Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bali is worse than Kyoto


“After 11 days of negotiations, governments have come up with a compromise deal that could even lead to emission increases. The highly compromised political deal is largely attributable to the position of the United States, which was heavily influenced by fossil fuel and automobile industry interests. The failure to reach agreement led to the talks spilling over into an all-night session.”

These are extracts from a press release by Friends of the Earth. So what? Well it was published on December 11 - I mean to say, December 11 1997. The US had just put a wrecking ball through the Kyoto protocol. George Bush was innocent; he was busy executing prisoners in Texas. Its climate negotiators were led by Albert Arnold Gore.

The European Union had asked for greenhouse gas cuts of 15% by 2010. Gore’s team drove them down to 5.2% by 2012. Then the Americans did something worse: they destroyed the whole agreement.
Most of the other governments insisted that the cuts be made at home. But Gore demanded a series of loopholes big enough to drive a Hummer through. The rich nations, he said, should be allowed to buy their cuts from other countries. When he won, the protocol created an exuberant global market in fake emissions cuts. The western nations could buy “hot air” from the former Soviet Union. Because the cuts were made against emissions in 1990, and because industry in that bloc had subsequently collapsed, the former Soviet Union countries would pass well below the bar. Gore’s scam allowed them to sell the gases they weren’t producing to other nations. He also insisted that rich nations could buy nominal cuts from poor ones. Entrepreneurs in India and China have made billions by building factories whose primary purpose is to produce greenhouse gases, so that carbon traders in the rich world will pay to clean them up.

The result of this sabotage is that the market for low-carbon technologies has remained moribund. Without an assured high value for carbon cuts, without any certainty that government policies will be sustained, companies have continued to invest in the safe commercial prospects offered by fossil fuels rather than gamble on a market without an obvious floor.

By ensuring that the rich nations would not make real cuts, Gore also guaranteed that the poor ones scoffed when we asked them to do as we don’t. When George Bush announced, in 2001, that he would not ratify the Kyoto protocol, the world cursed and stamped its foot. But his intransigence affected only the US. Gore’s team ruined it for everyone.

The destructive power of the American delegation is not the only thing that hasn’t changed. After the Kyoto protocol was agreed, the then British environment secretary, John Prescott, announced: “This is a truly historic deal which will help curb the problems of climate change. For the first time it commits developed countries to make legally binding cuts in their emissions.” Ten years later, the current environment secretary, Hilary Benn, told us that “this is an historic breakthrough and a huge step forward. For the first time ever, all the world’s nations have agreed to negotiate on a deal to tackle dangerous climate change.” Do these people have a chip inserted?

In both cases, the US demanded terms that appeared impossible for the other nations to accept. Before Kyoto, the other negotiators flatly rejected Gore’s proposals for emissions trading. So his team threatened to sink the talks. The other nations capitulated, but the US still held out on technicalities until the very last moment, when it suddenly appeared to concede. In 1997 and in 2007 it got the best of both worlds: it wrecked the treaty and was praised for saving it.

Hilary Benn is an idiot. Our diplomats are suckers. American negotiators have pulled the same trick twice, and for the second time our governments have fallen for it.

There are still two years to go, but so far the new agreement is even worse than the Kyoto protocol. It contains no targets and no dates. A new set of guidelines also agreed at Bali extend and strengthen the worst of Gore’s trading scams, the clean development mechanism. Benn and the other dupes are cheering and waving their hats as the train leaves the station at last, having failed to notice that it is travelling in the wrong direction.

Although Gore does a better job of governing now he is out of office, he was no George Bush. He wanted a strong, binding and meaningful protocol, but American politics had made it impossible. In July 1997, the Senate had voted 95-0 to sink any treaty which failed to treat developing countries in the same way as it treated the rich ones. Though they knew this was impossible for developing countries to accept, all the Democrats lined up with all the Republicans. The Clinton administration had proposed a compromise: instead of binding commitments for the developing nations, Gore would demand emissions trading. But even when he succeeded, he announced that “we will not submit this agreement for ratification [in the Senate] until key developing nations participate”. Clinton could thus avoid an unwinnable war.

So why, regardless of the character of its leaders, does the US act this way? Because, like several other modern democracies, it is subject to two great corrupting forces. I have written before about the role of the corporate media - particularly in the US - in downplaying the threat of climate change and demonising anyone who tries to address it. I won’t bore you with it again, except to remark that at 3pm eastern standard time on Saturday, there were 20 news items on the front page of the Fox News website. The climate deal came 20th, after “Bikini-wearing stewardesses sell calendar for charity” and “Florida store sells ‘Santa Hates You’ T-shirt”.

Let us consider instead the other great source of corruption: campaign finance. The Senate rejects effective action on climate change because its members are bought and bound by the companies that stand to lose. When you study the tables showing who gives what to whom, you are struck by two things.

One is the quantity. Since 1990, the energy and natural resources sector - mostly coal, oil, gas, logging and agribusiness - has given $418m to federal politicians in the US. Transport companies have given $355m. The other is the width: the undiscriminating nature of this munificence. The big polluters favour the Republicans, but most of them also fund Democrats. During the 2000 presidential campaign, oil and gas companies lavished money on Bush, but they also gave Gore $142,000, while transport companies gave him $347,000. The whole US political system is in hock to people who put their profits ahead of the biosphere.

So don’t believe all this nonsense about waiting for the next president to sort it out. This is a much bigger problem than George Bush. Yes, he is viscerally opposed to tackling climate change. But viscera don’t have much to do with it. Until the American people confront their political funding system, their politicians will keep speaking from the pocket, not the gut

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Climate Racism


The Bali Climate Change Conference has ended in a FARCE due to the US veto of greenhouse gas emission targets for developed countries. The Bush US position - in clear opposition to the IPCC, the world's scientists, Green groups, Developing nations and the EU - was backed by climate criminal, climate racist, climate terrorist neo-Bush-ite Rudd Australia, Bush-ite Harper Canada and other climate criminal US allies such as Bush-ite Japan and US satrap and carbon dioxide (CO2) polluter extraordinaire Saudi Arabia .

Before analysing this further, we should define some TERMS that must surely become part of the global lexicon for the FEW DECADES LEFT of the World as we know it.

“Climate change” refers to the warming of the planet due to anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas pollution. As summarized by the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment report (for a Summary of the Summary of the IPCC Synthesis Report see:
http://green-blog.org/2007/11/21/summary-of-the-summary-of-the-2007-ipcc-ar4-synthesis-report/ ) the world is on track for an IPCC “worst case scenario” Category VI scenario (and current global Greenhouse gas, GHG, pollution EXCEEDS that specified in this worst-case scenario) involving stabilization at 660-790 ppm CO2 (twice today’s level of 379 ppm) , 4.9-6.1 degrees centigrade temperature rise above the pre-industrial (4-5 degrees above today’s) and 1.0-3.7 metres sea level above pre-industrial sea level or about 0.8-3.5 metres above today’s).

“Climate stress” refers to the biological consequences reality that the world has already warmed about 1 degree Centigrade above the pre-industrial average but with some areas being markedly hotter than this already (the Indian Ocean has warmed about 2 degrees centigrade on average in the last 40 years). Climate stress is manifested in relation to human societies and with animals and plants in ecosystems around the world (e.g. changes to polar bear habitats, coral bleaching, polar drift of vegetation, pole-ward drift of phytoplankton, susceptibility to mega-fires, drought etc).

“Climate racism” refers to the extraordinary, “might is right”, entrenched disparity in “per capita greenhouse gas pollution” between the “colonial” Anglo-Celtic countries of the US, Canada and Australia and the countries of the developing world (for a very detailed analysis see the US EnergyInformationAdministration,USEIA: http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/pdf/emissions.pdf ). Thus in 2004 “annual per capita fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution” in tonnes CO2/person was 19.2 (for Australia; 40 if you include Australia’s coal exports), 19.7 (the US), 18.4 (Canada), 4.2 (the World), 3.6 (China), 1.0 ( India) and 0.25 (for Bangladesh) (see “War on Terra, Climate Criminals”: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/15671/42/ ).

The worst offenders (the US, Canada and Australia) successfully blocked Scientist and EU demands at Bali for definite “25-40% reductions by 2020” targets and argued for constraints on developing countries. The de facto position of these climate racist countries is that they somehow have a “right” to pollute with annual per capita CO2 pollution up to 160 times that of Third world countries such as Bangladesh but that developing countries must be constrained.

“Climate terrorism” refers to “might is right” imposition of deadly consequences on the weak by powerful “state terrorist” countries such as Australia, Canada and the US in ruthless prosecution of the selfish, political and economic interests of a tiny minority of their nationals. Already 16 million people due avoidably each year on Spaceship Earth (10 million being infants) (see “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” , G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/1375/247/ and http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/) with the world’s #1 state terrorist, Bush America, in charge of the flight deck. Several billion people already suffer malnourishment and US-driven global warming will exacerbate this situation and contribute the deaths of hundreds of millions this century.

