Jeremy Williams’ latest blog points to concerns about the supply chains needed in the production of batteries upon which the shift to electrically powered vehicle transport depend. In addition to the toxic waste arising from discarding batteries, cobalt is a key ingredient of battery manufacture. “Half the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it is often mined by hand in appalling conditions. The ‘artisanal’ mines of the DRC often lack even basic health and safety guidelines or protective equipment. Children as young as seven have been found at work on mining sites, and they may be earning as little as $2 a day for a 12 hour shift. “
Williams concludes: “If we are going to advocate battery power, we need to do so responsibly. The fossil fuel industry has a long legacy of war, exploitation, plunder and pollution. As we put those fuels behind us, let’s make sure we leave the abuse behind too, and ensure that the electric transport revolution is fair as well as clean.”
This article from the Washington Post – “In blow to climate, coal plants emitted more than ever in 2018” – summarises the findings of a new International Energy Agency report that is bad news about curbing global warming. The article starts:
Global energy experts released grim findings Monday, saying that not only are planet-warming carbon-dioxide emissions still increasing, but the world’s growing thirst for energy has led to higher emissions from coal-fired power plants than ever before.
Energy demand around the world grew by 2.3 percent over the past year, marking the most rapid increase in a decade, according to the report from the International Energy Agency. To meet that demand, largely fueled by a booming economy, countries turned to an array of sources, including renewables.
2.3% annual growth in demand for energy reflects population and economic growth and, if continued, would mean that humans will be using double this amount in only 30 years’ time. Significant increases in the burning of coal (1.7%) were measured in 2018 mainly from coal-burning power stations in the Far East:
In particular, a fleet of relatively young coal plants located in Asia, with decades to go on their lifetimes, led the way toward a record for emissions from coal fired power plants — exceeding 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide “for the first time,” the agency said. In Asia, “average plants are only 12 years old, decades younger than their average economic lifetime of around 40 years,” the agency found.
As this seminal 2017 presentation by Rockstrom (essential viewing) on the need to cut CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050 demonstrates, the Paris Agreement has little hope of being implemented, as emissions accelerate upwards instead of downwards. Ever-increasing expansion of the impact of its passengers on Spaceship Earth continues unabated.
This press release on 13 March followed a UN Environmental Protection Agency meeting in Nairobi. It starts with three points:
Even if Paris Agreement goals met, Arctic winter temperatures will increase 3-5°C by 2050 compared to 1986-2005 levels.
Thawing permafrost could wake ‘sleeping giant’ of more greenhouse gases, potentially derailing global climate goals.
Ocean acidification and pollution also posing major threats to Arctic
This locked-in heating that threatens a tipping point that will release stored greenhouse gases will not be prevented even if Paris Climate Agreement targets for curbing emissions are achieved which seems highly unlikely. Despite the hope expressed in my last post, this is but one tipping point of many now possible due to the exponentially growing impact of human activity on the natural world. Rockstrom’s presentation “Beyond the Anthropocene” sets out a range of 12 other tipping points which are linked to heating of the planet (Spaceship Earth). His brilliant presentation given in January 2017 to the World Economic Forum is itself a matter for hope in educating world leaders. Two years on it appears that school strikers are, however, learning faster than government representatives at COP24 who followed-up the Paris Agreement, or indeed all those corporate leaders who are still committed to growing GDP and private wealth as fast as possible irrespective of the planetary consequences for our children’s future.
UNDP (United Nations
Development Program) Strategy:
Make sure everyone is sufficiently alarmed, and knows how desperate and urgent the crisis is — so that they act.
Give people a sense of hope so that they know what actions to take that will have a strong impact — so that they act.
there is hope:
Technological and industrial innovations, such as cheap renewable energy, are coming faster and faster.
Local, city and national governments are committing to cut carbon, ban pollutants, protect species and replant forests.
People are rising up in popular protests to pressure policymakers and companies to change direction.
Humans have not, since 1945 in Japan, used the nuclear weapons that have been available.
The CFC chemicals causing a hole in the ozone layer (discovered in 1973) were banned when nations agreed to cooperate (Montreal Protocol, 1987).
Slavery that was once seen as normal is now seen as immoral, so maybe growth economics can be replaced by circular regenerative economics.
The scientific evidence of the effects on health of smoking were recognised despite 40 years of denial and delay by the tobacco industry, so maybe the same will happen in relation to greenhouse gas emission from human activity.
School pupils are starting protest to thanks to Greta Thunberg, who started this, and is still inspiring our youth to take action around the world.
A political movement for a “Green New Deal” is emerging in the USA.
There are powerful obstacles to change – e.g. Deep
vested interests are resisting climate action: those are the economies,
businesses and political systems dependent on fossil fuels, polluting
industries, or biodiversity destruction. We must speak truth to power. “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”
The Norwegian Sovereign Fund which comprises 1% of global investment capital is divesting from pure oil and gas companies. Jeremy Leggett sets out in this blog the importance of this decision as an indicator of how investors everywhere will now start to doubt the wisdom of investing in ‘unburnable carbon’ and ‘stranded assets’. The reason for leaving these energy sources underground is that climate heating may indeed lead to oil and gas, not to mention coal, being eliminated as energy sources in order to keep the earth’s atmosphere within a temperature range that will sustain civilised life. The desire to keep the temperature of the life support systems (air, land and sea) of Spaceship Earth within a liveable range may well radically determine future business investment. For 10000 years during the Holocene geological period the planet maintained a very stable global average temperature that allowed human cicilisations to flourish. Now global heating that is now rising in a dangerous way, faster than ever before – hence we live in a new geological epoch now called the Anthropocene. In this human-made geological age, temperature rise is being accelerated by human activity primarily by burning vast amounts of fossil fuels.
Monbiot in this opinion piece from the Guardian makes a strong case about the negative effects of many kinds on both human life and the environment. He connects the explosion of private transport to oil extraction and related conflicts, deteriorating health due to emissions and lack of exercise, the effects of nitrogen emissions on ecosystems, the spread of concrete over the planet’s surface, the replacement of open space with parking lots, the psychological aggression that drivers exhibit, and so on.
Three remarkable statistics show how rapidly road vehicles have been, and are projected to be, added to the technosphere created by humans that is now dominating the natural world:
•1970 250,000,000 •2016 1,200,000,000 •2050 2,500,000,000 (10x since 1970)