Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Talks ahead - COP 22

The 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) on climate change is going to be held in Marrakesh, Morocco from November 7 – 18. This COP is going to be more significant than the Paris as it sets the ball rolling.

In Paris, December last year, countries agreed to limit increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degree Celsius and pursue efforts to limit to 1.5 degree Celsius. On 5th October 2016, the threshold for entry into force - 55 countries and 55% of global emissions - was met, meaning that the Paris Agreement will enter into force on 4 November 2016. So far 86 countries have ratified it.

Now is the time for some major decisions and framework. The guidelines and procedures of the agreement are to be laid out now. Its structure is very crucial on how the countries go on with their low carbon future.

For matters to become reality, discussion on finance is very important. Climate finance was a hot topic in Paris talks. Developed countries have agreed to mobilize 100 billion dollar per year but this is not legally binding.  India is highly committed to reducing its emissions and turning green. But this is not possible without financial and technological support as India has to meet its developmental needs to address poverty. One of the main agenda to be discussed and concreted would be the mobilizing of green climate fund and technology transfer from the developed nations. This should be a legally binding in the agreement.  How, how much and what counts as financial resources will be the hot topic in COP22.  Further the mitigation finance need to be increased to combat current climate change problems.

Another important discussion India aims to bring to table is the road map for 2016-2020. Paris agreement comes into force from 2020. So the time period from now to 2020 is crucial for mobilizing, and meets the determined goals in a systemic manner. India also trying to bring notice on the high energy lifestyle and consumption of the developed world and hold it accountable.


COP22 will be significant as to how the responsibility is shared among the nations.  For  practical and fair future scenario, developed countries should take historic responsibility and help developing countries combat climate change.  All countries have set their mandate for discussions and hopefully a stronger agreement will turn out.  

Anu Kuncheria

Monday, October 17, 2016

Renewable energy for years to come


In 2015, Sweden came up with an ambitious goal to go 100% fossil free.

Earth is warming and we need to avoid it getting worse.  The primary reason causing warming is the manmade release of CO2 from the fossil fuel use. Since industrialization, energy has been predominant in all our uses. It is unimaginable for a world without electricity, petrol and diesel. Hence it’s imperative to find alternative forms of energy that meets our demand without altering the climate. And this is  possible only with renewable energy (RE) sources.

It is possible to meet the entire world’s energy demands with renewable energy; Its only a matter of time and political will. There are many myths associated with renewable energy. First and foremost is the perception that renewable energy is expensive. In recent years, the cost of solar and wind energy has declined substantially and in few years time, it will be cheaper than fossil fuels. Deutsche bank estimates show that the economics of solar has improved significantly due to reduction in solar panel costs, financing costs and balance of system costs with overall 15% CAGR cost reduction over the past 8 years and expects another 40% cost reduction over the next 4-5 years.

The second common myth is that the renewable energy is not reliable and cannot provide 24*7 supply. This is absolutely false. RE Technology has improved so much that it is completely reliable, safe and can meet all our energy demands. The transition from coal to renewable is possible in few years time.

India’s RE future

Wind mill
Image source:youthforumonforeignpolicywordpress.com
India is the 3rd largest energy consumer in the world and much of it is from fossil fuels. In order to effectively combat climate change, India needs to do its due share. It has already committed to increase the share of renewable energy in the total energy to 40%. The main focus is on solar and wind energy. The commitment to increase solar power from 30 GW to 175 GW by 2022 is a huge opportunity for energy deficit India for rural electrification.
Solar panels
Image Source: http://www.industrytap.com/india-
commits-40-renewable-energy-mix-2030/35789

As economist Jeremy Rifkin said, while speaking in New Delhi in  2012: “India is the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy sources and, if properly utilized, India can realize its place in the world as a great power — but political will is required for the eventual shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”

To secure its energy future, India needs to increase energy efficiency, promote renewable energy, increase decentralized energy system and bring in strong policies. With these in place,  the transition to 100% renewable energy is both possible and affordable.

Countries  around the globe is increasing investment in renewable energy. Many developed countries like Germany, Denmark already has high share of renewable energy. It is very important that developed countries must help developing countries with technology and money to support their energy demands. Only then the entire world can combat climate change together and let coal remain grounded.


