Climate change in the news (Sep 3 – Sep 10)
Climate change in the news (Sep 3 – Sep 10)
In less than 10 years, firms in China, India and South Korea progressed from no wind turbine manufacturing experience to state-of-the-art wind turbine systems. Consider this: Goldwind from China installed 2,727 MW in 2009, a 140% increase on 2008 that saw its international market share rise to 7.2%. The Indian company Suzlon owns 9% of the global market share. What policies led to such robust domestic wind power development?
Last month, the International Finance Corporation's (IFC's) Cleantech Investment Program hosted Dr. Joanna Lewis, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, to share research on the strategies used by wind power technology companies in China, India and South Korea to develop wind turbine technology. Lewis is working on a paper that details case studies of the current industry leaders in these three countries, including Suzlon (India), Goldwind (China), and Hyundai, Doosan and Daewoo (South Korea).
A commonly heard comment in climate change discussions has been that the benefits of climate change – milder winters, increased agricultural productivity -- also have to be acknowledged. Russia and Canada, it has often been argued, could be economic “winners” from climate change due to easier access to ocean shipping routes, longer growing seasons, and the space and water necessary to increase agricultural production. A 2008 report of the U.S. National Intelligence Council notes that Russia “has the potential to gain the most from increasingly temperate weather”, citing easier access to Siberian energy reserves and an Arctic waterway. This idea was popular with some Russian scientists and politicians, who as recently as the past year questioned whether reductions in greenhouse gas emissions were necessary.
While consideration of benefits is appropriately included in economic studies of climate change, the recent heat waves and wildfires in Russia illustrate the limitations in thinking this way. The July heat wave – the worst in the
130 year record -- brought Moscow temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, destroyed crops on an estimated 25 million acres (about the size of Iceland), and led to intense fires across the country wiping out entire villages. Burning peat fields darkened the skies and filled the air with high levels of pollution. Breathing the outside air for an hour in Moscow is now reported to be equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes. In response to this, and other climate-related production declines in the EU and Canada, grain prices have risen 90 %. In order to protect domestic markets, Russia has banned grain exports.
A policy-maker in Ethiopia, managing a predominantly agricultural economy, and one that is likely to greatly affected by climate change, would probably like to know the impact of climate change as well as what it will cost to adapt to the impacts. Given the potential for more droughts and floods, what are the strategies and costs for adaptation? Like Ethiopia, other developing countries are grappling with the same question. It is an important one, but has not been widely addressed until recently.
This matter was given sudden prominence in 2006 when the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) asked how much financial need developing countries will require to both reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. The COP’s request created an overnight cottage industry estimating the total costs of adaptation by developing countries. Reports were published by the World Bank (2007), Oxfam (2007), the UNFCCC Secretariat (2009), Parry et al. (2009), and others. Most of these studies relied on expert judgment to develop adaptation cost estimates. The UNFCCC, however, applied some “top-down” rules in some sectors to rapidly estimate costs.
The latest and clearly most detailed estimate of the potential costs of adaptation in developing countries was just released in the UNFCCC conference in Bonn by the World Bank titled Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change (EACC). This report was a culmination of years of effort by the Bank to develop global and country level estimates of adaptation costs. The EACC is the most detailed estimate that has been developed to date because one, it addresses more sectors than prior estimates, two, it does so in a more systematic manner than its predecessors, and three, it estimates global and national level costs. The EACC study estimated global costs for infrastructure, coastal zones, water resources, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, human health, and extreme weather. Each sector’s cost estimate was developed by applying rules to analyze impacts and costs as a result of climate change.
When Stephen Schneider died on July 19th at the age of 65, the world lost a giant in climate change science. Stephen was one of the first prominent scientists to highlight the importance of human caused climate change. He was one of the early pioneers of computer modeling of the global climate system that helped understand future scenarios. He became the editor of an important journal, Climatic Change, and an influential member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as advisor to a number of U.S. presidents.
