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March 2019

Global Impacts Accelerating As China Pushes For More Coal And Oil Production

In climate-related news:

From the BBC:  Climate change: Global impacts 'accelerating' - WMO


The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says that the physical and financial impacts of global warming are accelerating.

Record greenhouse gas levels are driving temperatures to "increasingly dangerous levels", it says.

Their report comes in the same week as the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported a surge in CO2 in 2018.

The years between 2015 and 2018 were the four warmest on that record, the study says.

"This report makes it very clear that the impacts of climate change are accelerating," said Prof Samantha Hepburn who is director of the Centre for Energy and Natural Resource Law at Deakin University in Australia.

"We know that if the current trajectory for greenhouse gas concentrations continues, temperatures may increase by 3 - 5 degrees C compared to pre-industrial levels by the end of the century and we have already reached 1 degree.”

From the Washington Post:  Alaska is baking in an exceptionally toasty March as steep, long-term warming presses on.


Alaska, one of America’s fastest-warming states, is locked in another long and alarming stretch of unusually high temperatures.

Parts of the state are on pace to finish March more than 20 degrees above average, which is an extreme deviation from the norm in U.S. weather records.

In recent days, the warmth has reached a pinnacle.

Temperatures in interior parts of Alaska stayed above freezing for multiple nights in a row for the first time so early in the year on record. Readings this weekend are projected to end up 30 degrees to even 50 degrees above normal across northern parts of the state.

This is just the latest round in a longer-term episode of acute and persistent warmth across the state and the Arctic region.

Yet this round is unusual and historic, the likes of which has never observed over such a long stretch at this time of year.

Also from the Washington Post:  The Doomsday Vault’s home is already altered by climate change. A report says it could get worse.


Few places have served as a locus for the public’s anxiety about climate change as much as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The seed ark, popularly known as the “Doomsday Vault,” is embedded deep in the permafrost of a northerly Norwegian island and stores nearly a million samples from around the world for safekeeping in the event of war, famine, disease and, yes, climate change. It backs up gene banks around the globe, a fail safe for the fail safes.

It is supposed to be indestructible, the frigid landscape serving as a natural coolant for the genetic material it protects. And yet, climate change has been profoundly affecting the region, causing permafrost to melt, avalanches to strike and, on one notable occasion, water to collect and freeze at the beginning of the tunnel to the vault.

Svalbard’s glaciers are “losing more ice through melting and calving than they are accumulating through snowfall,” according to the report. “All of the well observed glaciers are shrinking.” The warming of the surrounding ocean “has halted sea ice from forming.”

But the predictions for the future are even more stark. The report projects changes from a period of 1971-2000 until 2071-2100 based on various scenarios for global warming set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “Under medium to high scenarios for future climate emissions,” the annual air temperature will increase by approximately 10 degrees Celsius under high emissions and 7 degrees Celsius under medium emissions, scientists found.

A related story from the Barents Observer: “100 consecutive months with above normal temperatures at Svalbard.


With March coming to an end, it has been 100 consecutive months where every month has been above normal.

“Some months have seen temperatures in the area around Longyearbyen with as much as 12-14 degrees over normal,” says climate researcher Ketil Isaksen with the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.

Since 1961, the average temperature at Longyearbyen airport has increased with 5,6 degrees Celsius. For comparison, measurements at the meteorological institute in Oslo show an increase of 2 degrees for the same period.

The old saying “the Arctic heats twice as much as the rest of the world” is not accurate anymore. Climate changes impact on the Arctic is worse, up to six times higher than global temperature increase.

From Bloomberg:  Fed Researcher Warns Climate Change Could Spur Financial Crisis.


Climate change is becoming increasingly relevant to central bankers because losses from natural disasters that are magnified by higher temperatures and elevated sea levels could spark a financial crisis, a Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco researcher found.

“Climate-related financial risks could affect the economy through elevated credit spreads, greater precautionary saving, and, in the extreme, a financial crisis,’’ Glenn Rudebusch, the San Francisco Fed’s executive vice president for research, wrote in a paper published Monday.

