Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts

Friday, July 24, 2009

Climate change deal has a Himalayan mountain to climb

The climate change debate saw the rift between development and developing countries widen. I have tried to point out numerous times just how big the gap is and that the chances of it narrowing are very slim. This article merely emphasises why a deal is close to impossible to achieve.

The fact that India reject "key scientific findings" is more worrying. What hope is there if basic science is not trusted.

Are the Himalayan glaciers melting or not? You would have thought that would be fairly simple to calculate.

IF Western science is correct populations in China and India are in huge trouble. That is the irony of this debate. It is developing countries will suffer the most from climate change.

Before reading on guess how many Himalayan glaciers there are?

a) 15
B) 1,500
C) 15,000
D) 150,000

India widens climate rift with west [FT]

A split between rich and poor nations in the run-up to climate-change talks widened on Thursday.

India rejected key scientific findings on global warming, while the European Union called for more action by developing states on greenhouse gas emissions.

Jairam Ramesh, the Indian environment minister, accused the developed world of needlessly raising alarm over melting Himalayan glaciers.

He dismissed scientists’ predictions that Himalayan glaciers might disappear within 40 years as a result of global warming.

“We have to get out of the preconceived notion, which is based on western media, and invest our scientific research and other capacities to study Himalayan atmosphere,” he said.

“Science has its limitation. You cannot substitute the knowledge that has been gained by the people living in cold deserts through everyday experience.”

Mr Ramesh was also clear that India would not take on targets to cut its emissions, even though developed countries are asking only for curbs in the growth of emissions, rather than absolute cuts.

His stance was at wide variance with that of Andreas Carlgren, his Swedish counterpart. Sweden holds the European Union’s revolving presidency until a conference in Copenhagen in December at which governments will try to hammer out a successor to the Kyoto protocol on curbing greenhouse emissions – the main provisions of which expire in 2012.

Mr Carlgren said in Are, Sweden, that developing countries such as India, China and Brazil must propose more ambitious plans to reduce emissions if they were to receive finance from wealthy nations.

Rich and poor countries have been squabbling over the issue of financing for months, imperilling the outcome of the Copenhagen talks. Rich countries have not agreed to provide the funding that poor nations say is necessary to help them cut their emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Mr Carlgren went on the offensive on Thursday, saying poorer countries must come up with firm plans to cut emissions before financing will be forthcoming.

States such as China and India have produced plans for curbing the growth in their emissions but these have not been formalised within the negotiating process.

Mr Carlgren also criticised rich countries for failing to agree to cut their emissions by the amounts needed. “So far, what we have seen from other countries is too low. We expect more from developed countries,” he said.

But the Swedish environment minister said poor countries must also do more to forge an agreement. “We are prepared to put money on the table. But it should also be said that if we don’t see significant reductions that will really deviate from business as usual . . . then there is no money,” Mr Carlgren said, singling out China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia. “We are also prepared to deliver financing, but we must see that there is something to pay for.”

India has taken the hardest line in the negotiations so far. Along with China, India refused at the meeting of the Group of Eight industrialised nations this month to sign up to a target of cutting global emissions by half by 2050. The countries were holding out to gain concessions from the west on financing.

The claims from Mr Ramesh that Western science was wrong on the question of melting Himalayan glaciers appeared to reinforce Delhi’s recalcitrant stance.

Mr Ramesh this week challenged Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, over her appeal to India to embrace a low-carbon future and not repeat the mistakes of the developed world in seeking fast industrialisation.

The consequences of depleted glaciers – sensitive to rising temperature and humidity – would be dire.

Seven of the world’s greatest rivers , including the Ganges and the Yangtze, are fed by the glaciers of the Himalayas and Tibet. They supply water to about 40 per cent of the world’s population.

Water supply is likely to become an increasing national security priority for both India and China as they seek to maintain high economic growth rates and sustain large populations dependent on farming. Some scientists have warned that rivers such as the Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra could become seasonal rivers as a result of global warming.

Indians are also fearful of weakening monsoon rains. Some parts of India, including Delhi, the capital, are still waiting anxiously for this year’s rains to come in earnest. A late, or a poor, monsoon would be a drag on economic growth.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, has described melting glaciers as a “canary in the climate-change coal mine”, warning that billions of people depend on these natural water storage facilities for drinking water, power generation and agriculture.

Mr Ramesh said the rate of retreat of glaciers in the Himalayas varied from a “couple of centimetres a year to a couple of metres”, but that this was a natural process that had taken place occurred over the centuries. Some were, in fact, growing, he said.

