Friday, April 03, 2020

Going Global




Going Global


Hello again and welcome. This is the Sustainable Futures Report and I’m Anthony Day. It's Friday, the 3rd of April.
Welcome 
To start with it's my pleasure to introduce my latest patron, Colin Clark from Australia. Welcome Colin, and thanks for your comments. Colin is particularly concerned about denial and he sent me a link to an edition of the Bolt Report, an Australian show, with two people complaining about the actions of extinction rebellion and the lack of balance in the media which was keeping climate deniers out. I’ve put the link on the blog at www.sustainablefutures.report and you’ll notice that the Bolt Report doesn’t have anyone putting the other side of the argument. OK - I have nobody putting the opposite view to the Sustainable Futures Report. Feel free to get in touch.
Relevant?
Last week I asked a question, is the Sustainable Futures Report  relevant in the present circumstances? I've had responses online and by email and thank you for your support. The general consensus was that I should continue so I will, albeit in the context of this coronavirus emergency.
Right then. 
This week I’m going to talk about denial and whether climate change could lead to more pandemics in future. How will COVID19 affect developing nations and what are the implications of that for the rest of us? How is climate change affecting Africa and developing nations? And in other news, fantasies in Venice, cars in the sky, carbon reporting, fiddling investors, and why the British government thinks we should give up cars.
Ready?
Relaxing the Rules
You’ll remember that Donald Trump’s appointment of Andrew Wheeler as US Environment Protection Agency administrator brought in a man with wide experience of climate change issues and environmental regulations. Much of this was gained in his former role as a lawyer acting on behalf of the coal industry. Wheeler is a critic of limits on greenhouse gas emissions and of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He was chief counsel to the  chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. senator James Inhofe. Inhofe himself has long been a climate sceptic and among many other things he’s the author of “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future”.  
No surprise then that the EPS has announced the suspension of all environmental regulations during the coronavirus outbreak. This is a temporary suspension, although at present it is open-ended. I say ‘no surprise’ but it’s not altogether clear why the virus should justify such a moratorium, and Cynthia Giles, who headed the EPA’s Office of Enforcement during the Obama administration, called it an abdication of the agency's duty. For example, not only will the oil industry not be sanctioned for leakages which contaminate water sources, but the obligation to record emissions and pollution events will be suspended. When all this is over there could be no record of the size or nature of events which may have occurred.
Hypocrites
In the Toronto Sun correspondent Lorrie Goldstein claims that, “Rich hypocrites are the real climate deniers.” He cites a recent study by the University of Leeds in the U.K. which says that rich people are most to blame for human-induced climate change. The wealthiest 10% of people in the 86 countries surveyed consume 20 times more fossil fuel energy than the poorest 10%.
The largest disparity is in the transportation sector, where the top 10% consume 187 times more fossil fuel energy than the bottom 10%.
Goldstein says that minimum wage worker in Canada, who thinks human-induced climate change is a hoax, is doing far more to “save the planet” than all of the rich and relatively rich people who mock and denounce him, or her, as a “climate denier.” In his view poor people are the world’s greatest environmentalists because they consume less than rich people.
They live in small apartments, not mansions.
They take public transit, not cars.
They don’t go on exotic vacations.
They don’t fly.
They have few material possessions.
Since almost all goods and services consume fossil fuel energy, their carbon footprints are small because they consume less.