“There could also be direct effects in the form of larger and more frequent macroeconomic shocks associated with the infrastructure damage, agricultural losses, and commodity price spikes caused by the droughts, floods, and hurricanes amplified by climate change,’’ according to Rudebusch, who is also a senior policy adviser at the reserve bank.


And in business news:

From the French new agency AFP:  Push for more coal power in China imperils climate.


Even as the number of coal-fired power plants under development worldwide declines, increased coal use in China and a proposal to boost capacity could imperil global climate change goals, researchers have warned.

The industry's powerful China Electrical Council called this month for ramping up the national coal power capacity to as much as 1,300 gigawatts by 2030, a 30 percent increase compared to today's levels.

With nearly 1,000 GW in operation, China accounts for about half the world's coal-fired power, with the United States (259 GW) and India (221 GW) a distant second and third, according to the Global Coal Plant Tracker.

Last year, the number of newly completed facilities worldwide dropped by 20 percent compared to the year before, and by half compared to 2015.

Yet global demand for coal increased last year by 0.7 percent, on the heels of a similar spike in 2017, the International Energy Agency reported earlier this week.

Virtually all of that growth was in Asia and especially China, where coal power generation of electricity shot up by more than five percent.

This, despite measures imposed by Beijing in 2012 and 2013 to slow the sector's growth, including a tightening of credit, caps on production, and the indefinite idling of dozens of coal plants under construction.

"Chinese leaders appear to have got cold feet and opened the credit spigot again from late 2015, which may explain why coal consumption and CO2 emissions started to rebound in 2017," researchers from the Oslo-based CICERO climate research group noted in an analysis.

China's leaders have not yet indicated whether they will approve the China Electrical Council's bid to add coal capacity equivalent to that of the United States and Japan combined.

From energy news website  What Is Pushing China Back To Coal?


Data released by the Chinese energy bureau this week shows that the country added a whopping 194 million tonnes of coal mining capacity over the course of 2018. This revelation comes in direct contrast with China’s widely publicized promises to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, especially dirty coal, as well as specific avowals to do away with excess mining capacity.

By the end of last year, according to numbers from the National Energy Administration, China’s total coal mining capacity had gone from 3.34 billion tonnes at the end of 2017 to 3.53 billion. These numbers do not even take into account a further 1.03 billion tonnes per year of already-approved coal capacity currently under construction, nor do they include another 370 million tonnes per year that are currently being extracted as part of a trial operation. What’s more, China’s National Energy Administration has already greenlighted an additional seven coal mining operations which altogether would have a capacity of million tonnes per year within a period of time which already started at the beginning of 2019.

According to data published by China’s National Bureau of Statistics, Chinese mines produced 3.55 billion tonnes of coal last year, a 5.2 percent increase as compared to 2017. The bureau also reported that in 2018 the country generated a total of 4.979 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity from coal-fired power plants, 6 percent higher than the same measure in 2017.

Also from “China’s Mad Scramble To Boost Domestic Oil Production.


For countries who have complete control over their oil industry through their state-run oil behemoths, it’s easy to order them to increase oil output—costs be damned. But sinking money into oil and aging oil fields or in new and cost-intensive plays comes with risks, and in China’s case, investors aren’t so sure that its onslaught of capex planned over the next five years is a winning bet.

Still, China’s largest state-run oil majors, China Petroleum & Chemical (SINOPEC), China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) have plans to shell out billions for what some see as rather unprofitable oil fields for the sake of shoring up the state’s energy security in direct response to President Xi’s call last year for them to increase oil production.