The glaciers – estimated by India’s space agency to number about 15,000 – had also been affected by debris and the large number of tourists, he said.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bali Boo Hoo Boys Win the Day - but what have they really won?

The delegates at Bali have eventually come up with a road map for progress on climate change. Whilst this is undoubtedly better than no deal at all, as economists we like to see numbers. It is the numbers that are conspicuous by their absence.

We will not comment at length in this blog as this is headline news and more to do with politics than economics.

However, the political wrangling was impressive and the pincer movement by India and the EU that isolated the US was an excellent example of orchestrated political maneuvering. I expect the US and George Bush are secretly or not so secretly livid.

The booing of the US delegate will be remembered for many years to come as a pivotal moment in the history of climate change action. Political drama at its best.

So where are we now:
The "Bali roadmap" initiates a two-year process of negotiations designed to agree a new set of emissions targets to replace those in the Kyoto Protocol.

So now we have 2 years of negotiations ahead on how to cut emissions. It all comes back to the stand-off between developing countries who have growth as a priority and the developed nations who want all countries to cut emissions proportionately even though the current climate change crisis was due primarily to Western and not LDC pollution.

There is no simple solution but one that involves a transfer of green and clean technologies (as requested by India) seems a logical way forward.

Climate deal sealed by US U-turn [BBC]

The final paragraph of the BBC report simply states:
"We need to find a new mechanism that values standing forests," said Andrew Mitchell, executive director of the Global Canopy Programme, an alliance of research institutions.

"Ultimately, if this does its job, [deforestation] goes down to nothing."

Mr Mitchell said the only feasible source of sufficient funds was a global carbon market.

But many economists believe mandatory emissions targets are needed to create a meaningful global market.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

455 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent is HERE

Have we gone past the point of no return already?

Have been tipped over the tipping point?

Are we irreversabley doomed to die in a rapidly heating world?

Today's news from the Austrailian scientist Tim Flannery suggests we have.

The fact we have reached the magic 455 parts per million CO2 equivalent already when it was expected to take 10 years does show the extent of the problem. With no real prospect of things improving any time soon it might be time to consider some of the more drastic solutions. Switching lights off and recycling jam jars may no longer be enough.

The reason? Predictable but knowing this answer brings us no closer to a solution.

Flannery said global economic expansion, particularly in China and India, was a major factor behind the unexpected acceleration in greenhouse gas levels.

His conclusions appear to me to be entirely correct.

"That 200 gigatonnes of carbon pollutant, the standing stock that's in the atmosphere, is there courtesy of the industrial revolution, and we're the beneficiaries of that and most of the world missed out," he said.

"So I see that as a historic debt that we owe the world. And I can't imagine a better way of paying it back than trying to help the poorest people on the planet."

Full article below.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Hit Danger Mark - Scientist [PlanetArk]

SYDNEY - The global economic boom has accelerated greenhouse gas emissions to a dangerous threshold not expected for a decade and could potentially cause irreversible climate change, said one of Australia's leading scientists.

Tim Flannery, a world recognised climate change scientist and Australian of the Year in 2007, said a UN international climate change report due in November will show that greenhouse gases have already reached a dangerous level.

Flannery said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report will show that greenhouse gas in the atmosphere in mid-2005 had reached about 455 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent -- a level not expected for another 10 years.

"We thought we'd be at that threshold within about a decade," Flannery told Australian television late on Monday.

"We thought we had that much time. But the new data indicates that in about mid-2005 we crossed that threshold," he said.

"What the report establishes is that the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is already above the threshold that could potentially cause dangerous climate change."

Flannery, from Macquarie University and author of the climate change book "The Weather Makers", said he had seen the raw data which will be in the IPCC Synthesis Report.

He said the measurement of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere included not just carbon dioxide, but also nitrous oxide, methane and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). All these gases were measured and then equated into potentially one gas to reach a general level.

"They're all having an impact. Probably 75 percent is carbon dioxide but the rest is that mixed bag of other gases," he said.


Flannery said global economic expansion, particularly in China and India, was a major factor behind the unexpected acceleration in greenhouse gas levels.

"We're still basing that economic activity on fossil fuels. You know, the metabolism of that economy is now on a collision course, clearly, with the metabolism of our planet," he said.

The report adds an urgency to international climate change talks on the Indonesian island of Bali in December, as reducing greenhouse gas emissions may no longer be enough to prevent dangerous climate change, he said.

UN environment ministers meet in December in Bali to start talks on a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol on curbing climate change that expires in 2012.

