‘Day Zero’: This city is counting down the days until its water taps run dry

Leonard Matana. 69, filling up a plastic container with water at a communal tap in the township of Kwanobuhle in South Africa.

Leonard Matana. 69, filling up a plastic container with water at a communal tap in the township of Kwanobuhle in South Africa.

By Riaan Marais for CNN and Derek Van Dam, CNN
Photographs by Samantha Reinders and Riaan Marais for CNN

Updated 0055 GMT (0855 HKT) June 21, 2022

(CNN)Every day, Morris Malambile loads his wheelbarrow full of empty plastic containers and pushes it from his home to the nearest running tap. It’s much further than the usual walk to the kitchen sink — just a little under a mile away — but it’s not the distance that bothers him.

It’s the bumpy road — which runs between tightly packed shanty dwellings and beige public-funded houses — that makes balancing containers filled with 70 liters of water on his return a pain.

“Home feels far when you are pushing 70 kilograms of water in a wheelbarrow,” said the 49-year-old resident from the impoverished South African township of Kwanobuhle.

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Climate Change made devastating early heat in India and Pakistan 30 times more likely

“The 2022 heat wave in India and Pakistan is an extreme weather event which has resulted in the hottest March in India since 1901. The hot season arrived unusually early in the year and extended into April, affecting a large part of India’s northwest and Pakistan”. Wikipedia

worldweatherattribution.org

Since the beginning of March, India and Pakistan and large parts of South Asia experienced prolonged heat, that at the time of writing, May 2022, still hasn’t subsided.

March was the hottest in India since records began 122 years ago and in Pakistan, the highest worldwide positive temperature anomaly during March was recorded and many individual weather stations recorded monthly all-time highs through March. At the same time, March was extremely dry, with 62 percent less than normal rainfall reported over Pakistan and 71 percent below normal over India, making the conditions favourable for local heating from the land surface. The heatwave continued over the month of April and reached its preliminary peak towards the end of the month. By the 29th of April, 70 percent of India was affected by the heatwave.

While heatwaves are not uncommon in the season preceding the monsoon, the very high temperatures so early in the year coupled with much less than average rain have led to extreme heat conditions with devastating consequences for public health and agriculture. The full health and economic fallout, and cascading effects from the current heat wave will however take months to determine, including the number of excess deaths, hospitalisations, lost wages, missed school days, and diminished working hours. Early reports indicate 90 deaths in India and Pakistan, and an estimated 10-35 percent reduction in crop yields in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab due to the heatwave.

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As biomass burning surges in Japan and South Korea, where will Asia get its wood?

by Annelise Giseburt on 19 May 2022

news.mongabay.com

  • In 2021, Japan and South Korea imported a combined 6 million metric tons of wood pellets for what proponents claim is carbon-neutral energy.
  • Large subsidies for biomass have led Japan to import massive amounts of wood pellets from Vietnam and Canada; two pellet giants, Drax and Enviva, are now eyeing Japan for growth, even as the country may be cooling to the industry.
  • South Korea imports most of its pellets from Vietnamese acacia plantations, which environmentalists fear may eventually pressure natural forests; South Korea wants to grow its native production tenfold, including logging areas with high conservation value.
  • Vietnam may soon follow Japan and South Korea’s path as it phases out coal, and experts fear all this could add massive pressure on Southeast Asian forests, which are already among the most endangered in the world.

This is part two of a two part series on the Asian biomass expansion. Part one can be found here.

Under the guise of “carbon neutral” energy, Japan and South Korea’s appetite for woody biomass for electricity generation has increased exponentially over the past decade and continues to grow. The two nations’ biomass subsidies are spurring an increase in the production of wood for burning in Southeast Asia and North America, putting pressure on forests in those regions.

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How treaties protecting fossil fuel investors could jeopardize global efforts to save the climate – and cost countries billions

theconversation.com

Fossil fuel companies have access to an obscure legal tool that could jeopardize worldwide efforts to protect the climate, and they’re starting to use it. The result could cost countries that press ahead with those efforts billions of dollars.

Over the past 50 years, countries have signed thousands of treaties that protect foreign investors from government actions. These treaties are like contracts between national governments, meant to entice investors to bring in projects with the promise of local jobs and access to new technologies.

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Does the world need hydrogen to solve climate change?

carbonbrief.org

Hydrogen gas has long been recognised as an alternative to fossil fuels and a potentially valuable tool for tackling climate change.

Now, as nations come forward with net-zero strategies to align with their international climate targets, hydrogen has once again risen up the agenda from Australia and the UK through to Germany and Japan.

