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Famine and Water Riots Are Coming, Warns New IPCC Intergovernmental Report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a new report on the state of the global environment. One of their most important messages is that we need to prepare for famines and water shortages in the coming decades.

Photo, above, of California’s low water levels due to drought this year, by Randall Benton, Sacramento Bee.

The Guardian‘s John Abraham and Dana Nuccitelli have a great guide to the report. They write:

The report discusses the risk associated with food insecurity due to more intense droughts, floods, and heat waves in a warmer world, especially for poorer countries. This contradicts the claims of climate contrarians like Matt Ridley, who have tried to claim that rising carbon dioxide levels are good for crops.

While rising carbon dioxide levels have led to ‘global greening’ in past decades and improved agricultural technology has increased crop yields, research has indicated that both of these trends are already beginning to reverse. While plants like carbon dioxide, they don’t like heat waves, droughts, and floods. Likewise, economist Richard Tol has argued that farmers can adapt to climate change, but adaptation has its costs and its limits. In fact, the IPCC summary report notes that most studies project a decline in crop yields starting in 2030, even as global food demand continues to rise.

The report also discusses risks associated with water insecurity, due for example to shrinking of glaciers that act as key water resources for various regions around the world, and through changing precipitation patterns. As a result of these types of changes, the IPCC also anticipates that violent conflicts like civil wars will become more common.

Here’s a chart from the report tracking likely decreases in crop yields over time, if climate change continues unchecked.

Essentially, climate change is going to decrease our supply of food and water. And this, the IPCC suggests, will foment civil unrest and could lead to more armed conflicts than we have now.

Other looming threats include greater risks of flooding, ocean acidification, and animal extinctions.

It seems clear that mitigating climate change doesn’t simply mean curbing our fossil fuel emissions and agricultural runoff into the oceans. We’re also going to need to figure out new ways to improve our food and water security. Perhaps the breakthrough technologies of the twenty-first century will involve genetic tweaks that make plants more resistant to drought, and cheap ways to recycle or purify water.

If we can’t agree on what to do about climate change, one has to hope that we can unify around what to do about hunger and thirst.

Read the entire IPCC report [PDF]

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Sustainability as an Investment Class

 

Energy And Water Are Fundamentally Intertwined – Our Policy should reflect that

This commentary, authored by Kate Zerrenner, originally appeared on EDF’s Energy Exchange blog.

When I tell people that the best way to conserve energy is to conserve water, I am often faced with a confused response. I’m not surprised really. Energy and water policies are rarely discussed in the same forum. For a long time, we’ve overlooked the inextricable relationship between water and energy use. Coal, nuclear and natural gas plants use enormous amounts of steam to create electricity. Producing all of that steam requires 190,000 million gallons of water per day, or 39% of all freshwater withdrawals in the nation.

Connection between energy and water

The longstanding division between energy and water considerations is particularly evident in the case of energy and water management. These resources are fundamentally intertwined: Energy is used to secure, deliver, treat and distribute water, while water is used (and often degraded) to develop, process and deliver energy. Despite the inherent connection between the two sectors, energy and water planners routinely make decisions that impact one another without adequately understanding the scientific or policy complexities of the other sector. This miscommunication often hides joint opportunities for conservation to the detriment of budgets, efficiency, the environment and public health, and inhibits both sectors from fully accounting for the financial, environmental or social effects they have on each other.

This lack of collaboration between energy and water planners is especially dire considering Texas is in midst of an energy shortage that is exacerbated by the multi-year drought. Without adequate planning, we could someday have to choose between keeping our lights on and turning on the faucet.

Need for efficiency

Source: NY Times

 

Energy and water infrastructure upgrades are expensive, and this reality continues to stifle the transition to a more water and energy efficient system. Energy and water policies at both the federal and state levels were developed to support existing electricity generation and water technology, but conditions have changed dramatically and the policies haven’t kept up.

Competitive markets, new technologies, resource constraints and increasing greenhouse gas emissions are all part of the new planning reality, but are not adequately addressed when energy and water planning are carried out in siloes. At the most basic level, even the language between the two sectors does not match up, making it difficult for energy and water planners to speak to each other effectively. But don’t think this lets regulators and policymakers off the hook.

