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 OilPrice.com: “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 OilPrice.com: “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.