Anu Kuncheria
anukuncheria@gmail.com


References:

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/climatechange/energyrevolution/renewable-energy-myths/

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strong-future-forecast-for-renewable-energy/


http://www.ecowatch.com/5-countries-leading-the-way-toward-100-renewable-energy-1881999459.html

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Fossil Fuel Industry should pay for their Deeds..

Ignorance is no excuse; pretended ignorance deserves harsher punishment.

Mankind has this enormous capacity to deal with adversity, and those solutions will present themselves as those challenges become clear” - ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson said at the company’s 2015 annual shareholder meeting.

ExxonMobil, the american multinational oil and gas corporation giant, is under probe for withhelding information from shareholders and the public about the risks associated with their business. The company’s own climate researchers had warned the senior management of the potential negative effects of green house gas emissions way back in 1977 which was kept a secret by the company.  

19 US Senators in July 2016, called out fossil fuel industry on their Climate change denials. The big oil and gas Corporations were exposed for carrying out corporate funded campaign to spread skepticism regarding climate change. Fossil fuel industry made millions of financial transactions to fuel the climate change denial machine.

Image source:http://www.ecowatch.com/senators-expose-web-of-denial-blocking-climate-change-action-1917189475.html

A climate consensus was reached at the beginning of 1990s that: manmade activities are causing climate change. To prevent this from achieving a concrete status, the fossil fuel industry started funding numerous independent think tanks, researchers to write and publish against climate change. They wanted to create the sense of ’doubt’ and divide climate science into a debate. Their tactic was to place ‘doubts’ to  delay climate action. This tactic was employed by all the think tanks and researchers funded by the fossil fuel industry.  Between 1994 and 1997, 1 billion US dollar was spent to downplay the climate change effect. This misinformation campaign was funded by all the big oil companies including Exxon Mobil, Koch brothers etc. They funded everyone from business groups to think tanks to researchers to youth to senior citizens to rubbish the climate change science. They tried extensively to brand climate change as just ‘a theory’ and not truth.  Investigative reports by The Guardian, Inside climate news series found that  Exxon Mobil has spent at least $33 million since 1998 on a network of more than 60 think tanks, advocacy groups and trade associations, many of which continue to distort climate science and denigrate renewable energy to this day.

America is the largest contributor of Green house gases (GHGs). Work of geographer Richard Heede shows that a relatively small number of investor- and government-owned companies are responsible for two-thirds of human-caused carbon emissions since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Heede’s 2014 study found that just 90 companies accounted for 65 percent of worldwide carbon emissions between 1854 and 2013. Half of those companies’ total emissions have occurred since 1988 — long after the scientific community and the public became aware of the threat posed by global warming. Rather than changing their business models, they pumped in millions for climate denials and lied for decades meantime profiting billions of dollars from polluting the earth.

Its them- the fossil fuel industry including the likes of Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, Peabody Energy, Consol Energy, Arch Coal etc - who should pay for the remedial measures. They should be charged for their actions.  Fossil fuel industry in USA gets 7.5 billion dollar subsidy annually. This should be taken away and given to clean energy industry.

They should be made to :
·         Acknowledge the negative impacts caused by them and accept wrong doings
·          Change into a clean model of energy and
·         Pay 60% or more for the climate adaptation and mitigation funds.

Only by  stringent measures can we prevent another tobacco or coal episode in future.

Anu Kuncheria

anukuncheria@gmail.com


References:
Heede, R. Climatic Change (2014) 122: 229. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0986-y

http://www.desmogblog.com/exxonmobil-funding-climate-science-denial


FOSSIL INDUSTRY – Part of the problem;not solution!


New expos√© unearths the true dirt behind COP21’s corporate sponsors" Corporate Accountability International

There are different stakeholders in climate change talks with varying interests. Having everyone’s voices heard is part of the negotiation; but when some stakeholders interest conflicts with the main focus of discussion, it becomes a problem.
At COP 21 Paris
Image Source: http://www.desmogblog.com/2016/02/06/new-report-identifies-fossil-fuels-we-must-keep-ground-avert-climate
One such main conflict stakeholder in climate change discussions is the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel industry’s market lies in generating energy from fossil fuels; the main cause for climate change. Climate change mitigation strategies will reduce their market, business and profit. Hence its irony when they sponsor UN climate change (COP21) talks unless they have some hidden agenda.