In response to the study, Prof. Kevin Anderson of the U.K.’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Research said, “Anyone who tells others to consume less to save the planet is a hypocrite unless and until they’re willing to consume less themselves.”
I agree with that, but the crucial thing to remember is that while you can write off many people, including me, as a hypocrite, that does not change the truth of the climate change science.
Anderson goes on, Nor can the rich claim to reduce their carbon footprints by buying carbon offsets, because the only credible way to reduce one’s carbon footprint is not to emit fossil fuel energy in the first place.
“Carbon offsets are the modern equivalent of papal indulgences — paying for sin, without giving up the sin, hardly anything new for the rich.”
I totally agree with that!
Climate Change and Pandemics
I spoke to patron Victoria Covington last week. She was wondering whether global heating and climate change would lead to more pandemics in the future, so I said I’d look into it.
WHO
The World Health Organisation reports that there is much evidence of associations between climatic conditions and infectious diseases. Malaria is of great public health concern, and seems likely to be the vector-borne disease most sensitive to long-term climate change. Malaria varies seasonally in highly endemic areas. Excessive monsoon rainfall and high humidity was identified early on as a major influence, enhancing mosquito breeding and survival. Recent analyses have shown that the malaria epidemic risk increases around five-fold in the year after an El Niño event.
They say, “Changes in infectious disease transmission patterns are a likely major consequence of climate change. We need to learn more about the underlying complex causal relationships.” 
This seems to indicate that climate change will not generate new diseases, but it may produce conditions for diseases to arise in greater numbers and different locations than we would normally expect. The link is on the blog if you want to read the whole paper.
Paul Polman
Writing on the Ethical Corporation site, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum, argues that companies must rapidly transition to a way of doing business that does not destroy biodiversity and natural capital or there will be more Covid-19s. 
“Since the Covid-19 outbreak,” he says, “many researchers have highlighted how the destruction of our biodiversity and natural capital has in fact perpetuated many new pathogens. Deforestation and urbanisation, for example – coupled with a population explosion – has led to humans and animals coming into ever closer contact, resulting in the transmission of more diseases and viruses from wildlife to humans. Covid-19 is clearly a wake-up call that we must start living within our planetary boundaries. And I’m convinced we can do so, provided we equally value natural and human capital.”
He continues, “This is a crucial “decade of action” that requires business to step-up to help decarbonise the global economy and deliver the Sustainable Development Goals. It’s also a “super year for nature”, in which we need to integrate stewardship of the Earth’s life support services – oceans, biodiversity and climate – with a new way of doing business. Valued at $125tn a year, our natural capital and biodiversity are vital components of the wealth of nations.”
WEF
Writing for the World Economic Forum Kate Whiting says, “Coronavirus isn't an outlier, it's part of our interconnected viral age. Coronavirus COVID-19 is part of a pattern of increasingly frequent epidemics that have coincided with globalisation, urbanisation and climate change. As society becomes more connected, collaboration and cooperation will be needed to reduce the impact of future epidemics.”
Or maybe once this is all over we will re-evaluate whether we need to become more connected, physically at least. Already companies - and the NHS - are beginning to wonder whether supply chains which stretch right across the world are worth the risk. And to the extent that we successfully implement the circular economy our raw materials will be the waste we create locally.
In January 2019 the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Harvard Global Health Institute, published a White Paper entitled: “Outbreak Readiness and Business Impact - Protecting Lives and Livelihoods across the Global Economy.”
Did anyone read it? You can, if you follow the link on the blog. 
Scientific American
Chelsea Harvey, writing for Scientific American, says, 
“As the Earth continues to warm, many scientists expect to see changes in the timing, geography and intensity of disease outbreaks around the world. And some experts believe climate change, along with other environmental disturbances, could help facilitate the rise of more brand-new diseases, like COVID-19.”
“There's a great deal of research about climate and vector-borne diseases — these are illnesses that are transmitted to humans by other animals, such as mosquitoes or ticks. But it's much harder to research climate impacts on human-to-human disease transmission.”
“We can put mosquitoes in a lab," said Rachel Baker, an expert on climate and infectious diseases at the Princeton Environmental Institute. "Put mosquitoes in labs, looking at everything from life length and egg-laying properties and all these different physiological life cycle characteristics and relating those back to climate drivers."
But with directly transmitted diseases, like influenza or COVID-19, it's much harder to run experiments. Some viruses — flu, for example — can be tested in animals like guinea pigs. But that's not true for every viral illness. And animals don't provide a perfect analogy for the way diseases spread in human societies.
The general conclusion seems to be that climate change will stimulate more disease. Whether these will be novel diseases is not clear, but diseases seem set to be an increasing and significant problem.
Flying Famine
And although it’s not actually a disease, a plague of locusts can have serious consequences for human survival. Carbon Brief addresses the question: “Are the 2019-20 locust swarms linked to climate change?”
This outbreak was the largest seen in 25 years in Ethiopia and Somalia – and in 70 years in Kenya. Although at least one swarm was calculated to be 60km long by 40km wide, overall the outbreak was smaller than many occurring in the 20th century.
The Arabian Peninsula – the land mass between East Africa and Asia comprising Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates – is the principal breeding ground for locusts and  was struck by several unusually severe cyclones between 2018 and 2019.
When the first storm – Cyclone Mekunu – hit the Arab peninsula in May 2018, it filled a vast desert near Yemen and Oman, known as the Empty Quarter, with freshwater lakes.
The moisture caused lush vegetation to grow in the usually barren environment, attracting desert locusts hunting for food into the area. “The first cyclone led to this emergence of optimal breeding grounds for the locusts.”
Then a second cyclone reinforced the damp, lush conditions which allowed the insects to continue to breed and increase their population some 8,000 times. They survived through a mild winter and in Summer 2019 they migrated into Africa. Here there were unusually wet and stormy conditions which allowed the numbers to grow still further, and unusually windy weather blew the insects into the interior. 
So did climate change cause this plague of locusts? At the time, António Guterres, the UN’s secretary general, said, 
“There is a link between climate change and the unprecedented locust crisis plaguing Ethiopia and East Africa. Warmer seas mean more cyclones generating the perfect breeding ground for locusts. This is getting worse by the day.”