"We can reduce emissions as strongly as we like -- unless we can draw some of the standing stock of pollutant out of the air and into the tropical forests, we'll still face unacceptable levels of risk in 40 years time," he said.

Flannery suggested the developed world could buy "climate security" by paying villages in countries like Papua New Guinea not to log forests and to regrow forests.

"That 200 gigatonnes of carbon pollutant, the standing stock that's in the atmosphere, is there courtesy of the industrial revolution, and we're the beneficiaries of that and most of the world missed out," he said.

"So I see that as a historic debt that we owe the world. And I can't imagine a better way of paying it back than trying to help the poorest people on the planet."


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Elizabeth C. Economy on "The great leap backward?"

We have talked at length in this blog about the environmental impact of China both within China and globally and specially the impact of environmental degradation on future growth and political stability. This long post covers this ground and more.

It is interesting to quote from China Briefing who write:
As Pan Yue, the vice minister for China’s State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) warned in 2005 when talking about China’s booming growth, “The miracle will end soon because the environment cannot keep pace."

They go on to highlight the following article in Foreign Affairs by E. Economy. We have posted on some of her work previously. This is a long article that basically goes over ground that will be familiar to readers of this blog but this is at least a little more academic that the TIME article from last week.

This is an excellent and accessible article. The information contained within this one article could supply another 20 blog posts (and may well do so).

The Great Leap Backward?

Summary: China's environmental woes are mounting, and the country is fast becoming one of the leading polluters in the world. The situation continues to deteriorate because even when Beijing sets ambitious targets to protect the environment, local officials generally ignore them, preferring to concentrate on further advancing economic growth. Really improving the environment in China will require revolutionary bottom-up political and economic reforms.

Elizabeth C. Economy is C. V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenges to China's Future.

There are a few choice quotes/statistics that are worth pulling out.

The coal that has powered China's economic growth, for example, is also choking its people. Coal provides about 70 percent of China's energy needs: the country consumed some 2.4 billion tons in 2006 -- more than the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom combined.

This is a quite remarkable statistic but does show how much room there is for improvement. To think of Chinese industry becoming more efficient with a similar wage level shows that competition from China can only intensify.
Consumption in China is huge partly because it is inefficient: as one Chinese official told Der Spiegel in early 2006, "To produce goods worth $10,000 we need seven times the resources used by Japan, almost six times the resources used by the U.S. and -- a particular source of embarrassment -- almost three times the resources used by India."

So where are the limits to growth?
As much as 90 percent of China's sulfur dioxide emissions and 50 percent of its particulate emissions are the result of coal use. Particulates are responsible for respiratory problems among the population, and acid rain, which is caused by sulfur dioxide emissions, falls on one-quarter of China's territory and on one-third of its agricultural land, diminishing agricultural output and eroding buildings.

But solving one problem does not help with the thirst for transport:
Chinese developers are laying more than 52,700 miles of new highways throughout the country. Some 14,000 new cars hit China's roads each day. By 2020, China is expected to have 130 million cars

For those who do not live in China it is hard to really gauge how bad the pollution really is. Many of us have been to New York however:
Levels of airborne particulates are now six times higher in Beijing than in New York City.

What about the efficiency of agriculture? There are problems ahead.
The Gobi Desert, which now engulfs much of western and northern China, is spreading by about 1,900 square miles annually; some reports say that despite Beijing's aggressive reforestation efforts, one-quarter of the entire country is now desert. China's State Forestry Administration estimates that desertification has hurt some 400 million Chinese, turning tens of millions of them into environmental refugees, in search of new homes and jobs.

China's agricultural sector is also inefficient:
The agricultural sector lays claim to 66 percent of the water China consumes, mostly for irrigation, and manages to waste more than half of that

Water in general is a growing problem that we have previously highlighted in this blog:
Pollution is also endangering China's water supplies. China's ground water, which provides 70 percent of the country's total drinking water, is under threat from a variety of sources, such as polluted surface water, hazardous waste sites, and pesticides and fertilizers. According to one report by the government-run Xinhua News Agency, the aquifers in 90 percent of Chinese cities are polluted. More than 75 percent of the river water flowing through China's urban areas is considered unsuitable for drinking or fishing, and the Chinese government deems about 30 percent of the river water throughout the country to be unfit for use in agriculture or industry. As a result, nearly 700 million people drink water contaminated with animal and human waste.