“Climate genocide” refers to the horrendous consequences of the ongoing “climate stress”, “climate racism”, “climate criminality” and “climate terrorism”- estimated at hundreds of millions of excess (avoidable) deaths this century. Thus just read the views of Professor David King, Chief Scientific Adviser of the UK, published in 2004 in the prestigious US scientific journal Science(Science 9 January 2004:Vol. 303. no. 5655, pp. 176 – 177; see “Climate change Science: adapt, mitigate or ignore”:

“Climate criminal” refers to those who act to increase global warming (“climate change”) in greedy and immoral self-interest in disregard of the health and lives of others, whether at an international or national level. Of course this is an international criminality because everyone on the planet shares the same finite atmosphere.

“Terracide” refers to killing of the living systems of the Planet Earth, Terra. (for an artistic attempt to address this see my HUGE paintings “Terra”: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/15671/42/ and “Apocalypse Now”: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/17652/42/ ).

The US and its climate racist, climate terrorist, climate criminal allies Australia and Canada are seriously threatening the World with man-made climate change and the most vulnerable countries are those of the Developing World, and in particular mega-delta Developing countries such as Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Burma, Nigeria, Egypt, India and Pakistan (see: “Climate Criminals & Climate genocide. Anglo-Celtia threatens final Bengal Holocaust”: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/13576/26/ ).

Data from the US Energy Information Administration (see: http://www.eia.doe.gov/ ) shows that domestic fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution by climate racist, climate criminal, climate terrorist Australia, US and Canada has CLIMBED at a roughly constant rate in the quarter century period 1984-2007 – despite the pleas of scientists and 4 (FOUR) successive and increasingly pessimistic Assessment Reports by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (1PCC) in the period 1990-2007 (see: http://open.newmatilda.com/crosswire/?cat=2 ).
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (see: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/ ) shows that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is roughly linear with time at a constant rate of increase of 2.5 ppm per year. This is already having an impact on ecosystems and human societies around the world – including climate criminal countries the US, Canada and Australia. Thus, as shown by Hurricane Katrina, deltaic Louisiana – like deltaic Bangladesh - is acutely susceptible to the global warming consequences of hurricanes and storm surges. Canada is experiencing worsening vegetation, snow cover and other ecosystem changes.


Climate criminal Australia is also “fouling its own nest”. An important study published in December 2007 in the prestigious US scientific journal Science – the top world scientific journal – says that coral reefs cannot survive in the warmer and more acid ocean conditions obtaining at too high atmospheric CO2 concentrations. At concentrations of greater 450 ppm coral reefs are seriously ill and at greater than 500 ppm they are doomed (see: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/12/14/2118585.htm?section=justin ). The key tipping point for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef will come at 450 ppm CO2 – on present trends in only 27 years’ time (in 2034). Yet the greedy, irresponsible US lackey and climate racist Murdochracy Rudd Australia is still proceeding "business as usual" in relation to its world #1 coal exports and its world #1 developed country per capita greenhouse gas pollution (see "Australian Labor Victorious - but not green enough": http://green-blog.org/2007/11/28/australian-labor-victorious-but-not-green-enough/enough/ and “Climate criminal Australia and climate genocide”: http://open.newmatilda.com/crosswire/?p=143 ).
Bali has clearly demonstrated that the world's top developed country “annual per capita CO2 polluters” – Australia, the US and Canada - will simply NOT act now, just as they have failed to act for a quarter of a century. There has been NO RESPONSE YET, in terms of actual CO2 pollution mitigation by these climate criminal countries, to the mounting crisis over the last quarter of a century - examination of the data provided by the US EIA shows their CO2 pollution STILL rising inexorably .


At the Bali Conference these same climate criminal, climate racist, climate terrorist Anglo countries that refuse to limit THEIR CO2 pollution nevertheless wanted to impose targets on developing countries with VASTLY LOWER annual per capita fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution e.g. (2004 figures) China (5 times lower), India (20 times lower) and Bangladesh (80 times lower) (see “War on Terra, Climate Criminals. “Terra painting”: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/15671/42/ ).


The politicians have FAILED at Bali. Bali was a FARCE. The World at Bali failed to take the advice of the US, the world’s #1 terrorist state, specifically “do not negotiate with terrorists”. But what can countries outside the Bush Climate Criminal Club DO? What can decent citizens of Bush US, Bush-ite Canada and neo-Bush-ite Australia DO to save the Planet?


The tragedy of what is happening is that the science, technology and economics all say that we CAN ACT NOW and, furthermore, we can make a PROFIT out of acting now (see: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/18817/42/ and http://open.newmatilda.com/crosswire/?p=143 ). Indeed recent advances in solar energy are set to dramatically lower the cost of photovoltaic (PV)-based electricity generation, enabling Man to very cheaply tap into the solar energy hitting the earth each day that is TEN THOUSAND TIMES MORE than we need (see ”Solar energy and the end of war”: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/18667/42/ ).


The WORLD must URGENTLY ACT NOW by applying Sanctions, Boycotts, Green Tariffs and Reparations Demands against the chief climate racist, climate criminal, climate terrorist, climate genocidal countries Australia, US, and Canada that are acutely threatening the world with ecosystem collapse, climate genocide and indeed an all-encompassing Terracide.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bali Climate Change Conference ends without much hope

The UN-sponsored climate change conference held on the Indonesian island of Bali ended on the weekend without any agreement on combatting global warming other than vague generalities. A last-minute, face-saving communiqué was issued but, at the insistence of the Bush administration and its allies, it made no mention of specific carbon emission reduction targets. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had recommended a cut in carbon emissions of 25 to 40 percent in the advanced industrial countries by 2020 and a total world emissions reduction of 50 percent by 2050.

More than 10,000 delegates, lobbyists, scientists and bureaucrats from 180 countries participated in the Bali conference. The event was the first of a series of international summits scheduled over the next two years, which are to determine a successor agreement to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol due to expire in 2012. All of those present paid lip service to the need for concerted action to avert a global environmental calamity, but each national delegation was primarily concerned to defend its own narrow economic interests.

Deep divisions between the major powers dominated the conference. The European powers, together with China, India and other emerging industrial countries, pressed for the inclusion of a reference to the IPCC emission targets in the final statement. The Bush administration—which never ratified Kyoto and has adamantly refused to agree to binding carbon cuts—led a bloc of countries including Japan, Canada, and Australia, which rejected this and also demanded that so-called developing countries be issued emission targets. (These countries are currently exempt under Kyoto.)

In the end, the Bali statement attempted to fudge all the disputed issues. After acknowledging that evidence of climate change was “unequivocal” and that “deep cuts in global emissions will be required”, conference delegates endorsed “quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives” for developed countries without specifying any targets. The question of whether undeveloped economies would be assigned emissions targets was similarly left unanswered. Delegates agreed that “nationally appropriate mitigation actions” should be developed for China, India, Brazil and the other emerging industrial countries, “supported by technology and enabled by financing and capacity-building”. Exactly what will be done—particularly relating to the transfer of technology and finance from the advanced capitalist countries—remains unclear and is subject to further negotiation between the participating countries.

Even this very limited statement was in doubt. The conference was supposed to finish on Friday, but in the absence of an agreement, the reportedly acrimonious talks continued well into the weekend. Only after all reference to specific emissions targets was dropped did Washington sign on. Even at the last minute, US delegates threatened to halt everything because they were dissatisfied with a minor amendment included by India regarding the transfer of “green” technologies to developing countries. Other delegates loudly booed the American team, which then withdrew its opposition to the amendment in the face of this hostility.

Sections of the US and international media presented the decision as a significant shift and even a “u-turn” on Washington’s part. Several members of the European delegation claimed the final communiqué was a victory on the grounds that the Bush administration signed on to the “road map” that would lead to a new agreement. Nothing could be further from the truth. Shortly after the end of the conference, the White House released a statement that reiterated Bush’s long standing positions and made clear that the Bali statement changed nothing.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had earlier issued clear cut warnings of the grave and immediate threat posed by global warming. More than 200 climate scientists involved in the IPCC research issued an open letter to the Bali delegates pleading for urgent action. “The amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere now far exceeds the natural range of the past 650,000 years, and it is rising very quickly due to human activity,” the letter explained. “If this trend is not halted soon, many millions of people will be at risk from extreme events such as heat waves, drought, floods and storms, our coasts will be threatened by rising sea levels, and many ecosystems, plants and animal species will be in serious danger of extinction.”

Washington has again drawn international condemnation for its position on climate change. Ever since coming to office, the Bush administration has sought to protect the interests of its close allies in the US oil industry by playing down the scientific evidence for climate change and refusing to ratify the Kyoto protocol. American intransigence has allowed the European powers to posture as serious advocates for the world’s environment. However, the stance of Europeans is driven just as much by short-term economic self-interest.

