strengthened focus by governments on energy security and affordability—particularly in Europe—is building new momentum behind efforts to accelerate the deployment of energy efficiency solutions and renewable energy technologies. The outlook for renewables for 2023 and beyond will therefore depend to a large extent on whether new and stronger policies are introduced and implemented over the next six months.

Offshore windfarm (Image courtesy: iStock/ssuaphoto)

The current growth in renewable power capacity would be even faster without the current supply chain and logistical challenges. The cost of installing solar PV and wind plants is expected to remain higher than pre-pandemic levels throughout 2022 and 2023 because of elevated commodity and freight prices, reversing a decade of declining costs. However, they remain competitive because prices for natural gas and other fossil fuel alternatives have risen much faster.

Global additions of solar PV capacity are on course to break new records in both this year and next, with the annual market reaching 200 GW in 2023. Solar’s growth in China and India is accelerating, driven by strong policy support for large-scale projects, which can be completed at lower costs than fossil fuel alternatives. In the European Union, rooftop solar installations by households and companies are expected to help consumers save money as electricity bills rise.


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“Each of our drones can plant over 40,000 seed pods per day and they fly autonomously,” says Andrew Walker, CEO and co-founder of AirSeed Technologies.

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A fast-spreading bacteria could cause an olive-oil apocalypse.


Policy uncertainties, as well as long and complex permitting regulations, are preventing much faster growth for the wind industry. Having plunged 32% in 2021 after exceptionally high installations in 2020, additions of new onshore wind capacity are expected to recover slightly this year and next.

New additions of offshore wind capacity are set to drop 40% globally in 2022 after having been buoyed last year by a huge jump in China as developers rushed to meet a subsidy deadline. But global additions are still on course to be over 80% higher this year than in 2020. Even with its slower expansion this year, China will surpass Europe at the end of 2022 to become the market with the largest total offshore wind capacity in the world.

Biofuel demand recovered in 2021 from its pandemic lows to reach more than 155 billion liters—near 2019 levels. Demand is expected to keep rising—by 5% in 2022 and 3% in 2023. However, the impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have contributed to a 20% downward revision of our previous forecast for biofuel growth in 2022. Since biofuels are blended with gasoline and diesel, much of the downward revision stems from slowing demand for transport, which has been depressed by a combination of factors including growing inflationary pressures, weaker global economic growth and COVID-related mobility restrictions in China.

Source:

International Energy Agency via techxplore



Coldplay labelled ‘useful idiots for greenwashing’ after deal with oil company

Coldplay labelled ‘useful idiots for greenwashing’ after deal with oil company


The Transport and Environment campaign group says Neste is cynically using the band.


Coldplay have been branded “useful idiots for greenwashing” after announcing a partnership with the Finnish oil company Neste to halve their touring emissions last week.

Neste claims to be the world’s largest producer of sustainable biofuels, but the firm’s palm oil suppliers cleared at least 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) of forest in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia between 2019 and 2020, according a study by Friends of the Earth.

Carlos Calvo Ambel, a senior director of the Transport and Environment campaign group (T&E) said: “Neste is cynically using Coldplay to greenwash its reputation. This is a company that is linked to the kind of deforestation that would appal Chris Martin and his fans. It’s not too late, they should drop their partnership with Neste now and focus on truly clean solutions instead.”

The award-winning rock outfit announced plans to shrink their touring footprint after Martin accepted that a “backlash” against their emissions record was justified in a BBC interview last year.

A tree will be planted for each ticket sold on Coldplay’s current “music of the spheres” world tour, which includes a kinetic-powered dancefloor and other green features.

A statement from the band said: “When we announced this tour, we said that we would try our best to make it as sustainable and low carbon-impact as possible, but that it would be a work in progress. That remains true. We don’t claim to have got it all right yet.”

“Before we appointed Neste as supplier of these biofuel products, we received their guarantee that they do not use any virgin materials in their production – most especially not palm oil. It’s still our understanding that they use renewable waste products only, like cooking oil and byproducts from wood pulp manufacture.”

Hanna Leijala, a spokeswoman for Neste, insisted that the firm “do not accept any sustainability violations in our own operations.”

“For our collaboration with Coldplay, conventional palm oil was not used as a raw material” she said, adding: “Neste plans to reduce the share of conventional palm oil to 0% of its global renewable raw material inputs by the end of 2023.”

At present, crude palm oil makes up 7% of the firm’s fuel inputs. Its jet fuel is blended from used cooking oil, animal fats and other wastes and residues.