The billions in capex planned for the next five years from China’s three companies that together operate over 90 percent of China’s oil-producing fields are not insignificant and represent a huge increase from spending in recent years. Sinopec, for one, announced only days ago that it will spend US$20.3 billion in 2019 alone—US$8.9 billion of which will be dedicated to just upstream operations. This upstream capex represents more than a 40 percent increase in spending over 2018, and will be used in part to increase production at its aging Shengli oilfield, whose reserves fell to just 16 million barrels by end 2018 vs 49 million barrels the year prior, according to Reuters.

Record Emissions, and Record U.S. Oil Exports

In climate news, a really big and disturbing story today:

From the Washington Post:  In blow to climate, coal plants emitted more than ever in 2018.


Subhead:  “'We are headed for disaster, and nobody seems to be able to slow things down,’ a Stanford University professor said.”

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.

But nothing filled the void quite like fossil fuels, which satisfied nearly 70 percent of the skyrocketing electricity demand, according to the agency, which analyzes energy trends on behalf of 30 member countries, including the United States.

As a result, greenhouse-gas emissions from the use of energy — by far their largest source — surged in 2018, reaching an record high of 33.1 billion tons. Emissions showed 1.7 percent growth, well above the average since 2010. The growth in global emissions in 2018 alone was “equivalent to the total emissions from international aviation,” the body found.

Here's the same news, but from Reuters:  Global carbon emissions hit record high in 2018: IEA.


Global energy-related carbon emissions rose to a record high last year as energy demand and coal use increased, mainly in Asia, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday.

Energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7 percent to 33.1 billion tonnes from the previous year, the highest rate of growth since 2013, with the power sector accounting for almost two-thirds of this growth, according to IEA estimates.

The United States’ CO2 emissions grew by 3.1 percent in 2018, reversing a decline a year earlier, while China’s emissions rose by 2.5 percent and India’s by 4.5 percent.

Global energy demand grew by 2.3 percent in 2018, nearly twice the average rate of growth since 2010, driven by a strong global economy and higher heating and cooling demand in some parts of the world, the IEA said.

“We have seen an extraordinary increase in global energy demand in 2018, growing at its fastest pace this decade,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.

“Last year can also be considered another golden year for gas ... but despite major growth in renewables, global emissions are still rising, demonstrating once again that more urgent action is needed on all fronts,” he added.

By country, China, the United States, and India together accounted for nearly 70 percent of the rise in energy demand.


Meanwhile, over in the business world:

From Bloomberg:  A Flood of U.S. Oil Exports Is Coming.


What started as an American phenomenon is now being felt around the world as U.S. oil exports surge to levels unthinkable only a few years ago. The flow of crude will keep growing over the next few years with huge consequences for the oil industry, global politics and even whole economies. OPEC, for example, will face challenges keeping oil prices high, while Washington has a new, and potent, diplomatic weapon.

American oil exports stepped up a gear last year, jumping more than 70 percent to just over 2 million barrels a day, according to government data. "That could double again over the next few years as people continue to invest in shale," said Russell Hardy, the head of top oil trader Vitol Group. Over the past four weeks, U.S. oil exports have averaged more than 3 million barrels a day --- more than what Middle East petro-state Kuwait sells.

Oil traders and shale executives believe U.S. crude exports are set reach 5 million barrels a day by late 2020, up another 70 percent from current levels. If the U.S. hits that target, America will be exporting, on a gross basis, more crude than every country in OPEC except Saudi Arabia. (On a net basis, the U.S. remains, just, a net importer, but that’s likely to change in the next few months.)

“The second wave of the U.S. shale revolution is coming,” said Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency. “This will shake up international oil and gas trade flows, with profound implications for geopolitics.”

More permafrost worries while US energy-related emissions projected to remain high through 2050

In today's climate news round-up:

From UPI:  "Study: Thawing alpine permafrost a stealth source of CO2."


As alpine permafrost thaws, new sources of decaying organic matter become available to CO2-emitting microbes. Climate scientists and their models may be underestimating this stealthy source of carbon dioxide, according to a new study.

In a paper published Thursday in the journal Nature Communications, scientists presented evidence that Colorado's Front Range tundra emits more CO2 than it absorbs each year, making it a net carbon contributor -- potentially worsening the impacts of climate change.

