Global warming news

UN Panel Looks to Renewables As the Key to Stabilizing Climate

Yale Environment 360: Those wind turbines endlessly turning on the hill near your home tell of a changing world. So do the fields of solar panels sprouting from the deserts of California to the plains of Germany. But the world is not changing fast enough, says the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The 2,000-page study of how to head off climate change, released in Berlin on Sunday, calls for a tripling of the share of global energy generated by low-carbon energy sources. Electricity...

Climate change gets star treatment

New Scientist: To engage the public, Years of Living Dangerously and Sand Wars take different approaches, one is a Hollywood behemoth, the other is shrewd and assailing In the first episode of Years of Living Dangerously, a lavish nine-part US documentary series about the role humans play in climate change, actor Don Cheadle heads for drought-stricken Texas. He is on a mission to find out why the Bible Belt rejects the idea that we are failing as stewards of the planet. How could an argument so simple, so...

More Renewable Energy Needed To Avoid Catastrophic Climate Change

CleanTechnica: The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reinforced the call to action from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to limit global temperature increase and avert catastrophic climate change in a statement issued [this week]. The transition to a sustainable global energy mix must be accelerated, the Agency said, in order to reduce global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 40-70 percent compared with 2010 by 2050. Renewable energy, IRENA highlights, is the economically viable...

Limiting global warming to 2C not enough to avoid dramatic changes in Europe

Blue and Green: Limiting global warming to 2C from pre-industrial times – the threshold widely agreed by scientists as the target for climate change mitigation efforts – will not be enough to prevent widespread and substantial changes across Europe, according to a new study. Scientists consider the 2C limit as an appropriate and – if drastic measures are taken – achievable target, saying that curbing climate change to such an extent would prevent some of its most devastating impacts. Published on Sunday, the...

Revision of climate change policy scheme nears completion

Jamaica Gleaner: JAMAICA'S CLIMATE Change Framework Policy and Action Plan could receive parliamentary approval early this new financial year, following a series of public consultations to inform amendments to the document. "We have gone through the consultation stage. It is now at the Green Paper stage. The feedback received is now being included in the draft policy document with a view to having approval from Cabinet and Parliament early in this financial year. We are moving towards it becoming a White Paper,"...

Australia: Global warming 'will kill'

Sky: Australia is going to cook and people will die through global warming, West Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam says. Senator Ludlam said Australia needed to stop giving climate sceptics air time and just get on with the job of responding to climate change. He said the weather had become a political actor. 'We are swinging back into an El Nino cycle, this country is going to cook and people are going to die. It will be, I think, much harder to sustain the argument that nothing unusual is going...

Showtime’s documentary will educate country on climate changes

Daily Orange: The critically acclaimed network Showtime has brought up action-packed and drama-filled series such as “The Tudors,” “Homeland” and “Dexter.” The network is now adding a new documentary series to its impressive line-up, “Years of Living Dangerously.” “Years of Living Dangerously” focuses on climate change reporting with a new twist, which students and faculty should watch. Showtime should be applauded for its move to pick up this series, and other networks should follow in its footsteps. The...

State attorneys general take up fossil fuels boom as IPCC and feds lean green

Denver Post: Days after the U.N.-backed climate change panel of scientists urged a radical shift toward wind and solar energy to slow accelerating greenhouse-gas pollution, U.S. state attorneys general on Wednesday focused on ramped-up production of fossil fuels. The intensifying oil and gas boom in Colorado and neighboring states is out-pacing health and environment rules that the state attorneys have to defend. And as elected officials they're trying to help capitalize on huge economic opportunities -- especially...

Mean sea level along Mumbai to rise by 4 cm in 100 yrs: Study

Indian Express: The mean sea level along Mumbai’s coast is likely to rise by around 4 cm while warmer nights, increased rainfall, decline in crop productivity and health issues stare Maharashtra in the next 100 years, finds a study on “Assessing climate change vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies for Maharashtra”. The study was conducted by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), an environmental research institute, in partnership with Met Office Hadley Centre, United Kingdom’s climate change research centre...

Keystone XL cops incompetent at all levels

Guardian: Recently, the US State Department released yet another report on the environmental impacts of building the Keystone pipeline. The report is shocking in its ironic juxtaposition of real greenhouse gas emissions and the potential impact on the Earth's climate. It is also shocking because the State Department tells us the pipeline will be made to withstand climate change, but won't be responsible for those changes. The report reflects an incompetence of the authors of the report and a divorce of the...

How We Could Save the World From Global Warming Before Our Time Is Up

Gizmodo: We've blown our chances of fully counteracting the effects of climate change; recently-released reports from the International Energy Agency and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) provide plenty of evidence. But all hope is not yet lost, we've still got a small chance to keep from irreversibly poisoning our atmosphere. Here's what the world's governments must do to save the Earth before we cook ourselves clean off the face of the planet. The Problem with the Planet This issue isn't nearly...

A boycott to save the planet (by Desmond Tutu)

Hindu: Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse. No more can it be dismissed as science fiction; we are already feeling the effects. This week in Berlin, scientists and public representatives have been weighing up radical options for curbing emissions contained in the third report of the UN`s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The bottom line is that we have 15 years to take the necessary steps. The horse...

Climate change and deforestation increasing forest fire risk in Amazon

Blue and Green: A combination of climate change and deforestation is making the Amazon rainforest increasingly vulnerable to devastating forest fires, a new study has said. The Amazon is one of the most important ecosystems on the planet. It is estimated that about 10% of all known species live in the 5.5 million sq km rainforest. The region is also called “the lungs of the Earth”, because its trees remove considerable amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air, therefore lessening climate change. Despite its...