Dr Wenju Cai, director of the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia said, 
“It’s highly likely that the event that we’ve just seen has a very strong warming component in it – but attributing individual events to long-term climate change is not a simple issue.”
I think the message is that we shouldn’t meddle with things we don’t understand. Like the planet.
Going Global
As we well know, COVID-19 is a global crisis. While there are arguments about testing, ventilators and personal protection equipment, the UK remains one of the nations best able to cope with the emergency. But this is a global crisis and affects every nation regardless of their ability to deal with it. The developing nations are particularly at risk.
Developing Problems
Twenty experts, among them four Nobel prizewinners, including Joseph Stiglitz, Lord Nicholas Stern and seven chief economists of the World Bank and other development banks, have written to G20 leaders to warn of “unimaginable health and social impacts” as coronavirus rips through the developing world, taking overburdened healthcare systems beyond breaking point, and causing economic and social devastation.
At least $8bn (£6.5bn) in emergency funding has been requested by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, but this is just a start and tiny by comparison with the $2trn pledged by the US government and the £330bn pledged by the UK government to support their own countries. 
If efforts to control Covid-19 fail, “the virus could become endemic, producing new waves of destructive outbreaks around the world”, the letter warned, adding: “We have a rapidly closing window to ensure that we give these countries at least a fighting chance to manage the crisis and provide some light at the end of what could be a long tunnel.”
The letter concludes: 
“We are now urging you, the leaders of the G20, to urgently provide the necessary resources to reduce the losses in human life and back up those most vulnerable. The required investment is minute compared to the social and economic costs of inaction. History will judge us harshly if we do not get this right.”
This is just another disaster heaped on to the developing nations. If I were cynical, I might suggest that chronic COVID19 in the developing nations would be such a permanent threat to the wealthy West that foreign aid to eradicate it would be forthcoming. We shall see.
Climate Change and Developing Nations
It’s frequently been suggested that climate change is likely to affect poorer nations sooner and harder than the rest of the world. Much of Africa is dependent on regular and predictable rainfall to support its farmers’ crops and livestock, but things are changing.
For example, for the decades following the 1960s and peaking in 1984, there was a downturn of rainfall of some 30% across the Sahel, which led to famine and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of many millions. 
Drought is driving dust storms, and yet as we saw above, in 2019 the central eastern African states suffered a succession of cyclones and widespread floods. Crops and livestock washed away are just as dead as those killed by drought. Meanwhile as the land becomes uninhabitable refugees attempt to crowd into cities.
According to the UN, “No continent will be struck as severely by the impacts of climate change as Africa. Given its geographical position, the continent will be particularly vulnerable due to the considerably limited adaptive capacity, and exacerbated by widespread poverty. Climate change is a particular threat to continued economic growth and to livelihoods of vulnerable populations.”
“For sub-Saharan Africa, which has experienced more frequent and more intense climate extremes over the past decades, the ramifications of the world’s warming by more than 1.5° C would be profound.
“Temperature increases in the region are projected to be higher than the global mean temperature increase; regions in Africa within 15 degrees of the equator are projected to experience an increase in hot nights as well as longer and more frequent heat waves.
“The odds are long but not impossible, says the IPCC. And the benefits of limiting climate change to 1.5° C are enormous, with the  IPCC report detailing the difference in the consequences between a 1.5° C increase and a 2° C increase. Every bit of additional warming adds greater risks for Africa in the form of greater droughts, more heat waves and more potential crop failures.”
Leading Role
On the other hand, the Brookings Institution says that Africa can play a leading role in the fight against climate change. In its Foresight Africa 2020 report, author Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says that research from the New Climate Economy shows that bold climate action could deliver at least $26 trillion in global economic benefits between now and 2030. It could also generate over 65 million new low-carbon jobs by 2030, a number equivalent to the combined workforces of the United Kingdom and Egypt today; avoid over 700,000 premature deaths from air pollution compared with business-as-usual; and generate an estimated $2.8 trillion in government revenues in 2030 through subsidy reform and carbon pricing alone.
She says,
“If fairness was the only goal, the impetus to act would lie solely with developed economies. Make no mistake, the big emitters absolutely must step up their domestic climate action, and quickly. But building the new climate economy is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that every African nation should prioritise and claim a stake in.
“This opportunity is why, despite historically negligible carbon emissions, despite only accounting for 2 percent of world coal demand, and despite the lack of leadership from some developed countries, many African countries are now making serious efforts to transition towards low-carbon technologies, low-carbon and resilient infrastructure, and low-carbon tax systems.”
She goes on to explain how Morocco has built the world’s largest concentrated solar facility to help achieve the country’s goal of 52 percent renewable energy mix by 2030; how South Africa’s Carbon Tax Act, which places specific levies on greenhouse gases from fuel combustion and industrial processes and emissions, could reduce the country’s emissions by 33 percent relative to the baseline by 2035. Nigeria has set a renewable energy target of 30 percent by 2030, and international oil company Shell, has invested in SolarNow, which sells high-quality solar solutions in Uganda and Kenya. Since its inception in 2011, SolarNow has supplanted 210,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
“African leaders cannot do this alone. And nor should they,” she says. “Whether driven by opportunism or a sense of moral justice, the world’s developed and emerging economies must take action at home and help Africa deliver the investments that will bring the goals of the Paris Agreement within reach.”
Voice of Dissent
Meanwhile a headline in the Zimbabwe Independent warns: “We must not jeopardise Africa in the name of climate change.” 
“I agree that climate change should be taken seriously, but we cannot accept knee-jerk responses,” says NJ Ayuk. “We must not rob our continent of the significant benefits it can realise from oil and gas operations, from the economic opportunities of monetised natural resources to critically important gas-to-power initiatives.”
“What about the desperation that the 600 000-plus Africans without power live with every day?”, he asks. “Is it reasonable to expect them to wait for green energy to evolve while domestic natural gas and crude oil reserves can be exploited to create electricity and heating fuel far more quickly?”
Clearly the debate goes on, all over the world.