For me the loss was more personal …I lost an old friend and inspiration. I first met Stephen at American Association for Advancement of Science meetings in the early 80swhere he was making a name for himself as the great explainer of ‘global warming’ as we all called it at that time. I was then the executive producer of the flagship science program on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and Stephen was the kind of interviewee you could only dream of. He was passionate, articulate, funny and smart and had a lot to say. He was a producer’s joy, one of those great communicators that spoke to ‘everyman’ …and he talked so fast that we always thought we got double the value in every interview we did with him. And boy did he make sense. The nay sayers of climate change were out in force in those days too, but Stephen cut a swath through them with his logic and clarity.
The past week saw the final demise of proposals for U.S. legislation to address climate change, and a sense of gloom pervades discussion about prospects for a similar effort by the new Congress next year. Among major corporations, however, one can still find many examples of impressive environmental initiatives and investments. The same week, for example, General Motors (GM) announced two costly steps predicated on consumer demand or regulatory pressure for environmental performance. The more highly publicized news was that GM would begin accepting orders for its long awaited hybrid electric car, the Volt. The Company attracted less fanfare for another product with more immediate environmental benefits, the introduction of a new climate friendly refrigerant for auto air conditioning – replacing a chemical with a global warming potential (GWP) of 1400 with one that has a GWP of 4, a 99.7% improvement over current emissions. (It is worth noting that auto air conditioning has become so popular that its one of the only features available as an add-on to the Nano in India).
In June, General Electric announced that the performance of its “eco-imagination” initiative, a commitment to develop and market a growing range of green products, was meeting revenue targets and outperforming revenue growth in the company as a whole. Consequently, the company plans to double its investment in the initiative over the next five years.
News from the Sahel region of Africa is not good – failed rains leading to famine. Worst affected is Niger, where half of that nation’s 15 million people now face severe food shortages after several years of drought. Climate change will only increase the frequency of such events.
For most people living in this area, agriculture is their main source of income. The International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD) believes that good agricultural and rural development programs can both help to feed a growing population and conserve the planet we live on. For example, last week one of my team met Baraka. Her family farms a small patch of land in the Maradi region of Niger, where we are helping her and the others in the village introduce zero-till agriculture and regenerate degraded ecosystems to increase food production. Farming in a sustainable way also strengthens their capacity to deal with climate change.
It was images of villages like this that were in my mind when earlier this month, I was invited to the World Bank in Washington to discuss the links among climate, environment and agriculture. We―bank staff and representatives of the NGO development and research communities―asked ourselves one simple question: Are we linking these issues together or do we still see them in separate boxes?
If you were in Bangladesh in June, you would have found teachers in schools, preachers in mosques, and ads in newspapers, television, loudspeakers and pamphlets, encouraging people to bring in their incandescent bulbs to exchange with new Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) – and encouraged they were! On Saturday, June 19th 2010, at over 1,400 rural and urban distribution centers spread across 27 districts, manned by teachers, utility workers and other volunteers, Bangladeshis collectively took home about five million high quality CFL bulbs, in the first round of distribution.
They broke a record set by the British in January of 2008, for the most number of CFL bulbs distributed in a single day―some 4.5 million. In June, the Government and people of Bangladesh were inspired to do even better … and they did!
I was there to witness and watch this remarkable moment. What struck me as most impressive was that the entire process had the air of a popular election campaign. The mood throughout the country was festive, and people were happy to switch to CFLs and to help do what they could to improve the delicate electric power situation in Bangladesh.
I come from a country that generates 70% of its electricity by burning imported diesel─creating a serious imbalance in Honduras’ economy. There is no reason why we cannot emulate our neighbor Costa Rica that generates 90% of its energy needs using hydroelectricity. As President of Honduran Renewable Energy Association for Small Scale Projects (AHPPER), representing 66 Honduran companies dedicated to the development of small scale renewable projects, I believe that barriers which local entrepreneurs must overcome are the lack of funds for pre-investment activities, equity consolidation and institutional delays.
This week we are in Guyana, talking about people, forests and carbon finance. The 6th meeting of the Participants Committee of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) is taking place in Georgetown, Guyana, bringing government representatives, international organizations, indigenous peoples representatives and private sector to the northern coast of South America. The Facility is a partnership of countries with tropical and sub-tropical forests with the World Bank as a trustee for the Readiness Fund and the Carbon Fund. The meeting is discussing innovative ways to prepare countries for programs that will provide them with payments for emission reductions through, for example, avoided deforestation.