In the most optimistic outlooks, hydrogen could soon power trucks, planes and ships. It could heat homes, balance electricity grids and help heavy industry to make everything from steel to cement.

But doing all these things with hydrogen would require staggering quantities of the fuel, which is only as clean as the methods used to produce it. Moreover, for every potentially transformative application of hydrogen, there are unique challenges that must be overcome.

In this in-depth Q&A – which includes a range of infographics, maps and interactive charts, as well as the views of dozens of experts – Carbon Brief examines the big questions around the “hydrogen economy” and looks at the extent to which it could help the world avoid dangerous climate change.

What is hydrogen and how could it help tackle climate change?

Hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant element in the universe. It is also an explosive and clean-burning gas that contains more energy per unit of weight than fossil fuels.

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We need to get serious about the renewable energy revolution—by including nuclear power

thebulletin.org

By Michael Edesess | May 5, 2022

One of my favorite quotes is from Sherlock Holmes: “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however implausible, must be the truth.”[1] This motto implicitly guides the ambitious plan to decarbonize all energy envisioned by most renewable energy enthusiasts. The only problem is that, not only is the alternative they dismiss not impossible, it could be much less implausible than the one they advocate.

The renewables army. A huge number of extremely earnest and bright people are working on trying to make the renewable energy future come true. They work at, or have passed through, the most elite institutions of our time, the top universities, the top financial firms, the most innovative corporations and startups. At the center of much of their effort is the Rocky Mountain Institute, the nonprofit research think-tank whose board I chaired more than 20 years ago. (They call it a “think-and-do” tank, which is more fitting.) RMI coordinates meetings (recently mostly Zoom meetings) with very smart participants from some of the foremost companies working on decarbonizing their businesses, companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft. It’s a pleasure to watch them think, discuss, and work out problems. It was an enormous pleasure to be on RMI’s board, especially to interact intellectually with the most brilliant individual I have ever met, RMI’s co-founder Amory Lovins.

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Russia’s War Is Turbocharging the World’s Addiction to Coal

bloomberg.com

The first phase of the global energy crunch was driven by the natural gas shortage, now comes the coal crisis.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine set off a chain reaction in the global energy markets that further thrusts coal into the spotlight. 
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine set off a chain reaction in the global energy markets that further thrusts coal into the spotlight. Photographer: Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg

By Will Wade and Stephen Stapczynski

25 April 2022, 11:01 GMT+7

In Germany and Italy, coal-fired power plants that were once decommissioned are now being considered for a second life. In South Africa, more coal-laden ships are embarking on what’s typically a quiet route around the Cape of Good Hope toward Europe. Coal burning in the U.S. is in the midst of its biggest revival in a decade, while China is reopening shuttered mines and planning new ones

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Climate change will force new animal encounters — and boost viral outbreaks

nature.com

Modelling study is first to project how global warming will increase virus swapping between species.

A bat flying over trees against a blue sky.
Bats will have a large contribution to virus transmission between species in the future, a modelling study finds.Credit: Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times via Getty

Over the next 50 years, climate change could drive more than 15,000 new cases of mammals transmitting viruses to other mammals, according to a study published in Nature1. It’s one of the first to predict how global warming will shift wildlife habitats and increase encounters between species capable of swapping pathogens, and to quantify how many times viruses are expected to jump between species.

Many researchers say that the COVID-19 pandemic probably started when a previously unknown coronavirus passed from a wild animal to a human: a process called zoonotic transmission. A predicted rise in viruses jumping between species could trigger more outbreaks, posing a serious threat to human and animal health alike, the study warns — providing all the more reason for governments and health organizations to invest in pathogen surveillance and to improve health-care infrastructure.

Why deforestation and extinctions make pandemics more likely

The study is “a critical first step in understanding the future risk of climate and land-use change on the next pandemic”, says Kate Jones, who models interactions between ecosystems and human health at University College London.

The research predicts that much of the new virus transmission will happen when species meet for the first time as they move to cooler locales because of rising temperatures. And it projects that this will occur most often in species-rich ecosystems at high elevations, particularly areas of Africa and Asia, and in areas that are densely populated by humans, including Africa’s Sahel region, India and Indonesia. Assuming that the planet warms by no more than 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures this century — a future predicted by some climate analyses — the number of first-time meetings between species will double by 2070, creating virus-transmission hotspots, the study says.

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Climate change expert report warns that ISDS can block climate action

Photo: StopISDS / Twitter

AFTINET | 6 April 2022

Climate change expert report warns that ISDS can block climate action

April 6, 2022: For the first time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that climate action is being jeopardised by trade agreements which give global corporations the right to sue governments through clauses known as ‘Investor State Dispute Settlement’ mechanisms, or ISDS.