And in other news…
Venetian Fantasy
You may have read about the swans and the dolphins which have returned to the canals of Venice now that the tourists have gone and the vaporetti are no longer cramming the waterways. Sadly, according to thehill.com that’s just an illusion. Apparently the swans never went away and National Geographic reports that the dolphins in a clip that went viral were filmed at a port in Sardinia, hundreds of miles away."
Flying Cars
Turning to technology, Hyundai and Uber are working together to develop an air taxi. “Our vision of Urban Air Mobility will transform the concept of urban transportation,” said Jaiwon Shin, Executive Vice President and Head of Hyundai’s Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Division. “We are confident that Uber Elevate is the right partner to make this innovative product readily available to as many customers as possible.” 
Hyundai’s fully electric S-A1 model is designed to take off and land vertically, cruise at speeds of up to 180mph at altitudes between 1,000 and 2,000 feet, and have a range of up to 60 miles. The air taxi concept is powered by multiple rotors and propellers to increase safety and reduce noise, has been designed with four passenger seats, and although it is intended to be piloted at first, it will become autonomous over time.
Once this coronavirus crisis is over will we need autonomous air taxis? I’m not one to stand in the way of progress, but I must ask, as I’m sure many in the developed world would ask, “Progress for whom?”
Economics and Energy
“FTSE companies urgently need to raise their game on CO2 reporting,” warns the Ethical Corporation. Alexia Perversi and Andrew Jones of Mazars say a recent study by the auditing firm casts huge doubt on the credibility and utility of carbon disclosures in year-end reports.
“Current disclosure is not fit for purpose and in many cases appears to be a box-ticking exercise that is not integral to the way management teams run their business. Disclosures by the UK’s largest companies suggest huge levels of unexplained volatility in carbon emissions. What’s more, this volatility does not appear to be linked to operations, which casts huge doubt on its credibility and utility for analysing businesses’ performance over time in carbon efficiency.
“Listed companies have been required to report on carbon emissions for some time, but a new piece of legislation will require many non-listed companies to report, too, meaning thousands of new companies will be subject to reporting under a similar regime from next year.”
Let’s hope the government will get this under control. At present most of its attention is focussed, and rightly, on COVID19, but its many other responsibilities have not gone away and we cannot afford to neglect them. While there may be a fire in the engine room, it’s still important to steer the ship away from the rocks.
Fiddling While Forests Burn
Another headline from the Ethical Corporation reads: “Investors and companies are fiddling while forests burn”
Last September, as a response to the Amazon fires, 230 institutional investors representing $16.2tn in assets called on global companies to take urgent action. “As investors, who have a fiduciary duty to act in the best long-term interests of our beneficiaries, we recognise the crucial role that tropical forests play in tackling climate change, protecting biodiversity and ensuring ecosystem services … and see the reduction of deforestation as a key solution to managing these risks and contributing to efficient and sustainable financial markets in the longer term,” ran the statement.
Fine words but also words unmatched by similar fine deeds, according to a new report from Global Canopy.
The Forest 500 annual report seeks to hold to account 350 companies that produce, trade, use or sell the largest amounts of six key commodities – palm oil, soy, beef, leather, timber, and pulp and paper – as well as the 150 biggest institutions that finance them. 
In total, the report showed that 102 (68%) of the financial institutions that were assessed had no deforestation policies, among them four of the world’s five biggest asset managers, BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street and Fidelity Investments, with a combined $17.6tn of assets under management.
“In other words,” says the report’s author Sarah Rogerson, “most of the financial institutions that fund the Forest 500 companies don’t publicly recognise that their investments may drive deforestation and so contribute to climate change.”
And some people wonder why people like XR are angry.