But Neste declined to say what percentage of the jet fuel mix is made up by palm fatty acid distillates (PFADs), citing “contractual and competitive reasons.” PFADs are considered a byproduct of palm oil refining by the UK, Germany and most EU countries, but not by Finland.

T&E argues that it is “dubious” to consider used cooking oil as sustainable when studies suggest that most EU supplies are imports from countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Higher EU prices for used cooking oil incentivises adulteration and EU auditors have criticised Europe’s capacity to verify the source of these imports.

The use of animal fats also raises questions of agricultural methane emissions, as most fats come from industrial farming, T&E says.


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Coldplay’s world tour has been separately criticised for collaborating with BMW, which is providing 40 rechargeable electric vehicle batteries to power the shows.

BMW is an influential lobbyist for the German car industry, according to a report by Influence Map.

“Coldplay have been taken for a ride,” said Eoin Dubsky, the senior campaign manager for Sum Of Us. “BMW is lobbying to prevent the EU from setting a deadline of 2035 for vehicles to be zero emissions only and they have been able to use Coldplay.”

The band’s statement said that they had approached other electric car manufacturers but “BMW were the ones that offered to help”.

“We have no connection to or influence on their corporate policies,” the release continued. “We just need their batteries so that we can power our shows with renewable energy.”

“We are doing our best, and always genuinely welcome suggestions as to how to do it better,” the band said.

Dubsky was sympathetic to their predicament. “Not many rock bands hire in a sustainability consultant, so credit to them,” he said. “But I think that they should take greater care when doing their due diligence,” he added.

Source:

Arthur Neslen at The Guardian



Emperor Penguin at serious risk of extinction due to climate change

Emperor Penguin at serious risk of extinction due to climate change


The emperor penguin, which roams Antarctica’s frozen tundra and chilly seas, is at severe risk of extinction in the next 30 to 40 years as a result of climate change, an expert from the Argentine Antarctic Institute (IAA) warned.


The emperor penguin, which roams Antarctica’s frozen tundra and chilly seas, is at severe risk of extinction in the next 30 to 40 years as a result of climate change, an expert from the Argentine Antarctic Institute warned

The emperor, the world’s largest penguin and one of only two penguin species endemic to Antarctica, gives birth during the Antarctic winter and requires solid sea ice from April through December to nest fledgling chicks.

If the sea freezes later or melts prematurely, the emperor family cannot complete its reproductive cycle.

“If the water reaches the newborn penguins, which are not ready to swim and do not have waterproof plumage, they die of the cold and drown,” said biologist Marcela Libertelli, who has studied 15,000 penguins across two colonies in Antarctica at the IAA.

This has happened at the Halley Bay colony in the Weddell Sea, the second-largest emperor penguin colony, where for three years all the chicks died.

Every August, in the middle of the southern hemisphere winter, Libertelli and other scientists at Argentina’s Marambio Base in Antarctica travel 65 km (40 miles) each day by motor bike in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius (-40°F) to reach the nearest emperor penguin colony.

Once there, they count, weigh, and measure the chicks, gather geographical coordinates, and take blood samples. They also conduct aerial analysis.

The scientists’ findings point to a grim future for the species if climate change is not mitigated.

Emperor penguins are seen in Dumont d’Urville, Antarctica April 10, 2012. Picture taken April 10, 2012. REUTERS/Martin Passingham

“[Climate] projections suggest that the colonies that are located between latitudes 60 and 70 degrees [south] will disappear in the next few decades; that is, in the next 30, 40 years,” Libertelli told Reuters.

The emperor’s unique features include the longest reproductive cycle among penguins. After a chick is born, one parent continues carrying it between its legs for warmth until it develops its final plumage.


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“The disappearance of any species is a tragedy for the planet,” said Libertelli. “Whether small or large, plant or animal – it doesn’t matter. It’s a loss for biodiversity.”

The emperor penguin’s disappearance could have a dramatic impact throughout Antarctica, an extreme environment where food chains have fewer members and fewer links, Libertelli said.

In early April, the World Meteorological Organization warned of “increasingly extreme temperatures coupled with unusual rainfall and ice melting in Antarctica” – a “worrying trend,” said Libertelli, since the Antarctic ice sheets have been depleting since at least 1999.

The rise of tourism and fishing in Antarctica has also put the emperor’s future at risk by affecting krill, one of the main sources of food for penguins and other species.

“Tourist boats often have various negative effects on Antarctica, as do the fisheries,” said Libertelli.

“It is important that there is greater control and that we think about the future.”

Source:

Lucila Sigal via Reuters