Slogging forward on climate-change

Boston Globe: THE WORLD now has a rough deadline for action on climate change. Nations need to take aggressive action in the next 15 years to cut carbon emissions, in order to forestall the worst effects of global warming, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Expect a certain part of our political class to insist that man-made climate change is not consensus science, and that until it is, nothing should be done. The problem there is obvious: By the time all the skeptics are persuaded, it will...

Fire Caused by Climate Change, Deforestation Trouble For Amazon

Auto World: Fires caused by climate change and deforestation could mean trouble for the trees of the Amazonian rainforest, according to a new study. Biologists from Brazil's Amazon Environmental Research Institute and the Woods Hole Research Center in the U.S. conducted field experiments to figure out how severe drought accelerates forest dieback. Research was published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Traditionally, fires are caused by natural forces in the Amazon....

There are no human rights on a dead planet

Yesterday I spoke at the International Association of Democratic Lawyers congress in Brussels. In the audience there were over 500 hundred progressive lawyers from over 50 countries. Many of these lawyers focus on human rights issues. I called on the lawyers attending the congress to join me in campaigning for environmental protection and protecting environmental human rights defenders. Below is a summary of my remarks.

Work is getting tougher and tougher for lawyers worldwide, especially those working on human rights issues, including the lawyers representing environmentalists.  We at Greenpeace can confirm this based on our work around the world and in our collaboration with big and small NGOs and individual activists fighting on the frontlines, and on the coalface, of environment destruction.

According to the Global Witness report released during the Congress, at least 908 people were killed in 35 countries protecting rights to land and the environment between 2002 and 2013. Moreover, 2012 was the worst year so far to be an environmental defender, with 147 killings – nearly three times more than in 2002. Impunity for these crimes is rife: only 10 perpetrators are known to have been convicted between 2002 and 2013 – just over one per cent of the overall incidence of killings. The problem is particularly acute in Latin America and South East Asia. Brazil is the most dangerous place to defend rights to land and the environment, with 448 killings, followed by Honduras (109) and the Philippines (67). 

Source: Global Witness. Killings of people defending rights to land and environment are increasing. See:

The sad reality is that being an environmental activist is also deadly. Thanks to people like Billy Kyte of Global Witness for exposing the very scary fact 2 activists protecting rights to land and environment are killed per week.

Our own experiences for example in Istanbul’s Gezi Park and in the Russian Arctic last year made me realize how difficult it is to be a peaceful protestor in the current political and legal climate.  It takes an incredibly committed individual to stand up against the all powerful – whether they are governments or oil companies – when those individuals have their security put on the line in order to protect all of our rights.  The 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists who faced piracy charges following their peaceful protest in the Russian arctic had no chance of receiving a fair trial. Luckily, the Arctic 30, as we call them, had their freedom secured by the millions around the world who stood up and took action to defend them.  But most Human Rights defenders are not so lucky.

Environmental campaigners are under attack. Indigenous communities fighting to save their own homes, are too under attack. Governments and corporations are increasingly putting them under immense pressure.   Some are being charged with terrorism and piracy, and jailed, silenced and even killed. Their fundamental rights and freedoms are being violated— freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association – even the right to life itself. As we meet today, Greenpeace  worldwide is facing about 72 million euros in damages claims and our activists collectively face decades of jail-time as a result of peaceful campaign efforts aimed at exposing environmental problems. Corporations are seeking court orders to permanently stop protests.

We need vigorous action fighting public backlash and regressive laws. We need the support of human rights lawyers in strategically defending environmental activists and NGOs from government and corporate attacks. I urge human rights lawyers to be creative and fearless in defending environmental activists from injustice.

Let’s break down the artificial barriers that have so long separated the human rights, environmental, and development communities. We face common threats. But there are common solutions.

Sharon Burrows of the ITUC, in a meeting with the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, noticed that the he was a bit unsure why she was even there because the topic of the conversation was climate change. She said to him, you might be wondering why as a trade unionist I’m so concerned about the climate. That’s because ‘there are no jobs, decent or indecent, on a dead planet.’  As my good friend, Richard Harvey, one of the organisers of this Congress, rightly points out; there are no human rights on a dead planet. So to bring it home, there are no lawyers or clients on a dead planet either.

Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Jimmy Carter Comes Out Against Keystone XL Pipeline

Washington Post: Former president Jimmy Carter, shown here speaking at The Washington Post earlier this month, now opposes construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Former president Jimmy Carter has joined a group of Nobel laureates who oppose construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, warning President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry, “You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change." By announcing his...

European climate at 2 degrees Celsius global warming threshold

ScienceDaily: A global warming of 2?°C relative to pre-industrial climate has been considered as a threshold which society should endeavor to remain below, in order to limit the dangerous effects of anthropogenic climate change. However, a new study shows that, even at this threshold, substantial and robust changes may be expected across Europe. Most of Europe will warm more than the global average with increases over +3 degrees over Northern Europe in winter and Central-Southern Europe in summer. Similar...

Huge Methane Leaks Add Doubt on Gas as ‘Bridge’ Fuel

Climate Central: Natural gas as a means to produce electricity is being hailed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as the fuel that can act as a "bridge" between carbon-heavy coal and zero-carbon renewables, helping to reduce humans' impact on the climate. The idea is that burning natural gas involves fewer greenhouse gas emissions than burning coal. The IPCC in its Working Group III report says natural gas as a bridge fuel will only be effective if few gases escape into the atmosphere during natural...

What Happens If We Exceed the Carbon Budget?

EcoWatch: From the International Energy Agency to NASA, everybody agrees that warming the world by more than 2 degrees Celsius would be akin to diving into the climate change danger zone. In fact, James Hansen, a former NASA scientist now with Columbia University`s Earth Institute, says that operating within that limit “would have consequences that can be described as disastrous.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) established that figure and reminded us about it this week with a new...