And finally…
In the foreword to a report entitled Decarbonising Transport, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says “Public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities. We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network.”
This is Grant Shapps, a minister in a Conservative government. You know, the Conservative Party which supports the freedom of the individual, which frequently includes the right to drive as far as you like wherever you like. The Conservative Party whose Chancellor last month promised millions for road building and little or nothing for public transport.
It’s probably just an illusion. Was that a dolphin I saw flying past?

That’s it for this week. 
We may be locked down and working from home but the flow of climate and sustainability news never stops and I don’t even manage to bring you the half of it. I’m certainly not lounging on the sofa and bingeing on box-sets.
Next week I intend to approach the Green New Deal and I do hope to interview one of its architects.
For the moment, that’s all for this edition of the Sustainable Futures Report. All I’ve got to do now is record and publish it. Oh I suppose I must have by now if you’re listening to it. Don’t forget the blog at www.sustainablefutures.report where you’ll find the full text and links to all my sources.
Thank you for listening. Thank you to everyone who’s got in touch to share ideas. Thanks for being a patron, if you are.
I’m Anthony Day.
Till next time!






Sources

Denial
Climate Change and Pandemics
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/coronavirus-global-epidemics-health-pandemic-covid-19/
http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF%20HGHI_Outbreak_Readiness_Business_Impact.pdf
Global Effect of COVID19
Africa


Child development in Africa
Other News 
Dreams in Venice
The Flying Car
Economy & Energy
Other articles that may be of interest:

And finally…
Shapps on cars - the i-newspaper 30th or 31st March.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

What's Your Opinion?



What’s Your Opinion?