To reduce global warming, there is a definite need to shift from fossil fuel to cleaner sources of energy. In this process, the obvious impact will be on fossil fuel industry. Many countries have already pledged to cut billions of dollars in the industry subsidies. Over the years, the fossil fuel industry has tried hard to not bring climate research to public; but extreme weather conditions have become so frequent that no one can avoid it any more. It is alleged that the fossil fuel industry had and still has a major role in subduing the importance of climate change and underplaying its effects. They are alleged to have suppressed climate research and blinded the truth. Fossil fuel industry is playing same strategy as that of Tobacco industry which for years denied and hid the negative effects of its product after knowing it. Exxon Mobil, the energy major is now facing numerous investigations into whether the company lied to investors and committed fraud by covering up the risks of climate change for decades.

There is a big concern that climate change negotiations are unduly influenced by fossil fuel industry. In the Paris agreement, their involvement was actively seen with many events being sponsored by the fossil fuel industry. Its common sense to see that a negotiation with such undue influence of fossil fuel lobby will not set concrete climate change mitigation policies. Corporate accountability international released a report “Fueling the Fire” which exposes the environmental destruction and public policy interference of the leading COP21 sponsors including fossil fuel majors Engie, Suez Environment as well as bank BNP Paribas and French utility √Člectricit√© de France. The report clearly shows the conflict of interest inherent in allowing such sponsorship.  As fossil fuel industry is powerful and rich, if part of the negotiations, their undue influence will continue and impact the discussions in a negative way.  Either they should be banned from the negotiations or there should be clear rules to their limits of participation.

In the mean time, as they find their business shaky, the coal industry is now looking into developing countries and racing to get coal plants build and lock these countries in coal dependence. They project coal as affordable and available resource to meet their energy requirements. It’s surprising to see a large number of countries including China, India, Turkey, Vietnam and South Africa building huge coal fired power plants exceeding their future energy demands. What the fossil industry is looking for is power plants and once they are built, these countries will become fossil fuel dependent.

The fossil fuel industry has mislead public since 1970s about the effect of CO2  for self interest. They are concerned only with their profits and money making; welfare of our planet and other fellow beings is not their concern - hence their participation will jeopardize climate change negotiations and thus should be BANNED from the discussions!

Anu Kuncheria
anukuncheria@gmail.com


References:

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/12/climate-change-summit-paris-cop21-fossil-fuels-sponsors

Fueling the fire: The big polluters bankrolling COP21 by Corporate Accountability International


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Climate change: WHAT IS IN STORE FOR INDIA?

Note: For the next few weeks,  a climate series will be posted with  focus on Climate change and the politics of fossil fuel industry. It is important to know and understand  that climate change is real and  there is no doubt that human intervention is the reason. Creating doubt in climate science is the malicious efforts of the fossil fuel Industry for their own prosperity. India is one of the countries who is going to be severely impacted by climate change, and hence, we should pressurize our government to act on it with utmost priority. 

IPCC (Intergovernmental panel on climate change) predicts India could experience a 40% decline in agricultural productivity in the next 50 years. This exacerbates the growing demand to double our  food production to feed the burgeoning population.  

All climate models predict more extreme weather conditions with droughts, heavy rain falls, storms in most parts of India as a result of climate change. The foremost threat is to agriculture. With different agro climatic zones, diverse cropping patterns and seasons, 2/3rd rainfed, climate variability is already affecting agriculture in India. According to Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, decrease in number of rainy days (5-15 days on an average) is expected over much of India, along with an increase in heavy rainfall days in the monsoon season. These changes are expected to increase the vulnerability of Indian agriculture.

The recent HudHud cyclone caused devastation for the state of Andhra Pradesh.  In one of my  visits to the affected area, the farmers showed vast tracts of previously fertile land filled with huge boulders and stones leaving it unfertile now. Most of these families with just one piece of land in their holding, now has nothing to cultivate.  According to Andhra government, cyclone HudHud caused 2190 crore rupees (328 million USD) loss with agriculture sector being the worst hit.  Similarly in 2013, Uttarakhand flash floods, 30% of cultivated area in the state was severely affected resulting crop loss and damages.  Crop loss, unfertile lands, spread of diseases are major challenges to India’s food security.
Due to vagaries of climate, agricultural investments have become a big gamble.  This has taken a heavy toll on farmers, who burdened with huge debts ends up taking their own lives. Farmer suicides have increased by 40% between 2014 and 2015.