What climate change has done to Walden's woods

New Scientist: IN 2001, at the age of 52, Richard Primack packed the records of 21 years of research on tropical rainforests into a filing cabinet. Despite a cool reception from his colleagues at Boston University, the professor of biology had decided to leave that research behind, and see what he could do to make the threat of climate change more tangible. He wanted to find evidence of warming that would be so "up close and personal" that people could not remain unconcerned by change that is too slow for most...

Why the Great Wash U Sit-in Against Peabody Coal Matters: Which Side Are You On?

Huffington Post: Entering its second week, the inspiring Washington University sit-in against Peabody Energy has already gone beyond its goals to cut school ties with the St. Louis-based coal giant, and forced the rest of the nation to ask themselves an urgent question in an age of climate change and reckless strip mining ruin: Which side are you on? Will other schools, alumni groups -- and investors in Peabody Energy -- follow the lead of the Washington U. students? Case in point: Tonight in my native Saline...

Australia: Stanley in climate change plea

West Australian: Leading health researcher Fiona Stanley has warned that children will pay the price if more is not done to address climate change. Speaking before a special address to doctors and medical students yesterday, the Telethon Kids Institute patron said climate change was the biggest global health issue of this century and she worried that sceptics were taking over the debate. She was speaking at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital at a talk partly organised by Doctors for the Environment Australia. "I'm...

Moths And The Masking Of Climate Change

RedOrbit: A new climate change study conducted on sub-Arctic moths living in Finland has revealed mixed results: moths seem to be thriving despite a warmer, wetter climate – while an as-yet-unknown force is apparently masking the expected effects of this localized climate change. "You see it getting warmer, you see it getting wetter and you see that the moth populations are either staying the same or going up. So you might think, 'Great. The moths like this warmer, wetter climate.` But that`s not what`s...

Moth Study shows Climate Change Effects Masked

Nature World: While populations of 80 moth species in Finnish Lapland are generally either stable or increasing, a study by the University of Michigan suggests their growth rates have been dropping, according to a release from the school. The researchers concluded from the 32-year study that the impact of climate change on animals and plants is being underestimated because much of the harm is hidden from view. "You see it getting warmer, you see it getting wetter, and you see that the moth populations are either...

U.N. climate report was censored

Grist: Keep walking past the earthly conflagration, folks. There`s nothing to see here. When the latest installment of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report landed over the weekend, only a 33-page summary was published. The full report, which details the radical steps we need to take to reduce greenhouse gas pollution if we are to succeed in capping warming at 2 degrees Celsius, wasn`t published until this morning. So that summary was the basis for hundreds of media reports beamed...

Purdue and Cornell Researchers Reveal Up to 1,000 Times More Methane Emissions Than Estimated

EcoWatch: Because natural gas has less carbon than dirty coal, gas producers and even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have applauded it as a cleaner alternative. Hopefully, a joint study from researchers at two universities will change that. Purdue and Cornell universities on Monday released a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America with data on higher-than-expected methane levels found above shale gas wells. The researchers...

IPCC concludes: Renewable energy shift is a must

Environmental News Network: Conclusions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's are simple: rapid shifts to renewable energy are needed to avert catastrophic global warming. The IPCC's report was produced by 1250 international experts and approved by each major government in the world. The report documented increases in human-caused greenhouse gases, the source of those gases, and their climatic effect. The most significant conclusions resulting from IPPC report are: - Current efforts to reduce greenhouse gases...

Climate Change Causes Chain Reaction in Ecosystems

EcoWatch: A collaborative study released yesterday involving scientists from the Cambridge Conservation Initiative has shown that climate change is altering species distributions and populations, seemingly through shifting interactions between species rather than direct responses to climate. The study, led by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and involving Fauna & Flora International, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Royal Society for...

Identifying the Global Coal Industry’s Water Risks

Water is essential for energy production—when water risks arise, energy producers around the world feel the impacts. A massive flood in Australia in 2011 reduced its coal export volume, pushing global coal prices higher. Drought in the U.S. Midwest ravaged corn fields in 2012, contributing to higher gasoline prices.

The trend is clear: Regional water concerns are creating significant financial risks, thanks in large part to advanced global commodity trading and energy industries’ high dependence on water. And it’s a trend that is poised to worsen. BP projects a 36 percent increase in global energy consumption by 2030, while the Water Resources Group predicts that in the same amount of time freshwater supplies will fall 40 percent short of total demand globally.

The water–energy nexus is becoming one of the great challenges of our generation—one that also holds significant implications for political leaders and investors alike. This article explores how water risks are already impacting the world’s coal industry, and how risks will change over time.

Figure 1. 2012 Global energy producers by fuel type (Source: BP)

Global Energy and Coal Industry Overview

Coal continues to be a dominant force in the global energy market (Figure 1). The fossil fuel accounts for one-third of total energy consumption, second only to oil. Global coal consumption grew by 2.5 percent in 2012, continuing coal’s years-long streak as the fastest-growing fossil fuel. Many of the world’s top coal producers are also the biggest consumers (Tables 1 and 2, respectively), with China, India, and the U.S. near the top of both lists.

According to an analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI), as of July 2012, 1199 new coal-fired power plants with a total installed capacity of more than 1400 GW have been proposed for construction in 59 countries worldwide (Figure 2). More than three-quarters of this capacity is slated for development in China and India.

Global Water Trends and Risk Hotspots

As with most energy sources, coal-related industries—including mining, coal-to-chemicals, and power generation—are extremely water-intensive. Coal mines depend on water to extract, wash, and process coal, while coal-burning power plants need water to create steam and for cooling. Use varies widely at different plants depending on their generating and cooling technologies. In the U.S., for example, dry cooling, when employed, requires small amounts of water for system maintenance and cleaning. Once-through cooling systems withdraw the most water—between 20,000 gal/MWh (75.7 m3/MWh) and 50,000 gal/MWh (189.3 m3/MWh). They consumefar less—between 100 gal/MWh (0.4 m3/MWh), and 317 gal/MWh (1.2 m3/MWh). (The difference in water withdrawal and consumption is explained in the sidebar). Without effective regulatory enforcement and long-term water–resource management, water–energy choke points create uncertain financial risks to companies and investors.