The EU based its preferred targets on the IPCC report, which itself is outdated, relying on an assessment of scientific studies published only up to mid-2006. Additional evidence released in recent months indicates that climate change is far more advanced than was previously realised and requires far greater emissions cuts. Greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than even the worst-case IPCC scenarios forecast. While carbon dioxide emissions increased by 1.1 percent a year from 1990-1999, they grew by more than 3 percent from 2000 to 2004. This enormous increase, which testifies to the failure of the Kyoto Protocol to address the climate change crisis, threatens to trigger irreversible climate change “multipliers”.

One of these potential multipliers is the melting of the Arctic ice cap, which is proceeding far more rapidly than the IPCC realised. Scientists this week warned that Arctic ice could completely melt during summer as soon as 2013. Recent studies have established that the melting of the polar ice caps is not a gradual, linear process but instead flips from one state to another as temperature increases lead to a qualitative transformation in the structure of polar ice sheets. Scientists from NASA, Colombia University and the University of California published a paper in May showing that when temperatures rose to 2-3 degrees Celsius above today’s level, 3.5 million years ago, sea levels rose by 25 metres. The study concluded by warning that the Earth was in “imminent peril” and stated that without major emissions cuts, “devastating sea-level rise will inevitably occur”. This process, should it ever occur, will only compound the problem of global warming. An absence of polar ice means that heat previously reflected back into space will be absorbed by the world’s earth and oceans, leading to a cycle of further heat absorption and warming.

The precise level of emission cuts required to prevent dangerous global warming is not known. One scientific study published this year in the Geophysical Research Letters journal concluded that even with a 90 percent cut in global emissions by 2050, the generally agreed threshold of tolerable global warming—a 2 degree Celsius rise above pre-industrial level—would eventually be broken. Some scientists have warned that what is required is nothing less than the immediate transition to a “decarbonised” world economy.

None of the major delegations to the Bali conference raised this possibility. That the European powers stuck with the outdated emission reduction recommendations points to the fact that their position was not driven by genuine concern for the environment. Their real agenda is that of securing the long-term future of the $US30 billion Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and maintaining Europe’s domination of the world carbon commodity trade.

A joint communiqué issued by more than 150 mostly British and European companies before the Bali conference underscored the enormous economic interests at stake. The statement—signed by executives of companies including Shell, Allianz, HSBC Bank, KPMG, British Airways and Lloyds Bank—demanded the establishment of emission reduction targets, including a 50 percent cut by 2050. The “shift to a low-carbon economy will create significant business opportunities,” the corporate chiefs declared. “New markets for low carbon technologies and products, worth billions of dollars, will be created if the world acts on the scale required ... we believe that tackling climate change is the pro-growth strategy.”

The European ETS has emerged as the most lucrative of all the so-called free market mechanisms developed through the Kyoto Protocol. The ETS has done nothing to significantly reduce emissions in Europe, but it has spawned an enormous international market in carbon investment and speculation. Carbon trading involves businesses being allocated emissions “credits” which can be sold to other corporate polluters if their carbon output falls under their allotted “cap”. All the world’s leading banks and financial institutions are now involved in various forms of carbon investment and speculation.

“More than $US60 billion changed hands in the global carbon market this year, double the trade of last year and up from just $US400 million three years ago,” an article in last Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald titled “Bali’s Business Bonanza” explained. “Analysts estimate the market could be worth $US1 trillion within the next 10 years. By 2030, according to some carbon bulls, it may even be the biggest commodity market in the world, overtaking crude oil.”
The carbon market has rapidly developed into a vast international racket, with an array of subsidiary corporate industries and services. Their representatives played a prominent role in the Bali discussions. The largest single lobby group at the conference was the International Emissions Trading Association, which constituted 7.5 percent of the nearly 4,500 registered non-governmental organisation delegates. More than twice as many carbon trading operatives were present than representatives for the World Wide Fund for Nature and Greenpeace combined.

The carbon trading industry received a major boost through the Bali conference, primarily due to the efforts of the EU delegation. In one of the few concrete measures agreed at the meeting, deforestation will now be tied to the European ETS. A new scheme known as “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation” (REDD) will allow Europe’s corporate polluters to maintain existing operations, even if they emit more than their allotted cap, provided that they buy additional carbon credits through schemes to supposedly prevent deforestation in undeveloped countries. The plan, which is modelled on the corruption-riddled Clean Development Mechanism, will almost certainly fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or halt deforestation. It will, however, generate further profits for the international carbon market. Analysts estimate that carbon credits worth $US10 billion a year could be generated through the REDD scheme in Indonesia alone.

The European powers expect that the enormous profits on offer will lead to a significant shift in the US after Bush leaves office. A similar process in Australia culminated in the Labor government’s ratification of Kyoto. Just as Australian big business repudiated the Howard government’s intransigent stance, so powerful sections of corporate America have concluded that Bush has favoured the fossil fuel industry at the expense of their broader interests. Earlier this year the US Climate Action Partnership—comprised of major corporations including Alcoa, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Dow Chemical, General Electric, and Rio Tinto—issued a “call to action” to the US president and congress, demanding the establishment of a national carbon trading market based on clear emission targets. The three leading Democratic presidential candidates—Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama—have all pledged to set up a US carbon-trading scheme, as has Republican challenger John McCain. Other Republicans are yet to make their position clear.

None of the piecemeal and pro-market schemes advanced by the major capitalist powers can resolve the climate change crisis. The entire framework within which the Kyoto and post-Kyoto negotiations have proceeded testifies to the anarchic and anachronistic character of the capitalist system. While the present epoch is marked by the ever-closer integration of the world economy, official discussion on potential solutions to climate change remains posed in terms of national emissions targets.

This has inevitably led to absurdities. If, for example, an American transnational corporation is emitting copious greenhouse gases in a factory located in Mexico, which country is credited with the emissions? Under Kyoto the answer is Mexico. Or if Australian mining companies export enormous supplies of coal, a fossil fuel, to China for electricity generation, which country is held responsible for the resulting carbon combustion? Under Kyoto—China. And what about the emissions generated by international travel? Should ships and planes transporting people and goods add to the tally of national emissions for the country of departure or of origin? Under Kyoto, these emissions are classed as “orphan emissions” and not attributed to any country.

To achieve the reduction in required global carbon emissions, nothing less than the complete reorganisation of the world economy is necessary. An internationally coordinated economic plan is needed involving the complete restructuring of the world’s industrial and agricultural sectors, as well as the reorganisation of energy generation, transportation, and urban planning. As the outcome of the Bali conference again demonstrated, this is impossible under the present capitalist order in which the priority is the short-term profits of the corporate elite at the expense of the social needs of the majority and the long-term viability of the planet as a whole.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Climate Change Conference at Bali


The United Nations Conference on Climate Change under way since Dec. 3 on the tropical Indonesian island of Bali has oscillated between optimism and quiet reserve.

The 12-day event is a thermometer of the success or failure of a strategic anti-global warming treaty that should emerge in two years. But the forecast is confidential.

The four issues at the core of the talks are the mitigation of climate change, adaptation to the changes caused by rising temperatures, technology transfer from the rich countries to poor, and incentives to fight against deforestation.

But other problems, which are not on the main agenda, are simmering on the sidelines of the Bali meet, and many of the planet's inhabitants are suffering those problems firsthand.

There are 25 million "climate refugees" in the world who are not recognised by an international law that only protects those who are fleeing war or political, religious or ethnic persecution, according to Bodil Ceballos, parliamentarian from Sweden's Green Party.

"In denying for so long that climate change exists, the world has not wanted to see the consequences either. In Sweden there is talk that eventually we will have climate refugees from Europe's Mediterranean countries if we don't stop using fossil fuels soon," she said in an interview for this article.

The thrashing that the Sidr cyclone gave Bangladesh on Nov. 15 left more than 4,000 people dead and more than seven million homeless, many of whom are now facing a food crisis. This is a fate that could befall the inhabitants of many places, such as islands and coastal lowlands, which are the most vulnerable to rising sea levels.

The natural beauty of Bali helps reinforce the optimistic tone accompanying the new government in Australia as it finally ratified the Kyoto Protocol, leaving the United States alone in its rejection of the international treaty that requires industrialised countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse-effect gases.

The George W. Bush government was left even more isolated when a U.S. Senate committee voted in favour of a bill to establish obligatory limits on emissions of greenhouse gases.

Thousands of government delegates from more than 180 countries, as well as experts and activists, are participating in the 13th Conference of Parties (COP13) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and in the third meeting of parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

But the governmental negotiations are taking place behind closed doors with the goal of establishing an agenda for achieving in 2009 an obligatory agreement for curbing greenhouse gases beyond 2012, when the Protocol signed in the Japanese city of Kyoto in 1997 expires. It was many years before enough countries had ratified the Protocol to make it take effect, in 2005. Meanwhile, the effects of warming temperatures began to multiply. That is why it is essential that progress is made at this meeting towards a new framework to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, said Mike Shanahan, of the International Institute for Environment and Development, in a press statement in Bali.