Policy

There have been calls for joint water and energy resource management. In 2011, the U.S. Energy and Water Research Integration Act was formulated “to ensure consideration of water intensity in the Department of Energy’s energy research, development, and demonstration programs to help guarantee efficient, reliable, and sustainable delivery of energy and water resources.” Although it was not enacted into law, this bill put the energy-water nexus on the national stage. Later, in the 2013 Texas legislative session, Senator Kirk Watson nearly passed a bill (Senate Bill 199) that would have required electricity generators to report their water use and needs annually. While some lawmakers have a clear vision to address energy and water needs together, we lack a consensus and broad understanding among stakeholders to make that vision a reality.

To compound the problem, energy and water resources are managed at multiple levels—local, regional, statewide and national. Having these different planning and regulatory levels means more opportunities for miscommunication or misalignment of policy goals from each sector. Addressing energy and water on a more coordinated basis could help overcome language barriers between the two and ensure that each resource is more adequately protected.

Energy and water management is too crucial to be upheld by disjointed decision making that doesn’t look at the whole picture. While it may be difficult to breakdown the longstanding separation between energy and water management, doing so will reveal novel conservation strategies to ensure Texans – or anyone else for that matter – never have to choose between keeping our lights on or running water to meet our daily needs.

This is one of a group of posts that examines the energy-water nexus, Texas’ current approach to energy and water policy and what Texans can learn from other places to better manage its vital resources.

 

WEF Impact Investing Report

wef-impact-investing-thumbOver the last few years, much excitement has been generated around the term “impact investing” – an investment approach that intentionally seeks to create both financial return and measurable positive social or environmental impact. Despite the buzz, there is limited consensus among mainstream investors and specialized niche players on what impact investing is, what asset classes are most relevant, how the ecosystem is structured and what constraints the sector faces. As a result, there is widespread confusion regarding what impact investing promises and ultimately delivers.

This report is a result of engaging over 150 mainstream investors, business executives, philanthropic leaders and policy-makers through interviews, workshops and conference calls. The overall objective of the Mainstreaming Impact Investing initiative is to provide an initial assessment of the sector and identify the factors constraining the acceleration of capital into the field of impact investing.

Download the report (PDF)

 

Alternative energy will no longer be alternative

Alternative energy will no longer be alternative

http://www.globalfundexchange.com/blog/2013/05/31/alternative-energy-will-no-longer-be-alternative/

“Renewable” power will soon start to be seen as normal.

Wind farms already provide 2% of the world’s electricity, and their capacity is doubling every three years. If that growth rate is maintained, wind power will overtake nuclear’s contribution to the world’s energy accounts in about a decade. Though it still has its opponents, wind is thus already a grown-up technology. But it is in the field of solar energy, currently only a quarter of a percent of the planet’s electricity supply, but which grew 86% last year, that the biggest shift of attitude will be seen, for sunlight has the potential to disrupt the electricity market completely.

The underlying cause of this disruption is a phenomenon that solar’s supporters call Swanson’s law, in imitation of Moore’s law of transistor cost. Moore’s law suggests that the size of transistors (and also their cost) halves every 18 months or so. Swanson’s law, named after Richard Swanson, the founder of SunPower, a big American solar-cell manufacturer, suggests that the cost of the photovoltaic cells needed to generate solar power falls by 20% with each doubling of global manufacturing capacity. The upshot (see chart) is that the modules used to make solar-power plants now cost less than a dollar per watt of capacity. Power-station construction costs can add $4 to that, but these, too, are falling as builders work out how to do the job better. And running a solar power station is cheap because the fuel is free.

Coal-fired plants, for comparison, cost about $3 a watt to build in the United States, and natural-gas plants cost $1. But that is before the fuel to run them is bought. In sunny regions such as California, then, photovoltaic power could already compete without subsidy with the more expensive parts of the traditional power market, such as the natural-gas-fired “peaker” plants kept on stand-by to meet surges in demand. Moreover, technological developments that have been proved in the laboratory but have not yet moved into the factory mean Swanson’s law still has many years to run.

Fossil-fuel-powered electricity will not be pushed aside quickly. Fracking, a technological breakthrough which enables natural gas to be extracted cheaply from shale, means that gas-fired power stations, which already produce a fifth of the world’s electricity, will keep the pressure on wind and solar to get better still. But even if natural gas were free, no Swanson’s law-like process applies to the plant required to turn it into electricity. Nuclear power is not a realistic alternative. It is too unpopular and the capital costs are huge. And coal’s days seem numbered. In America, the share of electricity generated from coal has fallen from almost 80% in the mid-1980s to less than a third in April 2012, and coal-fired power stations are closing in droves.