Previous studies have suggested melting Arctic tundra is releasing CO2 that has been sequestered in the frozen soil for centuries.

"We wondered if the same thing could be happening in alpine terrain," lead researcher John Knowles said in a news release. "This study is a strong indication that that is indeed the case.”


And in "business-as-usual," one rather alarming headline:

From the U.S. Energy Information Administration:  "EIA projects U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions will remain near current level through 2050."


Carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. energy consumption will remain near current levels through 2050, according to projections in EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2019. The AEO2019 Reference case, which reflects no changes to current laws and regulations and extends current trends in technology, projects that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will be 5,019 million metric tons in 2050, or 4% below their 2018 value, as emissions associated with coal and petroleum consumption fall and emissions from natural gas consumption rise.

More Powerful Storms As Banks Pump Trillions Into Fossil Fuels

Today's round-up of climate news:

From the New York Times:  "Amid 19-Year Drought, States Sign Deal to Conserve Colorado River Water."  Excerpts:

The water is saved, for now.

Seven Western states have agreed on a plan to manage the Colorado River amid a 19-year drought, voluntarily cutting their water use to prevent the federal government from imposing a mandatory squeeze on the supply.

State water officials signed the deal on Tuesday after years of negotiations, forestalling what would have been the first federally enforced restrictions on the river’s lower basin. But any victory may be short-lived. Climate change promises to make the American West increasingly hot and dry, putting further pressure on the Colorado and the 40 million people who depend on its water.

“We all recognize we’re looking at a drier future,” said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

From the Guardian:  "Climate change making storms like Idai more severe, say experts. Destructive power of storms likely to increase in future as world warms up." Excerpts:

The climate crisis that is driving sea level rises and more extreme rainfall is making deadly storms like the one that hit southern Africa more severe, according to experts.

Cyclone Idai, the tropical storm that ravaged Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, has been described as the worst weather-related disaster to hit the southern hemisphere, and the UN says more than 2 million people have been affected. Storm-surge floods of up to six metres have caused widespread devastation.

Experts said it was too early to draw specific conclusions from Cyclone Idai, but the rapidly changing climate meant the destructive power of such storms was only going to increase in the future.

Meanwhile, in the business world:

From Fast Company:  "Banks pumped $1.9 trillion into fossil fuels since the Paris climate deal." Excerpts:

After the Paris climate agreement in late 2015, J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon spoke publicly in support of the agreement, which calls for finance flows to be “consistent with a pathway toward low greenhouse gas emissions.” But despite his rhetoric, between 2016 and 2018 his bank ramped up funding for fossil fuels, pouring $196 billion into financing coal, Arctic oil and gas, fracking, tar sands, and other fossil fuel projects. If you bank at Chase, your money might have helped fund drilling in the Amazon rainforest.

In total, according to a new report from a group of environmental nonprofits, the 33 largest global banks collectively provided $1.9 trillion in financing for fossil fuels. Of that, $600 billion went to 100 companies that are aggressively expanding fossil fuel projects at a time when climate scientists say that the world needs to rapidly transition to renewable energy.

Over at the BBC:  "UK oil and gas industry 'needs £200bn of investment' for future development." Excerpts:

A total of £200bn needs to be spent by exploration and production companies to fully exploit the UK oil and gas sector's remaining potential, a new report has said.

Industry body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) said its Business Outlook Report 2019 showed the need for a focus on cost and efficiencies was the "new reality”. The study reveals production has increased by 20% over the past five years. This follows 14 years of decline.

The £200bn figure is seen as pivotal for "adding a generation of productive life" to the area.


Water Shortage Warnings in England While Mexico Triples Oil Well Drilling

Today's round-up of climate news:  

In the Guardian:  "England could run short of water within 25 years."  Excerpts:

England is set to run short of water within 25 years, the chief executive of the Environment Agency has warned.