Consumption vs. Withdrawal

“Water withdrawal” and “water consumption” describe two different processes. Water that is withdrawn is used and then returned to the source. Therefore, most of the water used by once-through cooling systems is withdrawn. Water that is consumed is used and not returned to the source. Consumption happens when water evaporates or is incorporated into other products—especially agriculture. Almost 50 percent of the water used in agriculture is lost to the atmosphere or transpired through plant leaves.

Table 1. Top 10 Coal-producing Countries (2012) | Table 2. Top 10 coal-consuming countries (2012)

Like much of the world’s energy supply, the coal industry’s thirst is especially concerning when you consider global water trends and risk hotspots. According to WRI’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, water stress—taking into account agricultural, industrial, and domestic users (Figure 3)—is growing worldwide. Baseline water stress was more prevalent and more severe in every continent in 2010 than it was in 2000, particularly in China, South and Central Asia, and the U.S. west coast. This increased stress can be attributed to a growing demand for freshwater and supply shortages caused by shifting global precipitation patterns from climate change, among other factors.7

What Is Baseline Water Stress?

Baseline water stress is a measure of demand and supply for water in a given area, and is calculated as a ratio of local water withdrawal over water supply. In extremely high water-stressed areas, 80 percent of the available supply is withdrawn every year. A high percentage means more water users are competing for limited supplies.

As well, more than 50 percent of the world’s largest coal-producing/consuming countries face high to extremely high levels of water stress, which can be attributed to the many competing demands on water resources. WRI developed a country-level water stress measurement that identifies where agricultural, domestic, and industrial users are withdrawing water. This is important, since water supply and demand varies significantly within a country, from dry prairies to lush rainforest and from industrial megacities to rural townships. High to extremely high stress indicates that farms, municipalities, and industries nationwide already account for at least 40 percent of the water naturally available to them, based on a weighted average. That fact can pose significant hurdles for energy producers and other water-intensive businesses.

Figure 2. Global Proposed New Coal-fired Power Generation Capacity as of June 2012 (Source: WRI)

Figure 3. 2010 Water Withdrawal by Sector of Major Coal-producing/consuming Countries (Source: WRI Aqueduct)

Additionally, nearly half of the seven most water-stressed countries also face high to extremely high seasonal variability (Table 3); in each of these countries, the water supply varies dramatically between wet and dry seasons within a year. That volatility can disrupt operations and increase production costs. For example, a drought in Texas in 2011 placed exceptional stress on the power grid, and the state only avoided blackouts by placing restrictions on farmers and ranchers with senior water rights, showing the tension on the water resources from the competing demands of primarily agriculture and energy.

Water stress is not limited to geographically dry countries. Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan—all coal producers/users—are classified as highly water-stressed because they use more than the annually available surface freshwater supply for city, agricultural, and industrial development. Because naturally occurring, renewable freshwater cannot meet these countries’ needs, their cities are heavily dependent on costly alternative water sources, such as groundwater, seawater desalination, and inter-basin transfers. The more dependent an area is on alternative freshwater sources, the higher the water-related risks to its financial assets.

These risks can be wide-ranging, as Société Générale outlined in an October 2013 report.1 The report found that limited access to water-supply sources can disrupt operations. Cutting water-allocation permits due to insufficient water in an area can delay project development. Securing new water sources is often an expensive process, increasing project costs. Possible up-front investments—which can reduce those long-term costs—include efficiency, recycling, and wastewater treatment to meet regulatory requirements meant to protect stressed resources. Companies could avoid all those issues with sufficient naturally occurring supplies. However, as demand exceeds renewable supplies, alternative sources and all their associated issues come to the forefront.

Table 3. Water Stress and Seasonal Variability Levels of Major Coal-producing/consuming Countries

Exploring China’s Coal–Water Nexus

Given that China is the world’s largest coal producer and consumer—accounting for more than half of the planet’s coal consumption—it is worth exploring that country’s specific water– energy risks in greater depth. China’s total installed coal-fired power generation capacity at the end of 2012 was 758 GW, more than 66% of the nation’s total power generation capacity .

However, China is also quite dry. Its average water resources are only 1730 m3/yr per capita, barely above the United Nations’ water scarcity marker. Eight provinces have fewer than 500 m3/yr per capita of total available surface water, which is on par with Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan or Syria.

More importantly, there’s a geographical mismatch between the country’s water resources and its coal reserves. While water is generally much more abundant in southern China, two-thirds of China’s coal mines are located in the water-stressed north. According to a recent Wood Mackenzie report, 58 percent of China’s existing coal-fired power generation capacity is located in high to extremely high water-stress areas, where local water demands are high and water resources face strong competition among users in the industrial, agricultural, and domestic sectors.

WRI’s study found that, as of July 2012, the Chinese government had planned another 363 coal-fired power plants for construction across China. Those plants’ combined generating capacity would exceed 557 GW. This amounts to an almost 75 percent increase in the nation’s total power-generating capacity, 50 percent of which is located in areas with high to extremely high water stress. More than 60 percent of the proposed generating capacity is slated for six northern provinces, which account for only 5 percent of China’s total water resources.

If China builds all the plants now in the planning stages, China’s coal industry—including mining, chemical production, and power generation (not including the water withdrawal for once-through cooling systems)—could withdraw as much as 10 billion m3 of water annually by 2015. That’s more than one-quarter of the water available for withdrawal every year from the Yellow River. We believe water withdrawal is as important as water consumption because, while water that is withdrawn does return to the ecosystem, it is still not always available for all other users. These water withdrawal and consumption estimates assume no policy changes or technology improvements, so actual usage rates could be lower.

