G7 Agrees to Accelerate Renewable Energy Development and Phase Out Fossil Fuels - Japan, Sapporo
During the G7 meeting in Sapporo on April 16 2023 the seven nations have agreed to accelerate renewable energy development and phase out fossil fuels at a quicker pace, but stopped short of endorsing a 2030 deadline for phasing out coal.
The G7 ministers have set big collective targets for offshore wind capacity and solar power to speed up renewable energy development. They have agreed to increase offshore wind capacity by 150 GW by 2030 and solar capacity to over 1 TW.
The members have also committed to accelerate the phase-out of unabated fossil fuels to achieve net-zero in energy systems by 2050 at the latest, but investment in gas could be appropriate to address potential market shortfalls provoked by the crisis in Ukraine.
The group emphasized the importance of countering geopolitical risks, including with respect to critical minerals, for the clean energy transition. They also reaffirmed about their commitment to reduce additional plastic pollution to zero by 2040.
Climate Scientists Warn Record Temperatures Possible in 2023 with Return of El Niño
Climate scientists warn that the world may experience record-breaking temperatures in 2023 or 2024 due to climate change and the expected return of the El Niño weather phenomenon.
Climate models suggest that after three years of the La Niña weather pattern, which generally lowers global temperatures, the world will return to El Niño, which creates warmer surface ocean temperatures.
The last eight years have been the world's hottest on record, reflecting the longer-term warming trend driven by greenhouse gas emissions. If El Niño develops, 2023 could be even hotter than the world's hottest year on record so far, 2016.
Despite pledges to eventually reduce net emissions to zero, global CO2 emissions continued to rise last year.
Italy's Ski Industry Struggles as Artificial Snowmaking Fails to Combat Rising Temperatures
Italy's ski industry has invested millions of euros in artificial snowmaking to combat the effects of global warming on its ski resorts, but rising temperatures threaten the industry and the environment.
The snow cannons need freezing weather for water droplets to fall to the ground as snow, and until mid-January 2023, the temperature in Monte Cimone, a popular ski resort in Italy's Apennine Mountains, never fell below zero Celsius.
The economic stakes are high, as Italy's ski sector directly or indirectly employs 400,000 people and generates turnover of €11 billion ($11.92 billion), equal to about 0.5% of national output. Italy has around 220 ski resorts, with at least five lifts, making it the third in the world, behind the United States and France.
Around 90% of Italy's pistes rely on artificial snow, compared to 70% in Austria, 50% in Switzerland, and 39% in France. Rising temperatures bring drought, and Italy cannot afford to use millions of cubic meters of water each year to make snow. The annual water consumption of Italy's Alpine pistes may soon be equivalent to a city of a million people, such as Naples.
The energy consumed by an ever-growing battery of snow cannon is also exorbitant. The power required to provide artificial snow to all Europe's Alpine resorts would equal the annual consumption of 130,000 families of four people.
The skiing industry faces a looming decision: battle on in the hope that technological progress can overcome the effect of rising temperatures, or change the business model and look for alternative sources of tourist revenue. While climatologists and even the Bank of Italy suggest the second course of action, most ski operators are defiant. Italy is far from alone in going to almost any lengths to preserve its winter skiing, but increasingly desperate attempts to preserve the ski industry are drawing protests from environmentalists. The European Alps, where temperatures are rising faster than in most of the world, will become increasingly popular in summer as Mediterranean beaches and cities grow uncomfortably hot, climate and tourism experts forecast.
A growing number of mountain communities have already followed the advice of diversifying their mountain activities and revenues to attract different types of holidaymakers. In the Piani di Bobbio resort, located in the foothills of the Italian Alps, tourists and locals can hike, cycle, or visit the dairy farm's cheese factory. Some 39,000 people visited in the 2021 summer season, up from 16,000 in 2019. As skiing between 1,000 and 2,000 meters becomes economically unsustainable, according to climatologists, the resorts should focus on attracting different kinds of holidaymakers.
Oil Companies Abandon Algae Biofuel Research Despite Promising Future
Oil companies like BP, Shell, Chevron, and ExxonMobil once believed that algae biofuels would be the future of low-carbon transportation.
They thought that investing in this technology would help them reduce carbon emissions and solve the problem of climate change. However, one by one, they all withdrew their support for algae biofuels. ExxonMobil, the last company still working on this technology, has now also stopped its research.