The industrialised nations that are party to Kyoto are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 to an average of five percent below 1990 levels. The debate under way now follows two paths: how to reach an agreement that includes the United States, which is responsible for more than 20 percent of emissions, and what kind of obligations should be taken on by the big developing countries China, India and Brazil.

Although Bali will not produce a signed treaty for the coming decades, many eyes are on the "road map" to come out of the discussions of the Ad Hoc Working Group (AWG) of the Kyoto Protocol, entrusted, among other things, with establishing a range of emissions reductions that the wealthy nations must adopt.

WWF and other environmental organisations hope the AWG will uphold an informal decision adopted earlier this year in Vienna: by 2020 the industrialised countries should reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels.

That would be the minimum threshold for attempting to prevent global average temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius more this century and unleashing natural disasters, warns the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This was the year of the global climate. The Nobel Peace Prize went to the IPCC, whose latest reports determined beyond any doubt that human activities play a large role in the climate changes already occurring.

The "Bali road map" is the focus of work to be done at the next Conference of Parties, to meet in two years in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Yvo de Boer, executive director of the Secretariat of the Convention on Climate Change, urged the participants to act with responsibility. De Boer stressed that the world is on a "catastrophic path", and that the scientific community has sent policy-makers a clear message: climate change can be stopped, and by acting now we can prevent many of the disastrous impacts of global warming.

Friday, November 30, 2007

India becoming a Wind Super Power


India might be painted as a pollution-spewing, global-warming economy of 1 billion people but it is also one of the world's biggest wind power users, part of a focus on renewable energy mostly unnoticed in the West.

Years of tax incentives have helped make India one of the fastest-growing markets for wind power, a major component of renewable energy that will be high on the agenda of the Dec. 3-14 UN climate change meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

The Bali conference comes as international pressure mounts on India to ensure its growth gets cleaner. The International Energy Agency (IEA) warned this month of the climatic dangers of "unfettered" energy demand growth in India.

"When it comes to renewable energy and wind power, India can look the West in the eye and say -- look at our years of progressive policies," said Santosh Kamath, a wind power specialist and associate director at KPMG consultants.

Wind power in India is still a minority sector compared with the Asian giant's overall energy needs that are dependent on coal and oil.

With its reliance on dirty fuels, India will become the world's number three carbon emitter by 2015, the IEA says.

But renewable energy, of which the vast majority is wind power, accounts for more than 7 percent of India's installed generation capacity -- a rate that compares favourably with much of the rest of the world.

India is the world's fourth largest wind-power market. "Wind power is growing tremendously. If you want a wind plant you'll have to book a year in advance," said Chandra Bhushan, associate director at the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment.

"There's been years of progressive policies and recognition for a long time that India will face a shortage of fossil fuels."

India, with its thousands of miles of coastline, is suited to wind power. Its wind power potential is estimated at 45,000 megawatts (MW) -- about a third of total energy consumption.
There is also little of the concern in India seen in the West over wind turbines ruining scenic vistas -- scores can be seen, for example, outside Jaisalmer's ancient fort in Rajasthan, one of India's most popular tourist sites.

BECOMING A WIND SUPERPOWER

The boom brings in profits, the kind of virtuous circle experts say is needed for renewable energy to really work.

At Vestas RBB India Ltd, one of India's largest wind-power firms, sales rose 30 percent in 2006 and the company forecasts growth of about 40 percent this year, company officials say.
India's rise to what supporters call a "wind superpower" is due to tax breaks in the 1990s and to Tulsi Tanti, chairman of Suzlon Energy, India's biggest wind energy company.

Troubled by power shortages in the 1990s for his textile business in western India, he bought some wind turbines and soon realised it could be a good business. His company quickly became the pioneer in the sector.

Wind power has also been helped by some states setting targets that 10 percent of their power should come from renewable energy.

As oil reaches $100 a barrel, and with India suffering shortages that see factories often relying on diesel generators, firms are increasingly looking at wind.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

India fast emerging as a solar hub



After IT and pharma, India is on course to emerge as a solar hub. The Centre’s move to offer fiscal incentives to solar cell and photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers coupled with surge in global demand for renewable energy sources has triggered domestic and multi-national companies to set up shop here. Leading the pack is home-grown Moser Baer, followed by US-based Signet Solar and Solar Semiconductor. More are set to join.
Moser Baer, a leading optical storage manufacturer, is in talks with the Andhra Pradesh government to acquire 100 acres in the Fab City — the chip-making hub. The company was among the first to set up a wholly-owned subsidiary - Moser Baer Photo Voltaic Limited — in 2005 to focus on the high-growth solar energy segment. It also plans to build an Rs 330 crore silicon PV manufacturing facility (near Delhi) and has tied up with Applied Materials Inc for technology transfer.
US-based Signet Solar, on its part, has drawn up an ambitious $2 billion investment plan to set up three photovoltaic production facilities in the country. It is also looking at an R&D base here. The company is already in talks with the Andhra government to set up two manufacturing facilities here.
Solar semiconductor — another photovoltaic manufacturing company — has lined up an initial $40 million investment to set up two production units. The company has already started building a 30MW per annum plant near Pochampalli. The second one — with a capacity of 40 MW — is being readied in the Fab city. ”We are looking at garnering another $330 million from private equity firms,” said Solar Semiconductor CEO Hari Surapaneni. The company has also signed supply agreements with two European companies.
Global demand for solar PV products and services is expected to grow from $14 billion in 2006 to over $100 billion by 2015. Political and environmental concerns have triggered many countries to shift to solar energy. Globally, solar energy panels come with a capacity of 1.7 giga watt. Nearly 70% of it is in Europe.
The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) fellow (renewable energy technology application) Shirish S Garud attributes the new found rush for solar PV facilities to the semiconductor policy announced by the Centre in February this year. The incentive for these units is in the form of a 20% capital subsidy and an exemption from countervailing duty on imports. Over the last few years, developed countries are also encouraging the use of solar energy. The PV market worldwide is growing at about 40% and solar energy production is set to top 1,000 MW per year. “However, these companies may find it tough to sell it in the domestic market as the cost of producing solar energy is high. The cost of production ranges from Rs 15 to Rs 30 per unit compared to around Rs 2 to Rs 6 per unit for thermal energy

Monsoons displaced 14 million people in India, seven million in Bangladesh and three million in China which has seen the heaviest rainfall – and second highest death toll – since records began. Cyclones blasted Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Hurricanes devastated the Caribbean and Central America, killing more than 1,600 Mayan people in Guatemala. Droughts have afflicted Africa, driving 14 million people from their homes.

In the rich world, insurers report a fivefold increase in climate-related insurance claims. In the poor world the cost is counted in terms of hidden human suffering, for most disasters are under-reported.

Based on new climate modelling, the UN report has a number of strong messages. It is highly critical of US, EU and British policies on global warming – it says the measures in Gordon Brown's Climate Change Bill are "not consistent with the objective of avoiding dangerous climate change".

However, its top-line message is that the fixation of campaigners like Al Gore with a long-term "we're all doomed" vision of global warming has diverted attention from more immediate threats.

Already, its new research shows, children born in Ethiopia in years of drought are 41 per cent more likely to be stunted from malnutrition than those born in a time of rains. That has already created two million more malnourished children – and this is not an affliction that is shaken off when the rains return. It creates cycles of life-long disadvantage.

The report shows how climate shocks force the poor to adopt emergency coping strategies – reduced nutrition, withdrawal of children from school, cuts in health spending – which damage the long-term health of entire societies.

After 150 years in which human well-being has steadily improved, the world is now facing the prospect that progress on indicators such as poverty, nutrition, literacy and infant mortality will be arrested. "It may even be reversed," said the report's lead author, Kevin Watkins, who was formerly head of research at Oxfam.

The report says George Bush's home-state of Texas (population 23 million) has a bigger carbon footprint than the whole of sub-Saharan Africa (population 720 million).

The report also criticises Britain's policy on climate change. The UK is the world leader on rhetoric, it says, yet "if the rest of the developed world followed the pathway envisaged in the UK's Climate Change Bill, dangerous climate change would be inevitable".

The report says two things need to be done. Rich nations need to massively cut emissions (by at least 80 per cent) and developing and emerging nations need to make modest cuts (of around 20 per cent). Also, large amounts of money are needed to adapt to the consequences of climate change. Hardly anything is being spent in the poor world, where people were least responsible for global warming but suffer most. The amounts donated to the UN's climate change mitigation fund have been equivalent to only one week's worth of spending under the UK's flood defence programme.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

70 % of the share predicted for Renewable Energy Sources in 2100


By 2100, 15% of world energy consumption will come from oil, gas, coal and nuclear, while solar thermal and photovoltaic will supply 70%, according to the World Energy Council.

