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Government alarmingly postpones action on climate change

Paul Simons adds to many ‘wakeup calls’ – writing about high temperatures, drought and wildfires.

On Thursday Spain broke the record for its highest temperature with 47.3C (117.1F) at Montoro, near Cordoba in the south of the country.

May and June were also phenomenally hot across Portugal, Italy, the Balkans, Greece and Turkey.

Heat and drought have helped to fuel wildfires in Spain and Italy, and wildfires near the seaside resort of Calampiso in Sicily forced the evacuation by boat of about 700 tourists on Wednesday night. In Greece the heatwave led the culture ministry to close archaeological sites around the country, including the Acropolis in Athens.

Together with a long-running drought, the heat has ravaged much of southern Spain, leading to a devastated wheat and barley harvest. If the arid conditions continue, there are also fears for the olive, walnut, almond and grape harvests and the wellbeing of livestock. Rainfall has been desperately low this year, but the country has been suffering from a lack of rain for five years.

Drought threatens to reduce cereal production in Italy and parts of Spain to its lowest level in at least 20 years, and hit other regional crops. Castile and Leon, the largest cereal growing region in Spain, has been particularly badly affected, with crop losses estimated at around 60 to 70%. While the EU is collectively a major wheat exporter, Spain and Italy both rely on imports from countries including France, Britain and Ukraine.

Deadly heatwaves for much of South Asia – yet many of those living there will have contributed little to climate change

The Guardian adds to the news from Europe: India recorded its hottest ever day in 2016 when the temperature in the city of Phalodi, Rajasthan, hit 51C. Another  study led by Prof Elfatih Eltahir, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, linked the impact of climate change to the suicides of nearly 60,000 Indian farmers.

The analysis, published in the journal PNAS, assesses the impact of climate change on the deadly combination of heat and humidity, measured as the “wet bulb temperature” (WBT). Once this reaches 35C, the human body cannot cool itself by sweating and even fit people sitting in the shade will die within six hours.

Prof Chris Huntingford, at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said: “If given just one word to describe climate change, then ‘unfairness’ would be a good candidate. Raised levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are expected to cause deadly heatwaves for much of South Asia. Yet many of those living there will have contributed little to climate change.”

Guardian journalists comment sarcastically, “But fear not: by 2040, no new diesel or petrol vehicles will be sold in the UK

This, apparently, is the appropriate timetable for responding to what a parliamentary committee calls a “public health emergency”. A child born today will be 23 by the time this policy matures – by then the damage to the development of her lungs and brain will have been done”.

Cold comfort

According to Professor Eltahir’s study, if emissions are reduced roughly in line with the global Paris climate change agreement there would be no 35C WBT heatwaves and the population affected by the 31C WBT events would fall from 75% to 55%. About 15% are exposed today.

A National Geographic article says most people agree that to curb global warming a variety of measures need to be taken. On a personal level, driving and flying less, recycling, and conservation reduces a person’s “carbon footprint”—the amount of carbon dioxide a person is responsible for putting into the atmosphere.

At present, lorries shifting identical goods in opposite directions pass each other on 2,000-mile journeys. Competing parcel companies ply the same routes, in largely empty vans – a theme explored by MP Caroline Lucas and Colin Hines in 2003 – the Great Trade Swap.

It describes airports as deadly too – yet government and opposition alike are ‘apparently hell-bent’ on expanding Heathrow, exploring airport expansion projects elsewhere and seeking post-Brexit trade deals with distant countries.

To reduce the risk of ever more extreme weather, we must reduce the amount of fossil fuel we are burning – and the measures taken will have other desirable consequences as the following cartoon shows:

Parliament must listen to its Committee on Climate Change – chairman John Gummer. As the East Anglian Times reported in June, its annual progress report calls for “urgent” plans to meet legal targets for carbon cuts by 2032 as greenhouse gases from transport and buildings continue to rise.

The committee advocates action to bridge the gap between existing policies and what is needed to achieve required emissions reductions by the mid-2020s – boosting electric vehicles and cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the heating of homes to help to meet UK climate targets.

 

 

 

 

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Will governments firmly encourage corporates to ‘divest fossil assets’?

Carbon dioxide intensifying climate changeCarbon dioxide intensifying climate change

The FT reports that Green bond issuance is estimated to have increased more than fivefold last year.

green bond graphAlready this year 11 bonds have been issued, worth a total of $3.78bn. Zurich Insurance Group recently said it aims to become the largest global green bonds investor, with an initial target of $1bn.Green bonds fit Zurich’s overall investment strategy, targeted to support sustainable development and resilient communities. Cecilia Reyes, chief investment officer with the insurer, says: “It is an opportunity to invest with impact and at a return fully compensating for the risk.”

This news will be appreciated by the Balsall Heath correspondent who sent a link to a  Guardian article by Fiona Harvey about the findings of Green Finance, a report by the Environmental Audit Committee. Though this post has been delayed by technical problems the findings are well worth repeating:

  • stock markets are overvaluing companies that produce fossil fuels and greenhouse gases, posing a threat to the economy, because the true costs of carbon dioxide in intensifying climate change are not taken into account in a company’s stock market valuation;
  • the Bank of England’s financial policy experts should take advice from the Committee on Climate Change to monitor the risks to financial stability.
  • current investments in “green finance” are less than a half of the amount needed to meet emissions reduction targets;
  • the government should support binding national renewable energy targets for European Union member states.

green finance cover3This approach contrasts favourably with the bland approach of Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a recent FT interview.

If we wait until nature forces us, the cost will be astronomical

Joan Walley, chair of the committee, said: “The record-breaking extreme weather events causing chaos across the globe should be a wake-up call. The transition to a low-carbon economy will be much more painful if we wait until there is a climate crisis before recognising that more than half of the world’s fossil fuel reserves will have to remain in the ground.”

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said companies had a “fiduciary duty” to their shareholders to move to a low-carbon economy: “If corporations continue to invest in new fossil fuels, they are really in blatant breach of their fiduciary duty, as the science [of climate change] is abundantly clear . . . If we wait until nature forces us, the cost will be astronomical.”

Green Finance was presented at a conference in the City of London on Thursday, 6th March a few days after the Norwegian government launched an independent review of whether the country’s $840bn sovereign wealth fund should divest from fossil assets to protect itself to help the shift to a low carbon economy.


Another relevant article: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/06/could-fossil-fuels-melt-the-global-economy-carbon-bubble