It may take longer to make the change in China and India, where demand for power is growing almost insatiably, and where the grids to take that power from windy and sunny places to the cities are less developed than in rich countries. In the end, though, they too will change as the alternatives become normal, and what was once normal becomes quaintly old-fashioned.

Continue reading this excellent article from the Economist

 

by anric

 

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Jeremy Grantham – The Race of our Lives

Jeremy Grantham – The Race of our Lives

http://www.globalfundexchange.com/blog/2013/04/29/jeremy-grantham-the-race-of-our-lives/

“Our global economy, reckless in its use of all resources and natural systems, shows many of the indicators of potential failure that brought down so many civilizations before ours. By sheer luck, though, ours has two features that might just save our bacon: declining fertility rates and progress in alternative energy. Our survival might well depend on doing everything we can to encourage their progress. Vested interests, though, defend the status quo effectively and the majority much prefers optimistic propaganda to uncomfortable truth and wishful thinking rather than tough action. It is likely to be a close race.
The collapse of civilizations is a gripping and resonant topic for many of us and one that has attracted many scholars over the years. They see many possible contributing factors to the collapse of previous civilizations, the evidence pieced together shard by shard from civilizations that often left few records. But some themes reoccur in the scholars’ work: geographic locations that had misfortune in the availability of useful animal and vegetable life, soil, water, and a source of energy; mismanagement in the overuse and depletion of resources, especially forests, soil, and water……

by Anric

 

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Energy Outlook – A view to 2040

Energy Outlook – A view to 2040

http://www.globalfundexchange.com/blog/2013/03/04/energy-outlook-a-view-to-2040/

Walking through the lobby at the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha, Qatar, we stumble across a live presentation by ExxonMobil of its annual Energy Outlook. Normally every year we like to present the key findings of this excellent industry source to our clients and partners.

The Outlook for Energy is ExxonMobil’s long-term view of our shared energy future. They develop the Outlook annually to assess future trends in energy supply, demand and technology to help guide the long-term investments.

This year’s Outlook reveals a number of key findings about how we use energy, how much we will need in the future and what types of fuels will meet demand.

For example:

Efficiency will continue to play a key role in solving our energy challenges. Energy-saving practices and technologies, such as hybrid vehicles and high-efficiency natural gas power plants, will help countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – including those in North America and Europe – keep energy use essentially flat even as OECD economic output grows 80 percent.

Energy demand in developing nations (Non OECD) will rise 65 percent by 2040 compared to 2010, reflecting growing prosperity and expanding economies. Overall, global energy demand will grow 35 percent, even with significant efficiency gains, as the world’s population expands from about 7 billion people today to nearly 9 billion people by 2040, led by growth in Africa and India.

With this growth comes a greater demand for electricity. Today, and over the next few decades, electricity generation represents the largest driver of demand for energy. Through 2040, it will account for more than half of the increase in global energy demand.

Growth in transportation sector demand will be led by expanding commercial activity as our economies grow. However, energy consumed by personal vehicles will gradually peak and then begin to fall as our cars, sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and small pickup trucks become much more fuel-efficient.

Technology is enabling the safe development of once hard-to-produce energy resources, significantly expanding available supplies to meet the world’s changing energy needs.

Oil will remain the No. 1 global fuel, while natural gas will overtake coal for the No. 2 spot. Use of nuclear power and renewable energy will grow, while demand for coal peaks and then begins a gradual decline.

Evolving demand and supply patterns will open the door for increased global trade opportunities.

Around 2030, the nations of North America will likely transition from a net importer to a net exporter of oil and oil-based products. The changing energy landscape and the resulting trade opportunities it affords will continue to provide consumers with more choices, more value, more wealth and more good jobs (see page 44).

The Outlook provides a window to the future, a view that we use to help guide our own strategies and investments. Over the next five years, ExxonMobil expects to invest approximately $185 billion in energy projects alone. Given the magnitude of these investments, it’s critical that we take an objective and data-driven approach to ensure that we have the most accurate picture of energy trends.

The information contained in the Outlook regarding energy markets is also crucial for individuals, businesses and policymakers. We hope that by sharing this Outlook, we can enhance understanding of energy issues so that we can all make informed decisions about our energy future.

Download the entire report: Energy Outlook – A view to 2040

by Anric

 

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