For many years, ExxonMobil used its algae research in its green marketing campaigns. However, some people criticized these efforts as "greenwashing" because they seemed more like PR stunts than genuine research.
ExxonMobil invested $350 million in algae biofuels over 12 years, but they eventually decided to end their research. While many people in the industry are disappointed with this decision, they are not surprised.
The problem with commercializing biofuels, including algae biofuels, is that it requires a significant amount of money and long-term dedication to overcome the biological limitations of wild organisms. Algae researchers found that it was challenging to compete with the heavily subsidized fossil fuels, especially natural gas. One of the biggest challenges was that wild strains of algae could not produce the high levels of lipids needed to make large amounts of fuel. However, genetically modifying the algae showed some promising results in maximizing lipid production.
To make algae biofuels commercially viable, researchers need to develop a strain that can produce 15g of oil per square meter in an outdoor environment. However, most experts agree that this goal is at least a decade away, and it may take even longer. It is possible that more investment in this technology during the years when oil companies were promoting their research could have accelerated progress. Nevertheless, there are still many challenges to overcome before algae biofuels can become a reality at a commercial scale, and some people doubt whether they will ever fulfill their promise.
IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report Issues Final Warning on Climate Crisis
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a "final warning" on the climate crisis, stating that swift and drastic action is needed to avert irrevocable damage to the world.
The IPCC's sixth assessment report, which took hundreds of scientists eight years to compile, details the damage already inflicted on the world, including extreme weather and increased deaths from heatwaves, droughts, and floods.
The report calls for action to prevent irreversible losses in vital ecosystems and warns that if the remaining carbon budget is used up before the next IPCC report in 2030, it may be too late to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
However, the report also emphasizes that avoiding the worst effects of climate change remains possible, and there are "multiple, feasible and effective options" for doing so, with the necessary shift to a low-carbon economy requiring up to six times the current levels of green investment.
Climate justice is also vital, as the poorest and most vulnerable communities have suffered most from climate impacts. The report's message of action, rather than despair, was taken up by the UN secretary-general, who called for countries to adopt an "acceleration agenda" involving all of the G20.
Groundbreaking Report Warns of Looming Global Water Crisis
A landmark report on the economics of water has warned that by 2030, global demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40%.
As governments worldwide prepare for a crucial United Nations water summit, industries from mining to manufacturing are being urged to overhaul wasteful water practices, while governments are urged to stop subsidizing water extraction and overuse.
The report also highlights the need for nations to manage water as a global common good, because most countries are highly dependent on their neighbors for water supplies. Overuse, pollution, and the climate crisis threaten water supplies globally.
The report is the first time the global water system has been scrutinized comprehensively. It sets out seven key recommendations, including reshaping the global governance of water resources, scaling up investment in water management through public-private partnerships, pricing water properly, and establishing "just water partnerships" to raise finance for water projects in developing and middle-income countries.
More than $700bn of subsidies globally go to agriculture and water each year and these often fuel excessive water consumption. Water leakage must also be urgently addressed, the report found, and restoring freshwater systems such as wetlands should be another priority.
The UN water summit, led by the governments of the Netherlands and Tajikistan, will take place on 22 March. World leaders are invited, but only a few are expected to attend, with most countries to be represented by ministers or high-ranking officials.
Source: The Guardian
Environmental Groups Sue Biden Administration Over Approval of Willow Oil Field Project in Alaska
Six environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration over the approval of ConocoPhillips' Willow oil and gas project in Alaska.
The groups, which include The Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, and the Alaska Wilderness League, claim that the development, which will take place on public lands on the north coast of Alaska, will cause harm to Arctic communities, public health, wildlife, and the climate.
The Interior Department approved three drill pads for the project on Monday, after previously expressing concerns over greenhouse gas emissions. The lawsuit alleges that the administration ignored its own climate guidelines in approving the project.
The Willow project is a proposed $7 billion oil and gas drilling project in Alaska by ConocoPhillips. The project would be located inside the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, a large area of undisturbed public land.
Biden's Interior Department recently approved a modified version of the project, which would include three drill sites instead of the initial five and less surface infrastructure. The department said this would help reduce the project's impact on habitats for polar bears and yellow-billed loons.
However, environmental groups are still unhappy with the decision and argue that even in its modified form, the project conflicts with the Biden administration's promises to fight climate change and poses a threat to the environment.
The Willow project is important to Alaska's elected officials and could help offset oil production declines.