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NEWS UPDATE #86


Bill McKibben reports: On March 3, across the northern hemisphere, the temperature, for a few hours, crossed a line: it was more than two degrees Celsius above “normal” for the first time in recorded history and likely for the first time in the course of human civilization. Two degrees Celsius is the must-not-cross red line.

Climate change is going to change the way India eats – and kill over 135,000 by 2050
Madhura Karnik, Scroll.in
Climate change could kill half a million people globally, and more than a hundred thousand in India over the next 35 years. Asia’s third-largest economy will see over 135,000 deaths by 2050 only because of the effects of climate change on food consumption, according to a new study published in The Lancet, a British medical journal. China will see even more deaths than India because of changes in agriculture and food consumption. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford, involved 155 countries. It estimates that climate change will lead to 529,000 additional deaths globally.

Drought in Marathwada fuels large-scale migration
Deccan Herald
Rattled and shattered by severe drought, more than 25 lakh people from the Marathwada region of Maharashtra have migrated to urban centres like Mumbai, Pune and even neighbouring states. The maximum migration has been reported from three districts of Beed, Osmanabad and Latur. This has come as a major challenge to the BJP-Shiv Sena saffron alliance government.

The story the Chhattisgarh police does not want you to read
Supriya Sharma, Scroll.in
Even by the record of the last two years, what happened in Sukma district over the last three months is unusual. Starting December 2015, nearly 140 surrenders have taken place on the 50-km stretch between Dornapal and Chintalnar in Sukma district. “These statistics look great in presentations to the Home Ministry,” former Director General of Chhattisgarh police, Vishwa Ranjan, said wryly. “But the real indicator of success in counter-Maoist operations is when you can reduce the number of security forces deployed.” (Also read:‘The war is going to intensify’)

Odisha says tribals had no power to reject Vedanta bauxite mining
Nitin Sethi, Business Standard
The Odisha government has challenged the landmark Vedanta bauxite mine judgement of the Supreme Court which upheld the statutory powers of the tribal village councils under the Forest Rights Act and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Area) Act to decide if they wish mining to take place in their traditional forestlands or not. Filing a new interlocutory application before the apex court, Odisha government has claimed that the Forest Rights Act and its rules do not require any consent from gram sabha (village councils) for use of forestlands if the government decides that the rights of the people have been settled.

Snake attacks in India are a real problem that no one is talking about
Nayantara Narayanan, Scroll.in
The snakes versus humans conflict is possibly one of the largest examples of human-animal conflict in India today, but it is also largely ignored. The largest number of deaths due to animals in India is caused by snakebites. A study of snakebite mortality in India published in 2011 found that close to 46,000 people die of snakebite every year, far higher than the official estimates from government hospitals of between 1,300 and 1,400 deaths annually. The report said: “Thus, snakebite remains an underestimated cause of accidental death in modern India, causing about one death for every two HIV-related deaths.”

Centre exempts ‘white’ industries from green nod
Times of India
In its effort to sync environmental goals with the Centre’s agenda of improving ‘ease of doing business’, the environment ministry on Saturday released a new categorization of industries based on their pollution load. It introduced a new category – white – having 36 types of non-polluting industries, which will not require environmental clearance for their operation. Bio-fertilizer, bio-pesticide, organic manure, wind power and mini hydel of less than 25 MW of capacity are among the industries/projects that fall under the new white category.

If This Is ‘Pro-Farmer’…
P. Sainath, Outlook Magazine
…Alongside this fiddle comes the crazy claim of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022. Does the finance minister mean real income after adjusting for price rise? And how? At the heart of their crisis is how unviable farming is being rendered—by policy. Will he honour his party’s promise and boost the MSP? Will he reduce the burden of farmers locked into a high-cost econ­omy—give them access to better credit and cheaper seed, fertiliser and other inputs? There is not a hint in the budget. The lion’s share of ‘agricultural credit’ goes to urban and metro-based businesses.

How realistic are promises of doubling farm incomes?
Roshan Kishore, Live Mint
First, there is the question of nominal versus real increase in incomes. While economists might tend to value only the latter, people do value even a nominal increase in incomes. Second, given the lack of actual income data in India, there is also the question of which indicator should be taken as a measure of farmers’ income. A useful way to judge the feasibility of Jaitley’s targets can be to look at how such indicators have behaved in the past. (Also read: What do small farmers and India’s food security gain and lose from the union budget? )

The Reality of India’s Rising GDP Numbers
Taufeeq Ajaz, The Wire
The popular and official view is that the Indian economy is growing, but high frequency data suggest otherwise. The GDP data for the current financial year had estimated manufacturing sector growth at an annual 12.6% during October-December, but the latest numbers for the IIP indicate a mere 0.9% rise during the same quarter. The gap is surprising. The government, however, maintains that the two sets of contradictory numbers are based on different methods of calculation.

‘Teething Troubles’ at Kudankulam: India Biting More Nuclear Than it Can Chew
M.V. Ramana, The Wire
The saga of failures at Kudankulam-1, however, does not stop with it reaching criticality in July 2013. First: the reactor took over 17 months to go from criticality to being declared commercial on December 31, 2014. In contrast, the Rajasthan 5 and 6 reactors took less than three months each for the same transition. Choosing the last day of 2014 would suggest that the declaration had more to do with public relations goals rather than the reactor having reached some stable level of performance.