“Key elements of the long-term scenario are the energy efficiency and energy intensity policies that will make the contribution of renewable and solar energy a substantial factor,” it explains in the 2007 Survey of Energy Resources. “Those policies will deeply transform the building and construction, industry and transport sectors, increasing their reliance on renewable energy resources.”

The transition towards renewables has already started, and the report reviews status and rate of growth of the major solar energy technologies, their technical and market maturity as well as institutional and governmental policies and approaches to promote their integration into the world’s energy systems. The document complements the BP Statistical Review and IEA’s World Energy Outlook, and details 16 energy resources with the latest data provided by 94 WEC member committees.

Coal is plentiful and economically recoverable in 70 countries, and demand is expected to continue to grow with strongest growth in developing countries. The proved recoverable reserves for oil are 117 billion barrels higher than 2002 and “oil will not run out for many years,” it explains.

The proved reserves of natural gas grew 3.5% by 2005 over 2002 estimates, and present production levels equal 56 year of supply from proved resources. Reasonably assured resources for uranium have grown 4% over the past three years and there has been a ten-fold price increase since 2000.Renewables provide one-fifth of power generation, of which hydro contributes 87% of all renewables with only one-third of its potential developed. Wind has grown rapidly, with capacity doubling every 3.5 years, while solar thermal, PV and passive solar have “great potential,” although marine energies have yet to be developed fully although wave resource alone are estimated to be 10 TW of capacity.

“Energy demand will grow significantly over the coming years and is foreseen to double by 2050,” explains Gerald Doucet of WEC. “This recent update on available energy resources proves that there is sufficient amount in place to meet the demand if all energy options are kept open.”

“Less-energy-intensive economies, stringent pressures to reduce the environmental impact of fossil fuels, and political and fiscal measures to increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, have gradually combined to alter the growth prospects of each of the primary energies, and, consequently, their respective weight in the energy balance,” the report explains. “In the longer run (beyond 2020), nuclear power remains in the forefront ... renewable sources will also undoubtedly draw increasing attention, as shown by the political and fiscal measures implemented in a large number of OECD countries.”

“Wave energy is currently an immature technology, without a clear consensus on which are eventually likely to prove the successful devices,” the report explains. “Bioenergy is arguably the one truly renewable energy resource” and “although geothermal energy is conventionally classed as a renewable energy resource, and even as a ‘new renewable’, it is not such a clearcut example of a perpetual source of energy as are solar, wind and marine energy.”

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Biodiesel Potential in the world


The ease of manufacturing biodiesel from vegetable oils and animal fats has made it one of the most promising, near-term alternatives to fossil fuels.

Seeking to understand which nations are best positioned today to enter the burgeoning biodiesel market, researchers Matt Johnston and Tracey Holloway of the Nelson Institute's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) ranked 226 countries according to their potential to make large volumes of biodiesel at low cost.

Scheduled for inclusion in the Oct. 24 journal Environmental Science and Technology, the analysis uncovered many of the usual suspects, including the United States, a top soybean grower; and Brazil, already a major biodiesel producer. The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Spain also cracked the top ten in overall volume potential.

But the researchers say the study's true motivation was to identify developing countries that already export significant amounts of vegetable oil for profit, but may not have considered refining it into biodiesel. By exporting biodiesel—a higher value commodity—these countries could improve their trade balances, says Johnston, or use the fuel to offset their own energy needs.

"A lot of these countries don't have any petroleum resources and so they're having to import petroleum," he says. "At the same time, they're exporting vegetable oil that they could be turning into biodiesel and using domestically."

Overall, the study ranked Malaysia, Thailand, Colombia, Uruguay and Ghana as the developing nations most likely to attract biodiesel investment, not only because of their strong agricultural industries, but also due to their relative safety and stability, lack of debt, among other economic factors.

Johnston emphasizes, however, that the set of criteria he and Holloway used is just one among many.

"As long as they're profitable and have large volumes of vegetable oils, all the countries on our list—even if they aren't on our top ten list—they could do this," he says.

The idea for the analysis first struck Johnston on a visit to a remote island of Fiji, where people rely primarily on petroleum diesel to run generators for electricity. Transported in by boat, the fuel cost the equivalent of $20 per gallon. Meanwhile, the islanders were growing coconuts and processing them into oil that sold for 50 cents a liter.

"The price disparity was just incredible," says Johnston, "and it prompted me to think about where else in the world countries might have this biofuels potential, but not necessarily realize it."

At the same time, many agencies—chief among them the United Nations - have raised concerns about the biofuel industry's possible impact on the world's poor, as vegetable oils, now used for food, are increasingly diverted to fuel production. Rampant growth of biofuels could also negatively affect the environment; a soaring demand for palm oil, for example, has already led to deforestation in Southeast Asia.

By highlighting the places in the world where biodiesel development will likely happen, Johnston and Holloway hope their analysis will help people foresee these problems and make plans to mitigate them.

"We're not saying, 'There's all this potential out there, go get it,'" says Johnston. "Instead, we're looking at which vegetable oil feed stocks are most likely to be affected and which countries will most likely be doing this at a large-scale. That way, we can anticipate some of the impacts, as opposed to having to react after the fact."

Of all the vegetable oils and animal fats examined in the study, soybean and palm oil were by far the most common. In fact, the world's top five soybean and palm oil producers—Malaysia, Indonesia, Argentina, the United States and Brazil—accounted for 80 percent of the potential global biodiesel production, the researchers found.

Based on current export volumes of vegetable oil from 119 countries, Johnston also estimated that a grand total of 51 billion liters of biodiesel could be produced annually—enough to meet roughly 4-5 percent of the world's existing demand for petroleum diesel. Yet, although interesting, these numbers aren't the main point.

"We're not suggesting that all exported vegetable oil should be converted into biodiesel, because that would fundamentally upset the food supply," says Holloway. "We're looking at this more from each individual country's perspective: They're already exporting one thing, could they be exporting something else?"

Because the study employed data from online, public sources—primarily the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Statistics Division—Holloway points out that any country could repeat the calculations or do its own analysis of the biodiesel opportunity.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Why Global Action is urgent to combat Climate Change


Why is global action urgent and necessary to meet the challenge of climate change? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has determined that warming of the climate is unequivocal; further, that average northern hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than for any other 50-year period in the past 500 years and likely the highest in at least the past 1300 years.

The panel has also determined that most of the observed increase in temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.

But climate change is not taking place in a smooth, linear fashion. For instance, the frequency of heavy precipitation events has increased over most land areas and so also the duration and intensity of droughts, particularly in the tropics and subtropics.

Climate change is likely to add to several stresses that already exist in the poorest regions of the world and affect the ability of societies in these regions to pursue sustainable livelihoods.
By 2020 between 75 million and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to an increase in water stress due to climate change in Africa. Coupled with increased demand, this will adversely affect livelihoods and exacerbate water-related problems.

Another sector likely to be affected adversely in some of the poorest regions of the world is agriculture. It has been assessed that agricultural production in many African countries and regions would be severely compromised by climate variability and change.

The area suitable for agriculture, the length of growing seasons and yield potential - particularly along the margins of semi-arid and arid areas - are expected to decrease. In some countries yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 per cent by 2020.
Another serious impact of climate change is the melting of glaciers all over the world, and this has serious implications for South Asia and parts of China. Glacial melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding and rock avalanches from destabilised slopes and affect water resources downstream within the next two to three decades, due to decreased river flow as the glaciers recede.

Water availability is projected to be affected in Central, South, East and South-East Asia. Given the fact that population growth and increasing demand resulting from higher standards of living would require larger quantities of water, the impact of climate change could adversely affect more than a billion people in respect of water availability in Asia by the 2050s.

Climate change and its impacts in the most vulnerable regions require a careful evaluation of humanitarian assistance across the globe. Increased resources will be required for adaptation to climate change.

This undoubtedly would be a far better approach for the global community to pursue than to provide emergency assistance in the event of catastrophes and extreme events.

There are equity dimensions to climate change that also deserve attention. While adaptation is inevitable and urgent, the increase in emissions of greenhouse gases, if not mitigated by the developed nations, will lead to much higher temperatures and much more serious impacts. It is, therefore, essential to ensure that strategies involving both adaptation and mitigation are pursued.

The cost of mitigation, as assessed by the climate change panel, is very modest in relation to the cost of impacts across the world. If mitigation is not implemented, then income and wealth disparities between nations will increase, and the existence of poverty on a large scale, which should be ethically unacceptable, could pose a threat to global security and stability.
The possibility of large numbers of people becoming environmental refugees is not only a humanitarian problem of serious proportions but also has the potential for social disruption that needs to be avoided.
Stringent mitigation needs to be undertaken immediately, and existing technologies and methods are available for this. Adaptation to climate change, particularly involving the poorest communities in the world, assumes urgency.