Climate change is drastically going to affect our water resources. In India, almost 80% water is consumed for agriculture. The demand for water in urban areas has increased over the years. The growing urbanization has increased water sharing conflicts between cities and villages.  Portable drinking water is still not accessible to millions of Indians.   In addition, ground water is over exploited in many parts of the country. With the fluctuating rains, water is soon going to be an expensive commodity.

Climate change Education classes for
school children in Paderu, AP 
by Laya, INECC
A flip side to water scarcity is floods and droughts. Approximately 40 million hectares of the land is vulnerable to floods, with 8 million hectares affected by it. Of the total agricultural land in India, about 68% is prone to drought of which 33% is chronically drought prone, receiving rainfall of less than 750mm per year. Unabated global warming will lead to exacerbation of the droughts, cutting down the water availability  and increased floods will worsen the situation.

Another major challenges for Indian cities which aim to become ‘smart’ is climate resilience.  Cities are constantly threatened by climate change exposing its poor infrastructure and high vulnerability.  As India is expecting more million plus cities, infrastructure and basic services should be the first priority. The vulnerability of Indian cities is exposed in the recent 2015 Chennai floods which brought the city standstill for many days. Cities are also more prone to communicable diseases, air pollution and bad health due to changing climate. Climate change if not abated is projected to decrease India’s GDP by 9%.
It is also possible that climate change may fasten the pace of rural-urban migration over the next few decades. The agrarian crisis in rural India could be catalyzed by climate change into a migratory rout, driven by greater monsoon variability, endemic drought, flooding and resource conflict.

Also, coastal ecosystem is susceptible to huge damages as a result of climate change with salt water intrusion affecting ground water, submergence of land, displacement of families, spread of diseases, destruction of coral reefs, damages to biodiversity.


WHY 1.5 C???

With agreeing to reduce warming to “well below 2 C” in the Paris agreement, world has recognized the threat that comes with more warming. For many, including developing countries and island nations it’s a threat to their very own existence.

So what is the huge difference in half a degree?
The target to reduce warming to 1.5 C instead of 2 C is very important as a half degree averaged out over the whole world can mean much more of an increase in some locations and at certain times. It could be 5 or 10 degrees warmer at certain places than 1.5 or 2 degrees.  The European Geosciences Union published a study in April 2016 that examined the impact of a 1.5 C vs. a 2.0 C temperature increase by the end of the century. It found that the increase from 1.5 to 2 degrees raises the impact on phenomenon by about one third.  Heat waves would last around a third longer, rain storms would be about a third more intense and the increase in sea level would be approximately a third higher.

A study published by Erich Fischer and R Knutti  of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich found that the risk of what was “once in a 1,000 days” hot weather has already increased five-fold. Their modeling suggests that it will double again at 1.5 C and double once more as we go from 1.5 to 2 C.

It looks like 1.5 C warming is manageable for the world. Still 2 questions arise:
a)What are the implications of 1.5 C warming?
b) How are going to limit the warming to 1.5 C??

During the Paris meet in 2015, UN’s IPCC have been asked to submit report on implications of 1.5 C targets by 2018. 

Climate change is going to affect each one of us. Its just a matter of few years - however rich or poor - we will have to deal with it. Its high time each of us make low carbon transitions in our lifestyle at the same time  pressurize our governments to take action and voice our concerns in the international platforms. Only by engaging the entire world and bringing them in one platform, do we succeed in saving our planet!

Anu Kuncheria
anukuncheria@gmail.com

REFRENCES:
1. Senapati, M. R. , Behera, B. , & Mishra, S. R. (2013). Impact of Climate Change on Indian Agriculture & Its Mitigating Priorities. American Journal of Environmental Protection, 1(4), 109-111.

2. Kumar R, Gautam HR (2014) Climate Change and its Impact on Agricultural Productivity in India. J Climatol Weather Forecasting 2:109. doi:10.4172/2332-2594.1000109

3. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/16/what-would-a-global-warming-increase-of-15c-be-like

4. E. M. Fischer, R. Knutt Anthropogenic contribution to global occurrence of heavy-precipitation and high-temperature extremes, Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland