Newsletter.September 19, 2017
The Caribbean island of Dominica has been hit by Maria, a Category 5 storm. Dominica’s prime minister was rescued after the roof of his residence was torn off. An overheated Atlantic is churning back-to-back hurricanes drowning the US into a national crisis. After the most costly Harvey wreaked Texas, Irma forced over 6 million people to flee Florida in the US’s biggest evacuation. Before that, Irma pulverised the Caribbean islands, making all the residents of Barbuda homeless, its offshore winds pushed the ocean completely out of sight in the Bahamas and flattened the forests in the US Virgin Islands. Barbuda was battered again by a third hurricane Jose, which is now aimed for NYC.
Database of Deniers
But this hasn’t changed President Trump’s view on global warming, and his EPA chief thinks it’s not the time to discuss climate change. The defiant Republican mayor of Miami slammed Trump for ignoring climate change and former President Bush’s EPA chief went public to explain how not to run the EPA. Experts say the extreme events have been exacerbated by climate change. Even as the EPA systematically deletes the phrase ‘climate change’ from grants proposals, those who believe in science are keeping a close watch and even maintaining a public database of climate deniers.
Hotter Years, more fires
Greenhouse gases are increasing temperatures, which is increasing the evaporation rate of soils, drying out vegetation, creating ample fuel for fires. The West is seeing trends toward more large wildfires burning more acres with longer fire seasons.
A first-of-its-kind study published in the scientific journal Climatic Change links global climate changes to specific fossil fuel producers. Emissions traced to the 90 largest carbon producers contributed approximately 57% of the observed rise in atmospheric CO2, nearly 50% of the rise in global average temperature, and around 30% of global sea level rise since 1880. Emissions linked to 50 carbon producers, including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Peabody, Shell and Total, were responsible for roughly 16% of the global average temperature increase from 1880 to 2010, and around 11% of the global sea level rise during the same time frame.
Including Coal India
Emissions tied to the same 50 companies from 1980 to 2010, a time when fossil fuel companies were aware their products were causing global warming, contributed approximately 10% of the global average temperature increase and about 4% sea level rise. Emissions traced to 31 majority state-owned companies, including Coal India, Gazprom, Kuwait Petroleum, Pemex, Petroleos de Venezuela, National Iranian Oil Company and Saudi Aramco, were responsible for about 15% of the global temperature increase and approximately 7% of the sea level rise between 1880 and 2010.
A group of investors representing $1.8tn has written to the world’s largest banks to act on climate change.
JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Bank of America are among the 60 banks that have been approached by 100 investors, including Aviva Investors, Hermes Investment Management and Candrium Investors.
Banks could lose 5% to 20% in value if they continue in with business as usual, a recent study estimates.
One of the letter’s recipients, Australia’s Commonwealth Bank, currently faces an investor lawsuit over allegations it has failed to properly disclose climate change risks to the business.
The letter calls for climate action through risk management, low-carbon banking products, public policy engagement and strategy and implementation. The Paris Agreement target to limit global warming to two degrees requires $93trn of investment by 2030. The international agreement also states that finance needs to flow towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.
President Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, emphasized to foreign climate and energy officials on Monday that the U.S. still intends to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
Speculation was heightened after the European Union’s climate chief, Miguel Arias Canete, said in an interview that the U.S. had signaled it wants to seek new terms from within the agreement, rather than withdraw outright and then renegotiate. French President Emmanuel Macron said before a meeting with Trump on Monday that the two leaders would talk about the accord.
The ambitious target of limiting global warming to less than 1.5C is still possible, scientific analysis has shown. The 1.5C target was set as an aspiration by the 2015 Paris accord to limit the damage wreaked by extreme weather and sea level rise. It was then seen as impossible because analysis at the time indicated it required carbon emissions to fall to zero within seven years.
An updated analysis using the latest data shows the global carbon emissions budget that meets the 1.5C goal is bigger than thought. It means that, if the world’s nations ratchet up their emissions cuts in future as intended under the Paris deal, the irreversible impacts could be avoided. The scientists warned that carbon cuts need to happen sooner rather than later, starting with countries strengthening their Paris pledges in 2018.
In the years 2015, 2016 temperature was more than 1C above pre-industrial levels for the first time. 97% of green house heat is absorbed by the oceans and the rising global warming has remained unchecked for decades. Evidence of this is the rise of sea levels, caused by melting ice caps and the thermal expansion of sea water.