In view of the new knowledge provided by the panel, the world needs to take climate change as a serious problem that needs a humanitarian approach.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Nobel Peace Prize shared by IPCC and Al Gore


The Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change credited the hundreds of scientists that contributed to the reports, which represent a consensus view of the state of the climate, and which won a Nobel Peace Prize, together with Al Gore.

“This is an honor that goes to all the scientists and authors who have contributed to the work of the IPCC, which alone has resulted in enormous prestige for this organization and the remarkable effectiveness of the message that it contains,” said R.K. Pachauri, chairman of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The fourth IPCC report came out in three installments this year. The reports spelled out the scientific consensus on how the climate works, how climate change is affecting life on earth and how the world can adapt to and mitigate those changes. Next month, the IPCC will release a synthesis report, that combines elements of each. In December, the U.N. meets in Bali to begin discussions on a world strategy for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Two U.S. scientists involved in the IPCC reports said the Nobel Peace Prize should help build additional hard-won credibility for the IPCC among any lingering skeptics, and that it should show the public at large that global warming “isn’t just some kind of scientific phenomenon and help people and society as a hole that climate change really has the potential to disrupt how the society operates,” as Catherine O’Reilly put it.

O’Reilly, a professor at Bard College in New York, studies climate change and other factors affecting the fish and African fishing cultures of Lake Tanganyika, one of the world’s largest lakes. She was a contributing author of the IPCC report on how the world’s environment is changing, and will continue to change, due to global warming.

“The IPCC report is itself a widely respected body of scientific literature that really summarizes how the world is responding to climate. But just knowing all that information doesn’t really make anything change. In order for any kind of adaptations to occur, society has to recognize the fact that climate change has the potential to affect our lives, and other people’s lives,” O’Reilly said. “Without society’s acknowledging that climate change is more than some kind of increase in temperature, I don’t think changes are going to be made.”

She is optimistic that the Nobel Peace Prize will help convince people of that, and that the Bali discussions will produce positive results. So is Gavin Schmidt, a NASA scientist who reviewed the IPCC’s latest report on the physical science basis of climate change. His work involves developing computer models to simulate various aspects of climate.

“I think people have learned a lot of lessons from Kyoto,” Schmidt said. “There were a lot of missteps at the beginning because this is such a new approach, and so hopefully lessons have been learned and the next phase will go forward with a little more expertise as to how to get things done.”

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Renewabe Energy Investment increases by 67%


The renewable energy market saw another record year of Venture Capital (VC) and Private Equity (PE) investment, with $18.1 billion invested in companies and projects in 2006. This is a 67% increase over the $10.8 billion invested in 2005, according to a new report released last week by the London based research and analysis firm, New Energy Finance.


The annual report, Cleaning Up 2007, examines these investment trends in 2006 and the first half of 2007—and identifies 1,859 investors who have either made investments or stated their intention to do so. The company recorded 193 funds that invest in clean energy, and analyzed 521 VC and PE deals in 2006, totaling $8.6 billion for companies and $9.5 billion for projects.
This trend has continued, with a total of $10.6 billion invested in the first half of 2007.

However, this rapid growth tells only half the story: during 2006, clean energy VCs invested only 73% of the total money available to them, with $2 billion residing in funds and waiting to be invested. This is a symptom of a market where demand for deals is higher than supply, which is driving up company valuations.

"2006 saw a modest amount of technology investment with increasing PE investment in later stage companies and more asset intensive sectors, such as wind and biofuels. Overall it was a good year. Although some company valuations are on the high side, a number of interesting companies are attracting investment. Investors' appetite for clean energy continues to grow," said Michael Liebreich, CEO and founder of New Energy Finance.

According to the report, all regions across the globe experienced significant growth in 2006. The Americas saw investment of $7.1 billion—an increase of 83% from 2005—as mainstream investors woke up to the opportunities in renewable energy, especially in biofuels. There was a 62% increase to $9.2 billion in funds invested in Europe, Middle East and Africa, mainly driven by PE investment in companies and projects.

Companies and projects in the Asia & Oceania region received $1.8 billion in investment, up 26%, driven by pre-IPO PE investments in Chinese solar companies and clean energy activity in countries such as India.

At a sector level, wind at $8.4 billion; biofuels at $4.7 billion; and solar at $2.3 billion attracted 86% of VC and PE investment between them. Mature technologies, such as onshore wind and first generation or corn-based ethanol, attracted PE money for expansion and roll-out of production capacity.

Solar raised a significant amount of money via the public markets, but also attracted the highest level of classic VC investment at $428 million—typically in thin film and non-crystalline silicon technologies. VC investment in second generation biofuels technologies, including cellulosic ethanol, also increased to $235 million.
Of the total VC & PE investment of $18.1 billion, 61% ($11.1 billion) represented new money into the renewable energy sector. The remaining money, $7 billion, was used to finance company buy-outs, and re-finance and acquire projects. Encouragingly the report noted the average VC deal size has increased in the past year at almost each development stage. Average series C/third round investment rose 29% to $14.8 million and average series D/fourth round deal size almost doubled to $20.7 million indicating investor confidence in companies with technologies closer to commercialization.

The highest concentration of VC/PE funded development stage companies is in the solar sector, accounting for almost 20% of all development stage VC/PE funded companies, followed by wind, demand-side efficiency, biofuels, and biomass & waste. These five sectors together account for almost 65% of all VC/PE funded companies. Of the 67 development stage companies known to be actively fundraising, 17 are within the solar sector, 13 in biofuels and 10 in demand-side efficiency.New Energy Finance estimates that the total VC and PE invested in clean energy will grow at an annual compound rate of approximately 17% through 2013, during which time the company forecasts over $262 billion worth of VC and PE funded deals to be completed, absorbing over $146 billion of equity. The money will go to later stage deals, buy-outs and project financings, although the recent squeeze in the credit markets may slow down growth in some areas.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Record Ice Withdrawl in Arctic Sea


Arctic sea ice shrank to the smallest area on record this year, US scientists have confirmed. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said the minimum extent of 4.13 million sq km (1.59 million sq miles) was reached on 16 September.

The figure shatters all previous satellite surveys, including the previous record low of 5.32 million sq km measured in 2005.

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Northwest Passage was open. The fabled Arctic shipping route from the Atlantic to the Pacific is normally ice-bound at some location throughout the year; but this year, ships have been able to complete an unimpeded navigation. Arctic sea ice loses area in summer months and regrows in the winter cold.

The researchers at NSIDC judge the ice extent on a five-day mean. The minimum for 2007 falls below the minimum set on 20-21 September 2005 by an area roughly the size of Texas and California combined, or nearly five UKs.

Speaking to BBC News on Monday this week, Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist at the NSIDC, said: "2005 was the previous record and what happened then had really astounded us; we had never seen anything like that, having so little sea ice at the end of summer. Then along comes 2007 and it has completely shattered that old record."

He added: "We're on a strong spiral of decline; some would say a death spiral. I wouldn't go that far but we're certainly on a fast track. We know there is natural variability but the magnitude of change is too great to be caused by natural variability alone."

The team will now follow the progress of recovery over the winter months. Modelled decline
In December 2006, a study by US researchers forecast that the Arctic could be ice-free in summers by 2040.

A team of scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the University of Washington, and McGill University, found that "positive feedbacks" were likely to accelerate the decline of the region's ice system.

Sea ice has a bright surface which reflects 80% of the sunlight that strikes it back into space. owever, as the ice melts during the summer, more of the dark ocean surface becomes exposed.
Rather than reflecting sunlight, the ocean absorbs 90% of it, causing the waters to warm and increase the rate of melting. Scientists fear that this feedback mechanism will have major sequences for wildlife in the region, not least polar bears, which traverse ice floes in search of food.

On a global scale, the Earth would lose a major reflective surface and so absorb more solar energy, potentially accelerating climatic change across the world.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Global Security Implications for Climate Change


Climate change could have global security implications on a par with nuclear war unless urgent action is taken, a report said.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) security think-tank said global warming would hit crop yields and water availability everywhere, causing great human suffering and leading to regional strife.

While everyone had now started to recognize the threat posed by climate change, no one was taking effective leadership to tackle it and no one could tell precisely when and where it would hit hardest, it added.

“The most recent international moves towards combating global warming represent a recognition … that if the emission of greenhouse gases … is allowed to continue unchecked, the effects will be catastrophic — on the level of nuclear war,” the IISS report said.

“Even if the international community succeeds in adopting comprehensive and effective measures to mitigate climate change, there will still be unavoidable impacts from global warming on the environment, economies and human security,” it added.

Scientists say global average temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century due to burning fossil fuels for power and transport.

The IISS report said the effects would cause a host of problems including rising sea levels, forced migration, freak storms, droughts, floods, extinctions, wildfires, disease epidemics, crop failures and famines.

The impact was already being felt — particularly in conflicts in Kenya and Sudan — and more was expected in places from Asia to Latin America as dwindling resources led to competition between haves and have nots.