The country is facing the ‘‘jaws of death”, Sir James Bevan said, at the point where water demand from the country’s rising population surpasses the falling supply resulting from climate change.

In the speech, Bevan says: “Water companies all identify the same thing as their biggest operating risk: climate change.” By 2040, more than half of our summers are expected to be hotter than the 2003 heatwave, he says, leading to more water shortages and potentially 50-80% less water in some rivers in the summer.
Also from the Guardian:  "Record high US temperatures outpace record lows two to one, study finds.  Scientists say AP study consistent with peer-reviewed literature and shows clear sign of human-caused climate change."  Excerpts:
Over the past 20 years, Americans have been twice as likely to sweat through record-breaking heat rather than shiver through record-setting cold, a new Associated Press data analysis shows.
The AP looked at 424 weather stations throughout the US lower 48 states that had consistent temperature records since 1920 and counted how many times daily hot temperature records were tied or broken and how many daily cold records were set. In a stable climate, the numbers should be roughly equal.
Since 1999, the ratio has been two warm records set or broken for every cold one. In 16 of the last 20 years, there have been more daily high temperature records than low.
The AP shared the data analysis with several climate and data scientists, who all said the conclusion was correct, consistent with scientific peer-reviewed literature and showed a clear sign of human-caused climate change. They pointed out that trends over decades are more robust than over single years.


At the same time, in the world of business:

From the news agency Reuters: "Mexico's Pemex plans to triple oil well drilling this year to boost output."  Excerpts:

Mexico’s national oil company Pemex plans to triple the number of wells it will drill this year, the company’s chief executive said on Monday, in a bid to grow crude output and reverse more than a decade of declining production.  

 The government-funded plan involves drilling 506 new wells spread across 20 recently-discovered fields, according to a presentation from Pemex CEO Octavio Romero. That would be more than three times the number of wells Pemex drilled in 2018. 

 The plan should yield more than 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) in new oil output by 2022, according to the presentation, which would mark a new record for Pemex, formally known as Petroleos Mexicanos. 

 “In Petroleos Mexicanos’ entire history, it has perhaps never developed 20 new fields in one year,” he said at President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s regular news conference.

From energy news website  "Chinese Refiners Set To Boost Crude Oil Use To New Record In Q3."  Excerpts:

Chinese refiners are expected to process more than 13 million barrels of crude oil per day for the first time ever in the third quarter this year, a Reuters survey of 20 refiners showed on Monday.

In the first two months of 2019, Chinese refineries processed 102.49 million tons of crude oil, or 12.68 million bpd—the highest on record and a 6.1-percent increase compared to the same period last year, according to China’s customs data.

Most of the processed crude came from imports of crude oil, which continued to increase this year compared to the same months of 2018. In February, China imported 39.22 million tons of crude, or 10.23 million bpd, up 21.6 percent on the year. In January, imports stood at 42.6 million tons or 10.03 million bpd, up 4.8 percent on the year.

And just for good measure, also from  "UK’s LNG Imports Jump To Highest Since 2015."  Excerpt:

The UK is on track to import this month its highest volume of liquefied natural gas (LNG) since October 2015, as a wave of new global LNG supply and muted winter demand and low spot prices in Asia are boosting flows of the fuel to Europe.


Welcome to Climate Disconnect

It seems almost weekly there is new scientific research documenting the harm we are doing to planet Earth. At the same time, the corporate sector ignores these warnings and continues on with business as usual. There is a huge gap between what we know about the risks to our climate ... and what we are doing about it.  This blog highlights the news stories that demonstrate how enormous that disconnect really is.  

Screen Shot from the GuardianThe idea came from seeing this pair of headlines in the Guardian, one above the other, and realizing just how often these kinds of news events were occurring simultaneously these days. It's as if we're living in parallel universes. In one, climate scientists warn us of the catastrophic dangers ahead, their alarm growing with each new study. In the other, every new fossil fuel discovery is applauded by governments and industry.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.