The power plant sites were selected because they are located next to coal mines, a proximity which would reduce coal transportation costs. The proposed sites would, however, exacerbate the industry’s environmental impacts on already stressed water resources.

The Chinese government recognizes the need to balance its water and energy consumption. The Ministry of Water Resources recently announced a new policy document called the “Water Allocation Plan for the Development of Coal Bases,” aimed at protecting water resources in large coal bases. The plan specifies water use efficiency and discharge requirements for existing coal bases and requires all new coal mines to submit a water resources planning study.

These new rules proved a step in the right direction, since proposed power plants in major coal bases facing water scarcity must apply air cooling technology. Air cooling uses far less water than other cooling systems, so it dramatically reduces coal-fired power plants’ overall water usage. The Water Allocation Plan is important, considering most of the bases are already under high water stress. Still, without expanding water recycling and wastewater treatment, additional water withdrawal activities would only make things worse.

A broader policy vision acknowledges and responds to this reality. China’s State Council created three national goals for water, called the “Three Red Lines”. The plan aims to cap annual maximum water use nationwide at 700 billion m3, improve industrial water use efficiency to an internationally advanced level, and protect water quality to maximize sustainable development.

In the face of highly stressed water resources, coal mining and power generation industries in China could see increased production costs in the short term as it could be more expensive to access alternative water supplies, address ongoing regulatory changes, and guard against potential disruptions. To mitigate these risks, China should pair water risk management at its power plants with consistent, carefully crafted legislation like the Water Allocation Plan. Such measures may require up-front investment, but any such expenditure will support sustainable water management and long-term business continuity.

Financial Risks Associated With the Water–Coal Nexus In India

Already one of the world’s top coal consumers, India’s dependence on coal-fired power generation is expected to grow. The country proposed nearly 520 GW of new coal-fired capacity nationwide as of July 2012 to meet high growth in electricity demand.

India is already highly water stressed, however, largely based on water use in the agricultural sector. Total water withdrawals in 2010 topped 760 billion m3. That is more than China and Russia’s total withdrawals combined, while India’s total renewable water resources account for only a quarter of China and Russia’s combined total.

More than 70 percent of India’s power plants are located in water stressed or water-scarce areas. Stressed water resources are already impacting power projects in India, causing delays and operational losses. For example, inadequate water supplies in the state of Chhattisgarh shut down the National Thermal Power Corporation’s Sipat plant in 2008. Project execution delays and lost power output can also turn water-related risks into financial losses.

While shareholders are usually not financially exposed to water-related risks, as they are shielded by protective regulations enabled by India’s state-owned power sector, water risks may become more material under certain circumstances. Unregulated plants, for instance, might not be able to pass costs on to end-users, reduced power outputs could violate the terms of the purchase agreements, or the regulatory framework could change. Any changes would fall against the backdrop of the Government of India’s National Water Mission. The national policy framework calls for a 20 percent improvement in water efficiency nationally through regulatory mechanisms. It also encourages conservation and water waste minimization. Every water user, industrial power generators included, will need to optimize their conservation, recycling, and reuse practices to meet this goal.

Several measures can help utilities in stressed regions better manage and mitigate water-related cost, output, and regulatory risks. Infrastructure investments, including backup supply reservoirs and desalination plants, will better secure long-term business growth, even though such capital spending requires up-front investment. The Energy and Resources Institute in India also recommends third-party, regular water audits, as well as standards for water consumption in the power sector. More consistent legislation overall will give companies a framework for long-term energy production and financial planning while protecting at-risk water supplies.

Managing Global Water Risks in the Coal Business

The case studies from China and India illustrate that unmanaged water risks have financial consequences for national and international companies. Recent guidelines from China’s Ministry of Water Resources will limit coal expansion based on regional water capacity, and may slow down coal-project approvals. The guidelines will also push companies to pay for wastewater recycling and wastewater treatment systems. That large capital investment, combined with higher annual operating costs, means that companies must take a long-term view. They should pursue advanced water risk management at power plants while understanding the value in consistent, carefully crafted legislation. The combination will ensure that energy production can grow within natural resource limits.

Considering the potential for increased regulatory uncertainty and likelihood of supply constraints, water poses a variety of business risks for the global coal industry. The World Resources Institute recommends that the industry assess water risks more deliberately and broadly, hold itself accountable, and take actions to respond to the challenges. A range of actions is available, including innovative technology and public policy engagement to collectively reduce shared water risks, all on the path to advanced water stewardship.

Furthermore, governments around the world should protect water resources and encourage energy projects that face fewer risks from water stress and limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Those cautionary measures will better align policymaking with water and energy planning, and balance resource constraints with economic growth.

To start assessing your business’s global water risks, please contact one of the authors: Tianyi Luo, Betsy Otto, Tien Shiao, or Andrew Maddocks. See also Aqueduct's homepage.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in Cornerstone, the journal of the World Coal Association. The content in Cornerstone does not necessarily reflect the views of the World Coal Association or its members.

1. Whooley, N., Crozat, C., Ouaknine, Y., & Helouin, A. (21 October 2013). Mining and water risk. Clear or muddy waters ahead? Société Générale Cross Asset Research.
7. Qili, H. (2013). The development strategy for coal-fired power generation in China. Cornerstone, 1(1), 19–23.


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Blue and Green: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has approved a new energy plan that promotes coal as a cheap, stable, long-term and efficient energy source, along with nuclear power, while failing to set adequate renewable energy targets. Shortly after the UN warned that the world must dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels and increase investment in clean energy in order to tackle climate change, the Japanese government has given the green light to a new energy plan that would give a prominent role to...