“We can all see that climate change is a threat to global security, and you can judge some of the more obvious causes and areas,” said IISS transnational threat specialist Nigel Inkster. “What is much harder to do is see how to cope with them.”

The report, an annual survey of the impact of world events on global security, said conflicts and state collapses due to climate change would reduce the world’s ability to tackle the causes and to reduce the effects of global warming.

State failures would increase the gap between rich and poor and heighten racial and ethnic tensions which in turn would produce fertile breeding grounds for more conflict.
Urban areas would not be exempt from the fallout as falling crop yields due to reduced water and rising temperatures would push food prices higher, IISS said.
Overall, it said 65 countries were likely to lose over 15 percent of their agricultural output by 2100 at a time when the world’s population was expected to head from six billion now to nine billion people.

“Fundamental environmental issues of food, water and energy security ultimately lie behind many present security concerns, and climate change will magnify all three,” it added.

Global Security Implications for Climate Change

Climate change could have global security implications on a par with nuclear war unless urgent action is taken, a report said on Wednesday.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) security think-tank said global warming would hit crop yields and water availability everywhere, causing great human suffering and leading to regional strife.
While everyone had now started to recognize the threat posed by climate change, no one was taking effective leadership to tackle it and no one could tell precisely when and where it would hit hardest, it added.
“The most recent international moves towards combating global warming represent a recognition … that if the emission of greenhouse gases … is allowed to continue unchecked, the effects will be catastrophic — on the level of nuclear war,” the IISS report said.
“Even if the international community succeeds in adopting comprehensive and effective measures to mitigate climate change, there will still be unavoidable impacts from global warming on the environment, economies and human security,” it added.
Scientists say global average temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century due to burning fossil fuels for power and transport.
The IISS report said the effects would cause a host of problems including rising sea levels, forced migration, freak storms, droughts, floods, extinctions, wildfires, disease epidemics, crop failures and famines.
The impact was already being felt — particularly in conflicts in Kenya and Sudan — and more was expected in places from Asia to Latin America as dwindling resources led to competition between haves and have nots.
“We can all see that climate change is a threat to global security, and you can judge some of the more obvious causes and areas,” said IISS transnational threat specialist Nigel Inkster. “What is much harder to do is see how to cope with them.”
The report, an annual survey of the impact of world events on global security, said conflicts and state collapses due to climate change would reduce the world’s ability to tackle the causes and to reduce the effects of global warming.
State failures would increase the gap between rich and poor and heighten racial and ethnic tensions which in turn would produce fertile breeding grounds for more conflict.
Urban areas would not be exempt from the fallout as falling crop yields due to reduced water and rising temperatures would push food prices higher, IISS said.
Overall, it said 65 countries were likely to lose over 15 percent of their agricultural output by 2100 at a time when the world’s population was expected to head from six billion now to nine billion people.
“Fundamental environmental issues of food, water and energy security ultimately lie behind many present security concerns, and climate change will magnify all three,” it added.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Generation Ultra Thin Modules

A new generation of ultra thin solar modules that can be integrated into the facades of buildings at low cost is to be produced in Germany next year. The German company Schueco has joined up with E.ON, the country's biggest energy company, to invest 100 million euros [$US 136 million] in the research and production of this new ultra thin solar technology that cuts down on the need for silicon, the costly raw material for solar cells.

Production is due to start at a site in Saxony-Anhalt in the second half of 2008. "Our researchers are currently working on developing more efficient solar modules of more than six percent and also on ways of producing modules at a far lower cost in order to make them more attractive for builders and architects," Thomas Lauritzen, spokesman for Schüeco, told.

The high absorption level of amorphous silicon will allow solar cells to be produced that are a few micrometers in thickness—much thinner than conventional mono and polycrystalline silicon solar cells. Glass panels of varying sizes—up to 5.7 square meters and with an output of 460 W/h—will give builders the flexibility to cover the maximum surface of any façade.

"Theoretically, this technology could supply the entire electricity needs of a building, depending on its size, location and the amount of sun it gets. We believe that this new technology could be integrated into a huge number of existing office buildings and also in new buildings because investors increasingly recognize the importance of carbon neutral buildings," said Lauritzen.

The U.S. company Applied Materials will supply the nanomanufacturing technology for the production, which will be carried out by a newly founded umbrella company called Malibu. Lauritzen added that he sees a huge export market for the new modules in southern Europe.
Following in the footsteps of Germany—France, Italy, Greece and Spain have recently introduced legislation giving financial incentives to producers of solar electricity. Also, individual cities in Europe are enacting renewable energy legislation: the city of Barcelona in Spain recently issued a law requiring every new public building to have solar technology installed.
"The countries in southern Europe have recognized the huge potential for solar energy that they have and are introducing a favourable legal and financial framework. That's why we expect the demand to grow there, but we are also interested in other markets, including the U.S.," said Lauritzen.

Since 1997, the photovoltaic (PV) industry in Germany has reduced the unit cost for solar electricity power plants by 50 percent and the costs are expected to fall further and to be 85 percent below the 1990 cost by 2020.

Government legislation that guarantees solar electricity suppliers a certain minimum price has also boosted the use of PV electricity: 2000 GW/h was installed in 2006 compared to just 76 GW/h in 2001.
Of Germany's electricity, 1 percent is produced today by solar power plants, but this is estimated to rise to 25 percent by 2050, saving the country an estimated 100 million tons of carbon emissions.

About 220,000 new solar power plants were installed in 2006, mostly on roofs, taking the total number of solar electricity and thermal power plants installed in Germany to 1.3 million.
To meet the growing demand, more than one billion euros is being invested this year in solar factories according to the industry association, the German Solar Industry (Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The inevitability of drastic Global Warming Impacts

The rise of two degrees centigrade in global temperatures – the point considered to be the threshold for catastrophic climate change which will expose millions to drought, hunger and flooding – is now "very unlikely" to be avoided, the world's leading climate scientists say now.

The latest study from the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put the inevitability of drastic global warming in the starkest terms yet, stating that major impacts on parts of the world – in particular Africa, Asian river deltas, low-lying islands and the Arctic – are unavoidable and the focus must be on adapting life to survive the most devastating changes.

For more than a decade, EU countries led by Britain have set a rise of two degrees centigrade or less in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels as the benchmark after which the effects of climate become devastating, with crop failures, water shortages, sea-level rises, species extinctions and increased disease.

Two years ago, an authoritative study predicted there could be as little as 10 years before this "tipping point" for global warming was reached, adding a rise of 0.8 degrees had already been reached with further rises already locked in because of the time lag in the way carbon dioxide – the principal greenhouse gas – is absorbed into the atmosphere.

The IPCC says that the effects of this rise are being felt sooner than anticipated with the poorest countries and the poorest people set to suffer the worst of shifts in rainfall patterns, temperature rises and the viability of agriculture across much of the developing world.

In its latest assessment of the progress of climate change, the body said: "If warming is not kept below two degrees centigrade, which will require the strongest mitigation efforts, and currently looks very unlikely to be achieved, the substantial global impacts will occur, such as species extinctions, and millions of people at risk from drought, hunger, flooding."

Under the scale of risk used by IPCC, the words "very unlikely" mean there is just a one to 10 per cent chance of limiting the global temperature rise to two degrees centigrade or less.

Professor Martin Parry, a senior Met Office scientist and co-chairman of the IPCC committee which produced the report, said he believed it would now be "very difficult" to achieve the target and that governments need to combine efforts to "mitigate" climate change by reducing CO2 emissions with "adaptation" to tackle active consequences such as crop failure and flooding.

Speaking at the Royal Geographical Society, he said: "Ten years ago we were talking about these impacts affecting our children and our grandchildren. Now it is happening to us."

"Even if we achieve a cap at two degrees, there is a stock of major impacts out there already and that means adaptation. You cannot mitigate your way out of this problem... The choice is between a damaged world or a future with a severely damaged world."

The IPCC assessment states that up to two billion people worldwide will face water shortages and up to 30 per cent of plant and animal species would be put at risk of extinction if the average rise in temperature stabilises at 1.5C to 2.5C.

Professor Parry said developed countries needed to help the most affected regions, which include sub-Saharan Africa and major Asian river deltas with improved technology for irrigation, drought-resistant crop strains and building techniques.

Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC, said that 2015 was the last year in which the world could afford a net rise in greenhouse gas emissions, after which "very sharp reductions" are required.
Dr Pachauri said the ability of the world's most populous nations to feed themselves was already under pressure, citing a study in India which showed that peak production of wheat had already been reached in one region.

Campaigners said the IPCC findings brought added urgency to the EU's efforts to slash emissions. John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said: "The EU needs to adopt a science-based cap on emissions, ditch plans for dirty new coal plants and nuclear power stations that will give tiny emission cuts at enormous and dangerous cost, end aviation expansion and ban wasteful products like incandescent lightbulbs."