Hello. This is Anthony Day with an early Sustainable Futures Report.  It’s Tuesday 24th March. 
Is the Sustainable Futures Report Relevant?
COVID-19, the coronavirus, is in everybody's minds and increasingly affecting everybody's lives. Is the Sustainable Futures Report relevant in these times? I need to know what you think. My opinion is that it is relevant, because the climate crisis will still be with us after this virus has been defeated. It may be months, it may be years, but one thing is certain and that is that we will have to rebuild our world when all this is over. You may argue that how we rebuild it is a political issue, and I won't deny that. Both the coronavirus and the climate emergency issues can be addressed and defeated only by international cooperation between governments. That’s political. Someone once described the Sustainable Futures Report as green but increasingly red. Let’s not put labels on people’s opinions - let’s look for pragmatic solutions to where we are. If you don’t like what you perceive are my politics you don’t have to listen. But I’d much prefer if you shared your views either in comments to the blog or direct to me at mail@anthony-day.com. Or we can discuss this on line. 
What do you want to do?
Many of us probably feel powerless, because the most we can do is simply to sit at home. Working at home or indeed sitting at home without work are new experiences for many. It's going to be stressful. Thank goodness we have the Internet, social media and web conferencing to give us some social interaction. I went to four meetings last week without leaving my desk. I chatted with people in Germany, South Africa, and Ireland as well as the UK. 
Join Me Online
I'm sending out a conference invitation to all my patrons, to take place this next Friday 27th March. Given that you are in different time zones I may propose two separate sessions. 
Surely this is an opportunity to get together and decide what we can do together. Even if you can't take part but are sitting at home with little to do, take the opportunity to reflect on how the world will change once all this is over and how you would like it to change. And how we can achieve that change.
Africa
And so to this week's topic. This is what I intended to do, but it needs a lot more work, so for the moment this is just an overview. I said last time that the Sustainable Futures Report has been too tightly focused on the wealthy west and so this time I was going to look at Africa. That is probably my biggest mistake. You could almost say there is no such place as Africa. Yes, there is a continent called Africa, the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia. Wikipedia reveals that it extends to  about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles). When it’s midsummer in the North it’s midwinter in the South. It contains 54 fully recognised sovereign states (countries), eight territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition.  
The continent is believed to hold 90% of the world's cobalt, 90% of its platinum, 50% of its gold, 98% of its chromium, 70% of its tantalite,[112] 64% of its manganese and one-third of its uranium.[113] The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has 70% of the world's coltan, a mineral used in the production of tantalum capacitors for electronic devices such as cell phones. The DRC also has more than 30% of the world's diamond reserves.[114] Guinea is the world's largest exporter of bauxite.[115]
And yet Africa’s total nominal GDP remains behind that of the United States, China, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, India and France. As the growth in Africa has been driven mainly by services and not manufacturing or agriculture, it has been growth without jobs and without reduction in poverty levels. In fact, the food security crisis of 2008 which took place on the heels of the global financial crisis pushed 100 million people into food insecurity.[116]
I don’t think it’s sensible to ask, “How does climate change affect Africa?” Africa is so diverse. I’m going to start with one country and follow up with others later.
Nigeria, which has the biggest population of any nation in Africa, will be my first choice, but I’m going to defer that until after our online discussion. After we’ve agreed where the Sustainable Futures Report should go from here.
Interactive Web Conference
If you’re a patron you’ll get the log-on details for the online conference very soon via Patreon. If you’re not a patron but you’d like to take part, you can become a patron for as little as $1 per month. All the details are at patreon.com/sfr
To my patrons, thank you for your continuing support. I look forward to talking to you soon.
I’m Anthony Day.

Till next time.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Where do I start?



Where do I Start?