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Blue and Green: Scientists frustrated by a lack of action on climate change, despite the recent stark warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), should go on strike, it has been suggested. In a blog post, Dr Jonathan Rowson said that while it was “a long shot” that may never be able to happen, a global strike of scientists could have a massive effect. Rowson, director of the Social Brain Centre at the enlightenment organisation the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures...

Ex-U.N. climate chief installed as new head of GGGI

Yonhap: A former head of the United Nations' climate change agency began his term on Tuesday as the new director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), the Seoul-initiated international green growth entity said. Yvo de Boer, who served as the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the deputy director general of the Dutch environment ministry, succeeds Howard Bamsey for a four-year term, the institute said in a statement. "Multiple challenges...

IPCC report: we have the tools, now it's time for a tough UN climate deal

RTCC: Runaway climate change can be thwarted. The cost of fighting global warming is affordable. It`s also within the reach of the richest. What’s more, we can avert this global crisis without sacrificing living standards of the developed industrialised world. That`s the message I read from the IPCC fifth assessment report on mitigation released on April 13, 2014 in Berlin. This UN report essentially says the transformation needed to a clean energy world or low carbon growth is possible. I...

Congressman Denies Manmade Climate Change, Calls It ‘An Agenda-Driven Science’

ThinkProgress: Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) readily admits he’s “not smart enough” to determine the roots of climate change. He is, however, able to rule out one possible cause: humans. The freshman congressman’s remarks came in an interview with ThinkProgress Monday following a town hall meeting. Asked about the spate of extreme weather, including weeks of punishing drought, that has gripped parts of Florida in recent years, Yoho dismissed the idea that it could be a symptom of manmade climate change. “I think it’s...

Converting Peat Swamp to Palm Oil Plantations Contributes to Climate Change

Environmental Leader: Converting peat swamp forests in Southeast Asia into industrial oil palm and pulpwood plantations releases emissions, threatens biodiversity and ultimately accelerates climate change, according to a guest column by a Princeton professor and PhD candidate at the university. As trees are stripped from peat swamp to make room for oil palm plantations, the peat is drained and the decomposition releases a large amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, David Wilcove, professor of public affairs...

Impact of urbanisation on built environment ‘staggering’, says report

Blue and Green: Big business needs to “ramp-up” its board-level understanding of built environment issues, such as dealing with problems related to carbon targets, a new report has warned. The University College London-commissioned report – The Built Environment: Profit Warning – looks at how the world and businesses will need to adapt to an increasing population, which is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, whilst dealing with other challenges, such as climate change, energy security and shifts in demographics....

U.N. climate report: We must focus on “decarbonization,” and it won’t wreck the economy

Slate: So far, climate change is following the plot of an epic disaster movie. In the last few years, giant megafires have burned out of control, we’ve been hit with superstorms, our fields have wilted, and there’s barely any ice left at the North Pole. Despite all we think we’ve done so far to change course, emissions are still increasing. We’ve now advanced to the part when the world’s best scientists emerge from their conclave to announce a range of possible plans that could save us from going...

Salamanders Shrink as Climate Heats Up

LiveScience: Wild salamanders that live in the Appalachian Mountains are shrinking because they must burn more energy as the local climate gets hotter and drier, according to a new study. Researchers found that the salamanders they collected between 1980 and 2012 were 8 percent smaller than those collected in earlier decades, starting in 1957. The findings confirm predictions that some species will shrink in response to climate change. The climate where the salamanders live has gotten warmer and drier, researchers...

Averting Disastrous Climate Change Could Depend Unproven Technologies

MIT Technology Review: Carbon conundrum: One way to decrease the amount of carbon in the atmosphere would be to reverse the kind of deforestation shown here in Victoria, Australia. A U.N. climate report released on Sunday concludes that there may still be time to limit global warming to an increase of two degrees Celsius or less, which could help the world avoid the worst effects of climate change. But doing so will depend on making extraordinary changes to energy infrastructure at a much faster pace than is happening...

IPCC finally weighs in on how to avoid further climate change

Ars Technica: If you were collecting sections of the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, you can now complete your set. Following the release of the section on the physical science of climate change in September and the section on the impacts of, and adaptations to, climate change just two weeks ago, the section on how to avoid future warming was finally released over the weekend in Berlin. This section was written by 235 scientists from 58 countries and cites almost 10,000 studies....

Decentralized Actions Ready to Stop Keystone XL

Rainforest Action Network: The campaign to stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has become a watershed moment in confronting climate change and fossil fuel extraction. So far, more than 94,000 people have signed the Pledge of Resistance, committing to risk arrest, if necessary, to stop the approval of Keystone XL. Since last summer, I’ve been part of RAN’s Pledge training team. We have trained courageous folks from coast to coast to take leadership on more than 100 civil disobedience actions to show President Obama that...

IPCC report: How to fight global warming while saving money

Christian Science Monitor: Energy efficiency is a "key mitigation strategy" in keeping global carbon emissions within a safe range through the end of the century, according to a report issued Sunday by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In the near term, it may be the most immediate and inexpensive way to curtail emissions while more costly and complex solutions get under way. Smarter energy use alone won't solve global warming. The world will also need to quickly shift to carbon-free...

How long before the magnificent marine life of the Bering Sea canyons is given sanctuary?

I have just sat through four painstaking days of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. It's an eight-day meeting but luckily for me - and my sanity - I only had to endure four. This government body is tasked with fishery management and conservation of marine ecosystems in the North Pacific Ocean off of Alaska which belong to the United States of America. The Management Council's vision statement seems pretty commendable to me. It talks about sustainable fisheries, the need to maintain healthy productive, resilient ecosystems that support robust populations of marine species, and it states that fisheries should be managed using a precautionary, transparent, and inclusive process.