India Announces Coal Tax To Fund Renewable Energy Projects
Mridul Chadha, Clean Technica
In a landmark announcement the Indian Finance Minister, in his annual Budget speech, put forward the proposal of setting of National Clean Energy Fund which would be constituted through tax lieved on coal usage in the country. The quantum of tax would be INR 50 per ton of coal used, which would generate an annual revenue of around $600 million.

India’s Only Hope of Squaring the Climate Change Circle is to Step on the Gas
Sudha Mahalingam, The Wire
If India has to depend on fossil fuels, natural gas is by far the cleanest option. It emits less than half the carbon emitted by coal when used in power generation. The other greenhouse gases like sulphur and nitrous oxides associated with natural gas are also negligible. It is also quite versatile, since it can be used in process industries as well as in transport. In the developed world, natural gas accounts for a quarter of electricity generation whereas in India, we have only about 10% of thermal power generation capacity in the form of combined cycle gas generation turbines (CCGT).

US-WTO Shadow on India’s Solar Power Plans
D. Raghunandan, Delhi Science Forum
Coming as it did just a few weeks after the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, when developed countries led by the US were self-righteously exhorting developing countries like India to reduce emissions through various measures including adoption of renewable energy despite its higher cost, the hypocrisy of the US action in penalizing India for promoting the twin goals of renewable energy and boosting job creation could not be missed.

The mercury doesn’t lie: We’ve hit a troubling climate change milestone
Bill McKibben, Boston Globe
Thursday, while the nation debated the relative size of Republican genitalia, something truly awful happened. Across the northern hemisphere, the temperature, if only for a few hours, apparently crossed a line: it was more than two degrees Celsius above “normal” for the first time in recorded history and likely for the first time in the course of human civilization. That’s important because the governments of the world have set two degrees Celsius as the must-not-cross red line that, theoretically, we’re doing all we can to avoid. And it’s important because most of the hemisphere has not really had a winter. (Also read: Our Hemisphere’s Temperature Just Reached a Terrifying Milestone Why is 2016 smashing heat records?)

Former-PM Admits “Future Existence Of Japan Was At Stake” As Mutations Appear In Fukushima Forest
The Telegraph (Via Zero Hedge)
“The future existence of Japan as a whole was at stake,” admits Japan’s prime minister at the time of the 2011 quake and tsunami, revealing that the country came within a “paper-thin margin” of a nuclear disaster requiring the evacuation of 50 million people. Naoto Kan expressed satisfaction at the three TEPCO executives facing charges over negligence, but this shocking admission comes as AFP reports, conservation group Greenpeace warned that “signs of mutations in trees and DNA-damaged worms beginning to appear,” while “vast stocks of radiation” mean that forests cannot be decontaminated.

Vote on controversial weedkiller’s European licence postponed
The Guardian
A mutiny by several EU states has forced the postponement of a vote in Brussels on relicensing a widely used weedkiller that the World Health Organisation has found is probably carcinogenic. Italy joined France, Sweden and the Netherlands in opposing a new 15-year licence for glyphosate at a meeting which had been expected to rubber stamp its reapproval on Tuesday. (Also read: European supermarkets and garden centres ban Roundup weedkiller suspected of causing cancer)

The $9.2 Billion Bet Against OPEC Dominance
Kurt Cobb
As bad as the OPEC countries, including Saudi Arabia, are hurting, to give up at this point would make all the previous suffering pointless. Saudi Arabia is really the linchpin in OPEC. The kingdom may be at or near its all-time maximum rate of production, a rate it may only be able to maintain for the next decade or so. Naturally, the Saudis want to maximize their revenues during this period of peak production. They can’t do that if U.S. oil companies keep overproducing. (Also read: How low can oil prices go and for how long? Cyclical and structural arguments)

Converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into batteries
Science Daily
An interdisciplinary team of scientists has worked out a way to make electric vehicles that are not only carbon neutral, but carbon negative, capable of actually reducing the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide as they operate. They have done so by demonstrating how the graphite electrodes used in the lithium-ion batteries that power electric automobiles can be replaced with carbon material recovered from the atmosphere.

The innovators: portable solar panels that can be unrolled like a carpet
The Guardian UK
The portable carpet-like solar system, which stores generated energy in batteries in the steel housing, is expected to be used for disaster relief where power systems have been knocked out, by armies on the move, and in mining stations located in areas without any power. “The market for off grid energy is huge and growing – 24% of the world is off grid but everyone needs energy these days,” said Hingley.

World’s Richest Man Picks Energy Miracles
Scientific American
The world’s richest man is corralling cash from his fellow billionaires as part of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, formed in 2015. Their intent is to put money into far-out energy ideas like turning air and sunshine into energy-dense fuels, using kites to harvest energy from high-altitude winds or devising a nuclear reactor that will not melt down. Their funding is not entirely altruistic. After all, if this money can be patient enough, replacing and expanding the world’s energy infrastructure could mean trillion-dollar payouts.

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