So can the rest of the world afford to sit and watch as China destroys itself? Not with the forces of globalisation at work:
Japan and South Korea have long suffered from the acid rain produced by China's coal-fired power plants and from the eastbound dust storms that sweep across the Gobi Desert in the spring and dump toxic yellow dust on their land. Researchers in the United States are tracking dust, sulfur, soot, and trace metals as these travel across the Pacific from China. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that on some days, 25 percent of the particulates in the atmosphere in Los Angeles originated in China.

So what about international trade? China is contributing to environmental problems elsewhere by its insatiable demand for raw materials.
China is already the largest importer of illegally logged timber in the world: an estimated 50 percent of its timber imports are reportedly illegal.

This article covers it all - here is Economy on the political ramifications.
In the view of China's leaders, however, damage to the environment itself is a secondary problem. Of greater concern to them are its indirect effects: the threat it poses to the continuation of the Chinese economic miracle and to public health, social stability, and the country's international reputation. Taken together, these challenges could undermine the authority of the Communist Party.

Here are some statistics on the costs of environmental destruction:
The Chinese media frequently publish the results of studies on the impact of pollution on agriculture, industrial output, or public health: water pollution costs of $35.8 billion one year, air pollution costs of $27.5 billion another, and on and on with weather disasters ($26.5 billion), acid rain ($13.3 billion), desertification ($6 billion), or crop damage from soil pollution ($2.5 billion).

Also, with the effect of pollution on health it will be not be long before the protests become more vociferous.
Today, fully 190 million Chinese are sick from drinking contaminated water. All along China's major rivers, villages report skyrocketing rates of diarrheal diseases, cancer, tumors, leukemia, and stunted growth.

Social unrest over these issues is rising. In the spring of 2006, China's top environmental official, Zhou Shengxian, announced that there had been 51,000 pollution-related protests in 2005, which amounts to almost 1,000 protests each week.

For all the talk of direct action in the West it is apparent that the Chinese are already being forced to take action into their own hands:
After trying for two years to get redress by petitioning local, provincial, and even central government officials for spoiled crops and poisoned air, in the spring of 2005, 30,000-40,000 villagers from Zhejiang Province swarmed 13 chemical plants, broke windows and overturned buses, attacked government officials, and torched police cars.

Given these issues you would expect the Chinese environmental agency to be all hands to the pump. Not exactly. SEPA is China's premier environmental agency.
But SEPA operates with barely 300 full-time professional staff in the capital and only a few hundred employees spread throughout the country. (The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a staff of almost 9,000 in Washington, D.C., alone.)

After discussing the local official corruption problem Economy concludes by saying:
China's leaders have shown themselves capable of bold reform in the past. Two and half decades ago, Deng Xiaoping and his supporters launched a set of ambitious reforms despite stiff political resistance and set the current economic miracle in motion. In order to continue on its extraordinary trajectory, China needs leaders with the vision to introduce a new set of economic and political initiatives that will transform the way the country does business. Without such measures, China will not return to global preeminence in the twenty-first century. Instead, it will suffer stagnation or regression -- and all because leaders who recognized the challenge before them were unwilling to do what was necessary to surmount it.

This excellent article should be read at length to fully appreciate the picture that I have only tried to shed a little light on in this post.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Energy and Emissions: Local and Global Effects of the Rise of China and India

A new paper from the World Bank Policy Research paper series examines the impact of China and India on world energy demand.

The quality of the World Bank Research Papers can be mixed. This is a paper I must read before recommending.

"Energy and Emissions: Local and Global Effects of the Rise of China and India"
World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 4209

World Bank - Research Department

Full Text:

ABSTRACT: Part 1 of the paper reviews recent trends in fossil fuel use and associated externalities. It also argues that the recent run-up in international oil prices reflects growing concerns about supply constraints associated with declining spare capacity in OPEC, refining bottlenecks, and geopolitical uncertainties rather than growing incremental use of oil by China and India. Part 2 compares two business as usual scenarios with a set of alternate scenarios based on policy interventions on the demand for or supply of energy and different assumptions about rigidities in domestic and international energy markets. The results suggest that energy externalities are likely to worsen significantly if there is no shift in China's and India's energy strategies. High energy demand from China and India could constrain some developing countries' growth through higher prices on international energy markets, but for others the growth retarding effects of higher energy prices are partially or fully offset by the growth stimulating effects of the larger markets in China and India. Given that there are many inefficiencies in the energy system in both China and India, there is an opportunity to reduce energy growth without adversely affecting GDP growth. The cost of a decarbonizing energy strategy will be higher for China and India than a fossil fuel-based strategy, but the net present value of delaying the shift will be higher than acting now. The less fossil fuel dependent alternative strategies provide additional dividends in terms of energy security.