So what is Greenpeace doing here? The Bering Sea boasts some incredible marine life. It is also boasts two of the world’s largest underwater canyons: the Pribilof and Zhemchug canyons. These canyons are rare and support a high diversity of marine life from ancient deep-sea corals to a myriad of fish species that are long-lived and vulnerable to over exploitation. We have only just begun to understand what lives in these canyons. In fact Greenpeace pioneered the exploration of the canyons by sending two submersibles down to the canyons in 2007 to document life there. We even discovered a species of sponge new to science!

The Bering Sea is also one of the world's most productive and lucrative fishing grounds. Large volumes of popular and commercially valuable fish such as pollock, Pacific cod and halibut are caught here.  Mostly this is carried out using extremely destructive methods such as bottom trawling, which literally scrapes the ocean floor destroying everything in its wake, and long-lining which also damages corals and sea floor habitat. Both these techniques result in indiscriminate bycatch, the wasteful killing of all sorts of animals not actually targeted by the fishery. Once you destroy a deep-sea coral – it won’t come back for tens to hundreds of years, if at all. Bottom trawling really is like clear-felling an ancient rainforest for the sake of catching a few deer.

Greenpeace and our allies have been working to get these canyons protected from the onslaught of destructive fishing gear and climate change for over a decade now.  New science, modeling and public sentiment are all pointing to the same thing. If we want to ensure a productive fishery well into the future we must set areas for protection aside now.

I am new to the politics of ocean conservation in the USA. I am normally based in the Netherlands working for Greenpeace International and have had the displeasure of witnessing first hand how international bodies such as the UN, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations or the European Union go about failing to take necessary immediate action to protect our oceans and the animals that live in them despite the latest science telling us that our oceans are in crisis. Close to 80 percent of our fish stocks around the world are in a poor state as a direct result of over-fishing. Add to that pollution, deep-seabed mining, ocean acidification and climate change - it is time to give our oceans a break. To recover, replenish, build resilience and ensure bounty from our oceans for future generations we need to establish ocean sanctuaries.

I came to Alaska with the understanding that the USA is perceived as one of the leading countries globally when it comes to managing and protecting our ocean resources and that this particular Council was ahead of all others in the US. I therefore naively came with hope that we might actually see some meaningful steps come out of this meeting. After all it wasn't that long ago that I was in Tasmania, Australia for the annual international meeting that seeks to conserve marine life in Antarctica where the US is proactively pushing for protection of the Ross Sea. If the US is so good to the Antarctic – an area shared by the global community - surely they would prize life in their very own Bering Sea?

Sadly, I was wrong. Like any other management meeting I have been to, the fishing industry maintains a stranglehold on decision-making. Despite irrefutable observational data on the incredible life forms that thrive in these canyons and their vulnerability; despite scientific modeling (which managers find perfectly adequate for determining catch quotas); and despite the calls of millions of public stakeholders including the Native communities of Alaska who depend on a healthy Bering Sea for their livelihoods, the Council has decided to kick the can well in to 2016 before taking any meaningful action to protect the ancient worlds of the Bering Sea. Until then the industrial trawlers and long-liners will keep destroying what essentially belongs to all of us: our common heritage.

I walk away from this meeting more determined than ever to help my colleagues in the US explore new avenues for raising the urgency for action. If they won't listen to science then they'll have to listen to you! If you want to make a difference tell your local seafood restaurant or supermarket to stop selling fish from the Bering Sea Canyons and sign our global petition to establish ocean sanctuaries around the world.

Farah Obaidullah is a Senior Oceans Campaigner with Greenpeace International

Read more [Greenpeace international]

German energy crisis points towards climate solution

New Scientist: Solar panels covered the office roof, wind turbines hummed on the hill, and biogas was brewing in the field behind us. Last week Petra Rösch spoke proudly about how her farm in Proschim village, eastern Germany, had become an energy supplier for the area. It was the perfect image of Germany's claims to be the world leader in renewable energy, and a model for how the industrialised world can tackle climate change. There was just one problem. Later this month, Brandenburg's state government looks...

No option left but to suck CO2 out of air, says IPCC

New Scientist: It is a beguiling idea: grow crops that suck carbon dioxide from the air, burn them to generate electricity, then bury the resulting CO2. The result? Less CO2 in the air, and less climate change. This idea's time has come. The new report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published on Sunday in Berlin, Germany, says "widespread" use of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) will probably be needed to stop the world warming by 2 °C, the politically agreed danger...

Divert excessive weapon spending to achieve clean energy future

According to new figures released on Monday, last year a whopping US$1747 billion was spent on armies across the world. Modest decreases in spending in austerity hit Western Europe and reduced spending in the US, which is still the biggest spender by far with almost 40% of global spending, were matched by increased spending in Eastern Europe and Asia. While the West still spent over half of global defense outlays, this is down from two-thirds of global totals in 2010. In the perverted logic that equates development and regional power with military might, emerging economies continue to ramp up their so-called defense spending levels. 'Defense' outlays in China and Russia have been rising since 2008 by more than 40% and 30% respectively, while massive increases are also taking place in India and Saudi Arabia.

Not only is weapon spending higher now than in the peak of the Cold War, it is also projected to further increase this year, after five years of remaining relatively stable.

"The world is over-armed and peace is underfunded," said Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General. When you consider these figures alongside the volume of international weapon trade, which has also grown by 14% in the last four years, it is hard to disagree. Consider this - the regular budget of the UN, the body set up following World War II to preserve peace through international cooperation and collective security - is only US$2.7 billion. A fraction of what is spent on weapons.

Sadly, there is a large gap between which countries are prepared to allocate for military means to prepare for war and maintain their global and regional power status, on the one hand, and to prevent war and promote true security, on the other. Fighting poverty, which kills millions worldwide, and promoting sustainable development, gets only a fraction in comparison to these so called ‘defense’ spending. In fact, the term 'defense' spending, commonly used to describe these costs, is grossly misleading as spending on tanks, bombs, battleships, nukes and so on does little to defend people, but rather defends the interests of those who are in the business of war - manufacturing, trading and subsidizing weapons.