Plus two degrees: the consequences

Arica: Between 350 and 600 million people will suffer water shortages or increased competition for water. Yields from agriculture could fall by half by 2020 while arid areas will rise by up to 8 per cent. The number of sub-Saharan species at risk of extinction will rise by at least 10 per cent.

Asia: Up to a billion people will suffer water shortages as supplies dwindle with the melting of Himalayan glaciers. Maize and wheat yields will fall by up to 5 per cent in India; rice crops in China will drop by up to 12 per cent. Increased risk of coastal flooding.

Australia/New Zealand: Between 3,000 and 5,000 more heat-related deaths a year. Water supplies will no longer be guaranteed in parts of southern and eastern Australia by 2030. Annual bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

Europe: Warmer temperatures will increase wheat yields by up to 25 per cent in the north but water availability will drop in the south by up to a quarter. Heatwaves, forest fires and extreme weather events such as flash floods will be more frequent. New diseases will appear.

Latin America: Up to 77 million people will face water shortages and tropical glaciers will disappear. Tropical forests will become savanna and there will be increased risk of coastal flooding in low-lying areas such as El Salvador and Guyana.

North America: Crop yields will increase by up to 20 per cent due to warmer temperatures but economic damage from extreme weather events such as Hurricane Katrina will continue increasing.
Polar regions: The seasonal thaw of permafrost will increase by 15 per cent and the overall extent of the permafrost will shrink by about 20 per cent. Indigenous communities such as the Inuit face loss of traditional lifestyle.

Small islands: Low-lying islands are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels with the Maldives already suffering land loss.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Climate Criminals


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) Fourth Assessment Report (2007) warns of the following disasters this century if mankind does not respond urgently to anthropogenic climate change: possible temperature increases of up to 4 degrees Centigrade, sea level rises of up to 0.6 metres, massive damage to agriculture and serious threat to huge populations, especially in Asia and Africa. Further, the IPCC warns that “anthropogenic warming and sea level rise would continue for centuries due to the timescales associated with climate processes and feedbacks, even if greenhouse gas concentrations were to be stabilized” (IPCC, Climate Change 2007: the physical science basis. Summary for policy makers: http://www.ipcc.ch/SPM2feb07.pdf ).

Now a recent scientific paper by top American climate change experts, NASA’s Dr James Hansen and colleagues, and published by the prestigious UK Royal Society, says that the IPCC warnings are actually UNDER-estimated and warns of an impending “cataclysm”. Dr Hansen and colleagues conclude: “Palaeoclimate data show that the Earth's climate is remarkably sensitive to global forcings. Positive feedbacks predominate. This allows the entire planet to be whipsawed between climate states. One feedback, the 'albedo flip' property of ice/water, provides a powerful trigger mechanism. A climate forcing that 'flips' the albedo [light reflection capacity] of a sufficient portion of an ice sheet can spark a cataclysm. Inertia of ice sheet and ocean provides only moderate delay to ice sheet disintegration and a burst of added global warming. Recent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions place the Earth perilously close to dramatic climate change that could run out of our control, with great dangers for humans and other creatures. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the largest human-made climate forcing, but other trace constituents are also important. Only intense simultaneous efforts to slow CO2 emissions and reduce non-CO2 forcings can keep climate within or near the range of the past million years” (Dr James Hansen et al, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, vol. 365, 1925-1954 (2007), “Climate change and trace gases”: http://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/
ontent/l3h462k7p4068780/fulltext.html ).

Professor James Lovelock FRS goes even further. In his recent book “The Revenge of Gaia” (London, 2006) Dr Lovelock says that it may already be too late, that the control systems regulating the global temperature may be too severely damaged already. A gloomy summation of Dr Lovelock’s position by Commondreams.( http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0116-06.htm ) is blunt: “Environment in crisis: “We are beyond the point of no return’”.

Urgent global action is demanded by the IPCC, the US National Academy of Science, the UK Royal Society, former World Bank Chief Economists Sir Nicholas Stern (UK) and Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz (US) and an overwhelming international scientific consensus. Thus Sir Nicholas Stern believes that urgent action now will enable stabilization of the Earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) to about 500 ppm (parts per million) and that acting NOW will be far cheaper economically than leaving it till later (see: The Stern Review: the economics of climate change (2006):
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/
shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/30_10_06_exec_sum.pdf ). Professor Stiglitz has stated that Sir Nicholas Stern’s position is actually conservative.

Indeed in “The Revenge of Gaia” Professor Lovelock states that at 500 ppm CO2 the Greenland ice shelf goes and so does the ocean phytoplankton system that is vital for global temperature homeostasis (balance) through sequestering CO2 and generating dimethyl sulphide (that helps nucleate the formation of sunlight-reflecting clouds).

Recent summaries by the prestigious New Scientist shows that the atmospheric CO2 concentration is currently about 380 ppm (parts per million) but is increasing at a rate (3.3% per year) corresponding to the WORST scenario envisaged by the IPCC i.e. of unaddressed carbon pollution (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn10507
-carbon-emissions-rising-faster-than-ever.html ).

However the US Bush Administration and the pro-Bush Australian Federal Government refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol or to constrain CO2 pollution as revealed by the following statistics for “annual per capita fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution” (tonnes CO2 per person per year) (2004): 19.2 (for AUSTRALIA; 40 if you include Australia’s “world’s biggest” coal exports), 19.7 (the US), 18.4 (Canada), 16.4 (Netherlands), 11.9 (Russia), 10.4 (Germany), 9.9 (Japan), 9.7 (UK), 8.5 (Italy), 6.7 (France), 4.2 (the World), 3.6 (China), 3.6 (Argentina), 2.0 (Egypt), 1.8 (Brazil), 1.0 (India), 0.7 (Pakistan), 0.7 (Nigeria), and 0.25 (for Bangladesh) (US Energy Information Administration (2006):
http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/iea/
Notes%20for%20Table%20H_1co2.html ).

The major climate criminals are clearly the Western countries with the HIGHEST annual per capita fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution, most notably the stand-out Kyoto Protocol NON-signatories Bush America (the world’s worst greenhouse gas polluter) and Bush-ite Australia (the world’s biggest coal exporter and the world’s big country with the world’s highest “annual capita greenhouse gas pollution” if coal exports are included ) (see the World Bank report:

http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTDATASTA/
64199955-1178226923002/21322619/LGDB2007.pdf and http://www.kab.org.au/_dbase_upl/KABWeekFactsheet.pdf and http://www.greenhousegases.gov.au/
about_greenhouse_gases/australia's_emissions.html ).


In contrast, the major “climate victim” countries threatened by climate criminal-impelled global warming, drought and inundation through sea level rises (climate genocide) are African, South American and Asian countries with major river delta systems and with “annual per capita fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution” (tonnes CO2 per person per year) (2004) BELOW that of the World (4.2), notably China (3.6), Argentina (3.6), Egypt (2.0), Brazil (1.8), India (1.0), Pakistan (0.7), Nigeria (0.7) and Bangladesh (0.25).

What can decent and responsible people do?

We cannot ignore this mounting threat to humanity – we cannot walk by on the other side. Already, in 2006 a Bengali island, Lohachara Island, once home to 10,000 of our fellow human beings, finally disappeared under the waves. We are obliged to (a) inform others about gross abuses of humanity and (b) to take peaceful action against those complicit in such atrocities. Sanctions and boycotts worked against the racist atrocity of Apartheid South Africa and may well help constrain the implicitly racist atrocity of climate genocide being foisted on the world by climate criminal Bush America and Bush-ite Australia.

It has recently been estimated that the ACTUAL price of coal-based electricity (taking into account the environmental and human cost) can be about 4 times higher than the present commercial cost. However this Canadian estimate was conservative and may have UNDER-estimated the additional environmental cost due to climate change by a factor of TEN (10) (see: http://www.evworld.com/news.cfm?newsid=8836 ). Nevertheless this ACTUAL COST estimate indicates that a number of renewable options (notably wind power and concentrated solar power, CSP) are ALREADY competitive on current costings with the TRUE cost of coal-based electricity i.e. for economic reasons the coal should stay in the ground. Those greedy, corrupt, intrinsically racist climate criminals (climate terrorists) that IGNORE the science, the technology and economics and remain committed to fossil fuel-based energy to the cost of Humanity will eventually get the BILL for the full COST of their racist irresponsibility and the consequent climate genocide.

However the Western world is dominated by lying, racist, Bush-ite media who are still giving the climate criminals a free run to pollute the planet at the expense of the Developing World. The WORDS of the world’s most eminent scientists, technologists and economists are FAILING under the weight of corporate Mainstream media lies and spin.


Both water-deficient and river delta (deltaic) regions around the world (notably those of South Asia e.g. India, Bangladesh and Pakistan) are acutely threatened by global warming. Already about 16 million people die avoidably around the world each year (3.7 million in India alone) (see: “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007): http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ). Please inform all your associates and please feel free to reproduce “TERRA” and its attendant message with attribution in the interests of our Planet and Humanity.

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