In its Sixth Assessment Report on the impacts of climate change, the IPCC warned that ISDS can “be used by fossil-fuel companies to block national legislation aimed at phasing out the use of their assets.”

The report indicates that the problem is not isolated to one specific agreement or institution, but that a network of bilateral trade and investment treaties function to protect fossil fuel interests:

“A large number of bilateral and multilateral agreements, including the 1994 Energy Charter Treaty, include provisions for using a system of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) designed to protect the interests of investors in energy projects from national policies that could lead their assets to be stranded.”

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Why are Tropical Forests Being Lost, and How to Protect Them

WRI.org

By Frances Seymour

There’s good news and bad news for forests. Over the last 10 years, satellite imagery and other remote sensing technologies have revolutionized our ability to monitor and understand the causes of forest loss.

The bad news is that deforestation data spanning the last two decades reveals a persistent hemorrhaging of the world’s most valuable terrestrial ecosystems — and we’re not doing enough to stop the bleeding.

What do trends in forest loss tell us?

Global tree cover loss trends show that in the 21st century, by far the most deforestation — meaning when forests are permanently converted to other land uses — is occurring in the tropics. We now have two decades of data on the loss of primary tropical forests, and it paints a sobering picture: stubbornly persistent annual losses hovering between 3 and 4 million hectares each year, punctuated by spikes associated with major fires.

The main direct cause of tropical forest loss is expansion of commercial agriculture, augmented in different regions to varying degree by clearing for small-scale agriculture, extractive activities, and roads and other infrastructure, with complex linkages among them. Even lockdowns associated with the coronavirus pandemic didn’t appear to disrupt those patterns in any consistent way; in fact, losses ticked up in 2020 compared to the previous year.

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Tropical forests have big climate benefits beyond carbon storage

Study finds that trees cool the planet by one-third of a degree through biophysical mechanisms such as humidifying the air.

nature.com

Canopy of lowland rainforest at dawn with dense fog.
Tropical forests create cloud cover that reflects sunlight and cools the air.Credit: Thomas Marent/Minden Pictures

Tropical forests have a crucial role in cooling Earth’s surface by extracting carbon dioxide from the air. But only two-thirds of their cooling power comes from their ability to suck in CO2 and store it, according to a study1. The other one-third comes from their ability to create clouds, humidify the air and release cooling chemicals.

How much can forests fight climate change?

This is a larger contribution than expected for these ‘biophysical effects’ says Bronson Griscom, a forest climate scientist at the non-profit environmental organization Conservation International, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. “For a while now, we’ve assumed that carbon dioxide alone is telling us essentially all we need to know about forest–climate interactions,” he says. But this study confirms that tropical forests have other significant ways of plugging into the climate system, he says.

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Russia’s war has chilling effect on climate science as Arctic temperatures soar

And yet, just when the climate scientists and governments across the eight Arctic states should be working together to understand and address the climate crisis, Russia’s war on Ukraine has forced the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental group of Arctic states and Arctic Indigenous Peoples, to suspend their joint activities in protest of Russia’s unprovoked aggression.

thebulletin.org

By Jessica McKenzie | March 29, 2022

ice melting on a siberian lake Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia (Photo by Daniel Born on Unsplash)

Earlier in March, temperatures around the North Pole approached the melting point, right around the time of year that Arctic sea ice is usually most extensive. In some places, the Arctic was more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average. It’s part of an alarming trend; over the past 30 years the region has warmed four times faster than the rest of the globe. The shift is transforming the Arctic land- and seascape, causing sea ice to melt, glaciers and ice sheets to retreat, and permafrost to thaw. And while the Arctic is particularly vulnerable to climate change, it also has an outsized potential to contribute to global warming, as melting permafrost releases carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

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Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)

The Working Group II contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report assesses the impacts of climate change, looking at ecosystems, biodiversity, and human communities at global and regional levels. It also reviews vulnerabilities and the capacities and limits of the natural world and human societies to adapt to climate change.

Summary for Policymakers

The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) provides a high-level summary of the key findings of the Working Group II Report and is approved by the IPCC member governments line by line.

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Technical Summary

The Technical Summary (TS) provides extended summary of key findings and serves as a link between the comprehensive assessment of the Working Group II Report and the concise SPM.

DOWNLOAD 96 PAGES, 22 MB

Full Report

The 18 Chapters and 7 Cross-Chapter Papers of the Working Group II Report assess the impacts of climate change on nature and humanity, and their capacities and limits for adaptation.

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