Only last month, we heard the world’s leading scientists warn that climate change will increasingly threat human security and could, if not addressed, fuel insecurity and conflicts. A grim picture, but there is room for hope. A new report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this weekend shows that climate action is in fact an opportunity, not a burden. The report makes the solution crystal clear: transforming the world’s power system from one that is dominated by fossil fuels to one dominated by renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. Renewables - safer, cleaner and now cheaper than ever - hold the key to our future.

Earlier this year, we heard US Secretary of State calling climate change "perhaps the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction". It is only right then that money is diverted for defending us from such destruction. That would be a true defense spending. It is coal plants and oil rigs that are in fact weapons of mass destruction - not only destroying our planet, but killing people already. And subsidizing fossil fuels at a total of US$1.9 trillion annually is no less than a crime against humanity.

In light of the rough estimates by the IPCC and others, diverting even half of military spending into preventing climate change and adapting to the impacts we can no longer avoid would bring much more security than any tanks and bombs can ever do. In return, we would get clean and safe energy, clearer skies, healthier oceans and a better future for our children. Just imagine how fast we could achieve the clean energy future climate scientists are calling for if we redirected all this money.

Jen Maman is the Peace Advisor at Greenpeace International.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Water Stress Magnifies Drought’s Negative Impacts throughout the United States

Dried-out fields and dwindling reservoirs are becoming all too common across the United States, as companies, farms, and municipalities stagger along under years’ long droughts. Worsening dry conditions now affect two-thirds of Texas. California’s historic drought shows no signs of improvement. Exceptional to moderate drought conditions extend in pockets from Oklahoma north through Minnesota. And in Colorado, The Denver Post wrote, “comparisons to the Dust Bowl are no longer hyperbole — they're accurate.”

Years of Living Dangerously, a new Showtime series about climate change, turned its lens on how drought devastated the small town of Plainview, Texas in its first episode, which aired last night. Drought drove a Cargill beef-processing plant – Plainview’s largest employer – to close in 2013. More than 2,000 jobs disappeared in a town of 22,000.

In Plainview—and every other drought-stricken place across the United States—a precipitous drop in rainfall is only part of a much broader story. Underlying water stress is one important piece of that complicated puzzle. When drought strikes where baseline water stress is high, it exacerbates regions’ water woes.

Click map to view larger version.

Plainview in Perspective

As drought withered once-rich grazing lands and increased feed prices across Texas, ranchers had to sell their herds to stay in business. The state’s cattle herds are now at their lowest level in half a century, the Showtime episode explained. That meant less business for Cargill.

The company’s now-shuttered Plainview plant sits within the Brazos River basin. The Brazos is the longest river in Texas—and what the show didn’t mention is that the river is also extremely water-stressed.

WRI’s Aqueduct project recently evaluated, mapped, and scored stresses on water supplies in the world’s 100 largest river basins. The Brazos ranked 13th most stressed among the world’s largest rivers. The river’s extremely high stress level means that 80 percent or more of its naturally available surface water supply is already being used by farms, homes, businesses, and energy producers.

All users in the basin, therefore, compete for limited resources. So even in non-drought conditions, Plainview and the surrounding area would have cause for concern. While infrastructure and management interventions—such as water reuse systems—can help improve water access in the area, the fundamental reality is that all users are extremely vulnerable to changes in available supply, such as those that occur during drought.

A National Trend

Plainview’s plight is emblematic of a broad, national trend. Drought and water stress overlap in many regions facing water shortages in the United States. The Aqueduct project shows that 66 percent of California’s irrigated agriculture is exposed to extremely high water stress. Two of the United States’ largest river basins also face extremely high stress – the Colorado and the Rio Grande—which provide water supplies to eight states. More than 30 million people depend on the Colorado alone for water. Both of these rivers rank in the top 18 most-stressed river basins around the world, when analyzed by population.

And these risks are projected to increase. Climate change will generally make precipitation more extreme, variable, and unpredictable in the years ahead. Additionally, hotter average temperatures mean drier soil, so farms may face greater risks to their crops and ranchers to their herds, even if it rains more regularly.

How Can We Ensure a Water-Secure Future?

There is hope, however, for solutions. As the steady stream of national-level coverage and this video series demonstrate, national awareness amongst all stakeholders is starting to build – from individual water users, to politicians and business people, to celebrities like Don Cheadle, who hosted the Plainview story.

That attention can only help further some of the approaches that aim to bring water demand more in line with available supply for agriculture, industry, and municipalities. For example, some companies are starting to realize that water risks pose serious implications for their bottom lines. Cargill now participates in the CDP’s water-risk disclosure program. Tools like CDP’s survey are essential as more and more investors seek water-risk information and companies take water risk evaluation and mitigation more seriously. California is among the states leading the way in researching demand-reduction strategies. And in Australia, another notorious drought hot spot, the government has invested heavily in water efficiency and created an innovative water-rights trading system to cap overall demand and preserve water for the surrounding environment.

Wherever drought and water stress overlap, reducing water use is an essential step toward long-term economic, social, and political stability. We’re starting to figure out solutions to the world’s water woes—but truly creating a water-secure future will require more information, research, and innovation.


A sustainable investment revolution must emerge from the IPCC’s stark warning

Blue and Green: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report has implications for us all. But given it warns of the unsustainability of our approach to energy production and calls for an unprecedented trillion-dollar shift in investment, it is particularly significant for investors. Published yesterday, the comprehensive UN study says that without mitigation, scientists estimate that rising emissions mean global temperatures may increase by as much as 3.7C to 4.8C from pre-industrial times...

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