‘I won’t ask, I will bulldoze’. That’s the warning to diesel car manufacturers from Indian Transport minister Nitin Gadkari as India chases a tough 2030 target to fully shift to EVs. But the slow automakers want a policy roadmap first. Blamed for failing to pre-empt policy and move to adopt new technologies, Indian automakers say the policy is changing too fast for their industry. The Industry rather delivers what ‘customers want’, but what they really want from the government is ‘China-like’ investment plan. On the road, the diesel car industry is notoriously reluctant to fix emissions problem.
Forecasts predict the price of electric car will be equivalent to that of a gasoline car by 2025. Amitabh Kant, chief of government think tank Niti Aayog, said India is in the midst of biggest disruption, so it can’t be business as usual for industry and the government. Given the aggressive push carmakers have no choice but to plan electrification. EVs are being mobilised in India. Suzuki Motors is setting up a lithium ion battery unit in Gujarat that will be operational by 2020 and Japan’s SoftBank plans to turn cab aggregator Ola into EV manufacturer. Mahindra & Mahindra and Ford are exploring collaboration on EVs, while Tata Motors have plans to make EVs in India.
Diesel is ‘dead’
Meanwhile, global EV market got a huge push after China, world’s largest car market, also announced its intension to ban diesel and gas vehicles. China is setting up world’s largest EV charging network of 167,000 chargers linked with the state grid. Diesel cars became dirtier post dieselgate and similar scandals at VW, Fiat and Renault. Public uproar over air pollution and falling costs of EVs have made it easier for the governments to dump them. In a recent survey of 1000 auto executives, over 50% believe diesel is dead and that battery EVs were the top auto trend. Goldman Sachs estimates 32% of global auto sales by 2040 to be of EVs. EU is reportedly mulling an EV quota to be achieved by automakers by 2030.
Highs and lows of EV
Studies have revealed that carmakers are making very little effort to market electric cars, but that doesn’t stop the biggies from making big promises including Volkswagen, Daimler, Volvo, and BMW. Lastly, cab aggregator Uber plans to go all EV in the UK and Lyft set itself a lofty target of 100% renewable self-driving cars.
India has barred state authorities from unilaterally cancelling or modifying solar power purchase agreements (PPAs). A minimum penalty of 50% of the tariff will be imposed if the agreement is arbitrarily scrapped by the state or the developer. The notification comes after that the debt-laden DISCOMS of Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh tried to arm-twist solar power developers into renegotiating the PPAs to get power at lower, more current rates. Such coercion could have turned nearly 7 GW of utility scale solar projects – worth $7.5 billion – financially unviable.
Solar equipment standardised
With the domestic industry facing the heat from cheap solar imports and falling tariffs, government has drafted new standards for all solar equipment – national or international. Domestic manufacturers have been irked over imports from China. Their contention is that the falling tariffs are a result of cheap imported solar equipment, whose quality is questionable. Government has listed six standards for equipment, including solar panels and batteries. The standards are designed under the Bureau of Indian Standards Act and would be governed under the same. The standards would be enforced after 12 months.
A massive, $87 billion plan to connect 60 Indian rivers through a network of canals – in a bid to check deadly floods and droughts – is soon to commence work. Environmentalists allege it’s a ‘money making business’ that will destroy natural ecosystems.
The project will connect large rivers – including the Ganges, Godavari and Mahanadi. It is expected to bring millions of hectares of land under irrigation, and water to drought hit states, such as Tamil Nadu. The project will also build numerous dams that will prevent monsoon floods, and produce lots of electricity. Numerous necessary clearances are said to have been obtained in record time. Experts say that the idea of linking rivers is neither scientific nor it has credible evidence.
Environmentalists fear the dams will wreak “ecological disaster” by drowning thousands of hectares of forest land, displacing communities and endangering species such as tigers and vultures in the Panna Tiger Reserve (Madhya Pradesh), besides potentially leading to floods upstream and droughts downstream of the dams. Water experts also say that given India’s access to only 4% of the world’s freshwater resources, the government should instead focus on water conservation and less water-intensive farming practices.
Musicians Stevie Wonder and Beyonce took on climate change deniers at the starstudded hurricane relief telethon. Wonder, 67, and 25-time Grammy winner did throw in a little joke, as he said: Anyone who believes there is no such thing as global warming must be blind or unintelligent.
Beyoncé gave heartfelt comments to the people of her hometown of Houston following of Hurricane Harvey. “In my hometown city of Houston, people need food, clothing and cleaning supplies, blankets, shoes, diapers and formula for babies and of course, clean water. The elderly need wheelchairs and kids need books and toys so they can continue to dream. Natural disasters don’t discriminate. They don’t see if you’re an immigrant, black or white, Jewish or Muslim, wealthy or poor. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Third Ward or River Oaks, we’re all in this together,” the 22-time Grammy winner said.