I’m Anthony Day. Welcome to the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 20th March.
COVID-19 and Energy
It goes without saying that the big issue is still COVID-19, the coronavirus. The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects the economic fallout to wipe out the world’s oil demand growth for the year ahead, which should cap the fossil fuel emissions that contribute to the climate crisis.
But Fatih Birol, IEA’s executive director, has warned the outbreak could spell a slowdown in the world’s clean energy transition unless governments use green investments to help support economic growth through the global slowdown.
“There is nothing to celebrate in a likely decline in emissions driven by economic crisis because in the absence of the right policies and structural measures this decline will not be sustainable,” he said. 
On we go
I'm no expert. All I know is that this pandemic will govern everything we do, for the next weeks, months and years. The situation is changing by the day, if not by the hour, so I’m not going to comment further, except to say that I think we will gain valuable lessons which will inform our approach to the climate emergency. I’m working on a new presentation on that theme, to be tailored for individual clients and presented as a live interactive video. The working title is “Lessons from COVID-19: staying in business, staying in profit and staying sustainable.” I’ll let you know when the trailer is ready and there will be special terms for Patrons who want to use it in their own organisations.
For today I’m falling back on cliches. Okay, they are cliches, but the fact that they've survived suggests there might be some truth in them.
Always look on the Bright Side. 
There is a bright side although for the moment the dark side is seriously predominant. It will gradually get brighter, because we can be confident that This, too, will pass.
But the climate will still be an issue.
As always, the question with the Sustainable Futures Report  is where do I start? With so much information coming in from all quarters it's difficult to know how to prioritise what to do or what to say. 
“Start with the end in mind”, 
is a well-known piece of advice. My end, my objective, is to make people aware of the seriousness of the climate situation so that we can all urge governments and leaders to take the international action which is the only way to conquer the climate crisis. At the same time I bring you news of work being done to meet the challenge and I also attempt to look at areas where much more action is needed.
Topics
This time, then, the topics I'm covering include good news and positive climate messages from the mining industry, from the EU, from the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority - even from Boris Johnson! There’s good news, too, about geothermal energy, cutting pollution and a possible end to the throwaway culture. The list of bad news is ever longer: Commuters committed to their cars, why trees are not the answer, threats to sue the government over continued use of fossil fuels, accelerating polar ice-melt and why wearing clothes can be bad for the environment. Let’s start with the bad news, so you’ve got something to look forward to.
Driving On
Cars are a major source of pollution, both in terms of emissions of greenhouse gases and of particulates which reduce air quality. In the UK alone, bad air quality causes some 50,00 premature deaths each year. It’s disappointing therefore to learn from a report by the European Court of Auditors that Europeans are reluctant to give up the private car. They say: “Although cities have put in place a range of initiatives to expand the quality and quantity of public transport, there has been no significant reduction in private car usage.”
This is unsurprising, given that they found that in many cases it was always quicker to get to the city centre by car. In the immediate term it is going to be even more difficult to persuade people to use public transport while there is a risk of infection in crowded spaces. Much better to stay locked away in one's own private vehicle, and people will probably prefer that even if it takes longer to complete the journey.
Through the European Structural and Investment Fund, the EU has provided €16.3bn between 2014 and 2020 to change the way people move in cities. 
The auditors complained that the money was taken but there was “limited take-up” on European Commission guidance on how to spend it. Money was being wasted on ill-fated projects, while city plans often lacked coherence. For example, in Poland, the report found parking penalties were lower than fines for not paying public transport fares. In Warsaw, cars were banned from the side of the road but it was still possible to park on the pavement.
A senior auditor said congestion cost the EU around €270bn a year and that funds provided by Brussels should be more tightly linked to plans to shift people out of their cars. It’s not going to be easy.
Trees
We’re urged to plant trees and it is by far the best way to take CO2 from the atmosphere and lock up the carbon, at least in theory. In reality there are problems.
In a wide ranging report to the RSPB by Ellie Crane, entitled “Woodlands for climate and nature”, she describes the complexity of the issue. It’s a report I’d strongly recommend you look at. There’s a link on the blog.
Trees are a store of carbon, but they take many years to grow and require careful management throughout that time. 
Trees planted on peatland degrade that land as a carbon store, and release much of the carbon. In fact removing trees from peatland can have a positive effect on carbon storage.
“Burning wood for energy releases carbon to the atmosphere,” she says. “Unlike burning fossil fuels, this does not increase the total amount of atmospheric carbon in the long term. However, forest-based bioenergy cannot be considered carbon neutral because the payback time until the carbon is reabsorbed can be very long, particularly when living trees are felled for biomass.”
“Replacing coal or gas with biomass for electricity generation is likely to significantly increase emissions per unit of electricity generated.”
And yet Drax power station claims to be one of the greenest sites in Britain, and receives massive government subsidies on that basis. 
Harvested Wood Products (HWP) can be a continuing store of carbon after they have been removed from the forest, but how long that carbon stays locked up depends on what the products are used for. 
The British government has pledged to plant 30 million trees per year, raising the U.K.'s forest cover from 13% to 17%. Skilled tree-planters - mainly Australians and Canadians - are already at work and can plant one sapling every four seconds or up to 4,000 per day. That’s the first step. Some 25% are likely to die in the early years and the forest has to be carefully managed and thinned so that trees can reach their full potential. They not only absorb carbon dioxide but they also release it through respiration. Until trees reach maturity the amount they absorb exceeds the amount they emit, but once they are mature they store the carbon but don't add to it. The forests continue to need management, because if they are simply allowed to decay the trees will die, rot and the carbon will be released again into the atmosphere. If the timber is harvested the use that’s made of it determines how long it continues as a carbon store. CO2 persists in the atmosphere for up to 100 years, so be effective trees need to lock carbon away for that length of time.
Talking to the BBC, Prof Rob MacKenzie, of the University of Birmingham says it would be a "disaster" if governments and companies rely on forests to "clear up the mess" of carbon pollution.
An article in the journal Nature warns that the rate at which carbon is absorbed by the Amazon forests is in decline. At the moment the rate in African forests is stable, but there are signs that it too will decline in the longer term.
It’s too tempting for people to believe that buying a few trees can make up for flying away on holiday. Things just don’t work like that. The government’s 30 million trees are no substitute for cutting carbon emissions at source. Increasing fuel duty, which the Chancellor decided not to do in last week’s UK budget, would have had an immediate effect. As it happens, of course, the dramatic drop-off in flying and all forms of travel are having a much greater effect without the need for a fiscal scourge. 
The small problem of plastic
Plastic microfibres make their way into the oceans and pollute insidiously because they are so small that almost every organism can absorb them. Plastic microfibres are released and washed away to the sea every time we wash our clothes. They are too small to be trapped by sewage treatment plants. But surprising research from the Institute for Polymers, Composites and Biomaterials of the National Research Council of Italy and the University of Plymouth suggests that wearing causes more fibres to be shed than washing.
Researchers compared garments made of four different types of polyester fabric. The results implied that a wearer could emit 300 million polyester fibres in a year by washing their clothes and 900 million fibres to the air just by wearing them. The chosen fabrics had different effects: the worst was found to be a polyester-cotton mix. The tightness of the weave and the construction of the garments also affected the extent to which fibres were lost. The researchers concluded that microfibre pollution has been significantly underestimated as fibres shed into the air have been previously ignored.
The conclusion appears to be that it’s best to avoid polyester in favour of other materials. Given polyester’s versatility and cheapness that’s another message that will be difficult to sell.
And in other bad news…
…ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica is accelerating. 
Ice at the poles is monitored by IMBIE, the ice sheet mass balance inter-comparison exercise. IMBIE was established in 2011 as a community effort to reconcile satellite measurements of ice sheet mass balance. It is a collaboration between scientists supported by the European Space Agency (ESA)  and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It is led by Prof Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds in the UK and and Dr Erik Ivins at NASA. 
The Greenland Ice Sheet holds enough water to raise mean global sea level by 7.4m, while the ice sheets of Antarctica hold enough water to raise global sea level by 58m. 
In a recent press release the organisation reports that Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice six times faster than in the 1990’s and are both tracking the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s worst-case climate warming scenario. Left unchecked, this will lead to an extra 17 centimetres of sea level rise by 2100. 
In their Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that global sea levels would rise 53 centimetres by 2100, and it’s estimated that this would put 360 million people at risk of annual coastal flooding. But the IMBIE Team’s studies shows that ice losses from both Antarctica and Greenland are rising faster than expected, tracking the IPCC’s worst-case (“high-end”) climate warming scenario. 
Professor Shepherd said: 
“Every centimetre of sea level rise leads to coastal flooding and coastal erosion, disrupting people’s lives around the planet. 
“If Antarctica and Greenland continue to track the worst-case climate warming scenario, they will cause an extra 17 centimetres of sea level rise by the end of the century. 
“This would mean 400 million people are at risk of annual coastal flooding by 2100. 
“These are not unlikely events with small impacts; they are already underway and will be devastating for coastal communities.” 
Guðfinna Aðalgeirsdóttir, Professor of Glaciology at the University of Iceland and lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment report, who was not involved in the study, said: 
“The IMBIE Team’s reconciled estimate of Greenland and Antarctic ice loss is timely for the IPCC. Their satellite observations show that both melting and ice discharge from Greenland have increased since observations started. 
“The ice caps in Iceland had similar reduction in ice loss in the last two years of their record, but summer 2019 was very warm in this region which resulted in higher mass loss. I would expect a similar increase in Greenland mass loss for 2019. 
“It is very important to keep monitoring the big ice sheets to know how much they raise sea level every year.” 
On the blog you’ll find a link to the IMBIE press pack.
It includes papers, photos, the press release and videos of the changes in Greenland and Antarctica and a clear explanation of the consequences.
The problem is clear. Now we need immediate action to combat this threat.
What can I do?
Listener Esteban Eles Vega sent me a link to an article entitled, “Quit Obsessing About Climate Change. What You Do or Don’t Do No Longer Matters.”  
“Quit worrying about going vegan, or recycling, or riding a bicycle to work, or buying a Tesla instead of that Ford F-650 pickup you’ve always wanted in order to save the planet,” says author, Glen Hendrix. “You’re off the hook. It’s out of your hands. You can do these things if it makes you feel better, but they are not going to change the big picture. Whatever you do does not matter.”
He goes on, “This is the most pivotal point in the history of man. We only get one shot at this. If we blow it, we won’t get a comparable situation for millions of years, if ever. If mankind does have a world-wide civilization by then, we will have forgotten all of this — this choice we had. Save the planet or just get along and ignore it until it is too late. Scientists are saying our planet is doomed and all I hear on the news is everything but that. We are a society in denial, trying to collectively whistle past the graveyard. Our weather men won’t even talk about it on the local news. It might be construed as political. It might upset people. We are so polite and civilized in our denouement.”
His point is that we can’t do anything, not you or I. And he firmly believes that “people with money and power, the people with the means to do something, just don’t care. They would have to give up some of that money and power to change things. They figure they won’t be around to suffer the consequences of climate change anyway, so they just don’t give a damn.”
Pretty depressing stuff. If I believed that I wouldn’t bother to publish the Sustainable Futures Report each week. Yes, Governments need to act. Yes, we can change future outcomes. And Guardian columnist George Monbiot calls government to account: “Already,” he says, “the Heathrow decision [the refusal to allow a third runway] is resonating around the world. Now we need to drive its implications home, by suing for survival. If we can oblige governments to resist the demands of corporate lobbyists and put life before profit, humanity might just stand a chance.”
Spread the word!

Meanwhile, looking on the Bright Side…
That’s enough pessimism for this week. Listen to this clip:
[Audio]
That’s Seamus O’Regan, Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, speaking at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada Convention, the world’s biggest mining conference. He’s telling the audience, which must include those who mine coal and those who exploit Canada’s vast tar sands, that the country’s objective must be net zero. Thanks to Patron Eric de Kemp for bringing this to my notice.
Taking Aim
Across the world there is pressure for an EU climate target for 2030 to be established. In a letter to the EU’s top official on climate action, Frans Timmermans, a dozen EU member states say “the EU can lead by example and contribute to creating the international momentum needed for all parties to scale up their ambition” by adopting a 2030 EU greenhouse gas emissions reduction target “as soon as possible and by June 2020 at the latest”. This comes, of course, in the year of COP26 which we hope will still go ahead in November as planned. It's the United Nations conference where nations will report on their five-year progress since the 2015 Paris Agreement and set out their objectives for handling the climate crisis in years to come.
The EU’s proposed regulation says:
  1. By September 2020, the Commission shall review the Union’s 2030 target for climate …and explore options for a new 2030 target of 50 to 55% emission reductions compared to 1990. Where the Commission considers that it is necessary to amend that target, it shall make proposals to the European Parliament and to the Council as appropriate. 
Green activists say that a 50 to 55% reduction is not sufficient to enable achievement of net zero by 2050. The regulation is open for comment until 1st May. Find the link on the Sustainable Futures Report blog and send them your feedback.
Dissent and Denial 
Boris Johnson has been urged to publicly declare climate deniers as wrong in order to secure the UK’s standing in vital UN climate talks at COP26 later this year. Nothing has been heard from him on this, although he probably has other things on his mind at present. Climate deniers with links to the Tory party, including the Global Warming Policy Foundation, are close to a number of front-bench ministers. It doesn’t help to learn that Business Minister Alok Sharma, who has been put in charge of COP26 by the prime minister, has voted against a number of climate-friendly issues in the past. Lobbyists in Brussels are urgently seeking to reduce the impact of the new law. Hang on - I thought this was good news.
FCA takes a view
Well it must be good news that the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority is likely to require large firms to account for their impact on the planet in future. Its plans are expected to draw heavily on the climate recommendations set out by the by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), a voluntary framework for companies that is considered a global gold standard for climate disclosure. The rules should be ready for implementation by the end of the year.
Hot Underfoot
An article in EOS Science News - another link from Eric de Kemp - describes how Canadian researchers are investigating the potential for geothermal energy. Geothermal power plants have small footprints (unlike hydropower plants), low emissions, and direct-heat-use opportunities, but most important, they provide stable baseload power, unlike intermittent wind and solar sources. On the other hand, suitable sites are difficult to find. They need high temperatures and must support sufficient flow rates of heat-carrying fluids to make exploitation viable. The Geological Survey of Canada is currently investigating the area around Mount Meager, Canada’s only active volcano, developing novel tools and techniques to locate suitable sites. Let’s hope they can find so much energy that there will no longer be any need to exploit the Alberta tar sands. Come on - there must be some there. We’ve even got geothermal energy in the UK, and we haven’t got any active volcanoes!
And in other news…
Don’t throw it away!
The BBC reports that new rules could spell end of the 'throwaway culture’. Traditionally we take, make and discard. We grow or mine resources, incorporate them into products and throw them away when we’ve finished. Then we start all over again. It’s the whole argument of the circular economy that at one end of the process strategic materials are being over-exploited and at the other end we’re creating waste and pollution. 
Now the European Commission is planning rules that will ensure products are designed and manufactured so they last - and so they're repairable if they go wrong. It is likely that the UK will follow suit, even after Brexit. Instead of reduce, re-use, recycle, products should be designed so that they can also be refurbished, repaired, remanufactured and even repurposed, before being broken easily down into their components and materials for recycling.
Something in the Air - or not.
Good news from China. The industrial shutdown brought on by COVID-19 has cut deaths caused by air pollution by tens of thousands. Compare this with a total of 3,000 deaths from the virus. Forbes magazine quotes a report which claims that the shutdown has saved 77,000 lives. Will we ever go back to business as usual?
And finally,
That's the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday, the 20th of March. Quite wide-ranging and a bit disjointed I'm afraid. Next time I'm going to look at what the climate crisis means for Africa. It's been pointed out that the Sustainable Futures Report tends to focus on the wealthy west. Consequences of climate change may be felt more acutely in the developing nations and consequences will arrive earlier. So I'll do my research and see what I can find. If you've got information on this to share I'm always ready to hear. Contact me at mail@anthony-day.com.
I'm fortunate in that preparing this podcast doesn't require me to leave my desk, so there is nothing in the present environment to prevent me from continuing week by week. As long as the broadband holds up, of course.
That's it for this week.
Now wash your hands.



Sources

Coronavirus poses threat to climate action, says watchdog

Bad news
Transport
European commuters still choose cars and congestion over public transport
Report from the European Court of Auditors





The government must abandon its fossil fuel power projects. If not, we’ll sue


Offsetting
Trees on commercial UK plantations 'not helping climate crisis'
Report to RSPB
BBC

Tropical forests losing their ability to absorb carbon, study finds

Pollution



Ice Melt




Greenland video : https://youtu.be/CqyLfkSuqlw 




Taking Action 


GOOD NEWS

Well at least we are hearing the right things...


This was at this weeks world biggest mining and mineral  exploration conference in Toronto PDAC 2020.

EU member states call for 2030 climate target

Boris Johnson urged to speak out against climate deniers

City watchdog may demand UK's top firms reveal climate impact


Budget

Alternative energy



Good news