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NEWS UPDATE #107


Darryl D’Monte reports:  As many as 160,000 people will die every year in India by 2050 due to decreased food production because of climate change, an Oxford study predicts. India ranks second in the mortality forecast after China, where as many as 248,000 are expected to die for this reason. Surprisingly, the US ranks fifth.

Climate change will claim 160,000 lives a year in India by 2050
Darryl D’Monte, India Climate Dialogue
As many as 160,000 people will die every year in India by 2050 due to decreased food production because of climate change, an Oxford University study has predicted. India ranks second in the mortality forecast after China, where as many as 248,000 are expected to die for this reason. Surprisingly, the US ranks fifth, after Vietnam and Bangladesh. Worldwide, there would be 529,000 more deaths due to climate-related factors midway this century. The study, which was published in the UK health journal Lancet in March, used models to estimate the health impacts due to shortages of food crops caused by changes in climate.

From drought to floods in 45 days
India Climate Dialogue
By the end of July, an estimated 300 people have been killed by floods, around three million have been forced to flee their homes, over 100,000 animals have been drowned – including 21 rare and endangered one-horned rhinoceros – as a water-parched South Asia has suddenly got too much of it since the start of the monsoon in mid-June. As the Ganga, Brahmaputra, Indus and their tributaries swelled with rain water large swathes of farmland were inundated in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. It is not as if it has been an especially vigorous monsoon. In fact, the India Meteorological Department says the rainfall during June and July has been exactly the same as the long-period average. It has even been 13% deficient in east and northeast India. (VIEW: Down to Earth Infographic – From drought to deluge)

Small and corrupt: Who is profiting from Maharashtra’s water conservation programme?
Mridula Chari & Supriya Sharma, Scroll.in
The focus on decentralised, village-level water conservation marks a shift from large irrigation projects that have delivered greater benefits to the state’s politicians and officials than to its farmers. A committee report tabled in the state assembly in June 2014 documented irregularities in contracts worth Rs 70,000 crore that had been awarded to irrigation schemes over the last ten years.

Biodiversity law crippled at the grassroots
Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava, Hindustan Times
The National Green Tribunal has recently suspended environment clearances to some big-ticket projects for not disclosing their impact on local biodiversity. India had passed a law in 2002 to document biodiversity and traditional knowledge at the local level. The documentation could prevent industrial projects from getting away with bogus environment impact assessment studies and could benefit local people from commercial use of biodiversity. But, RTI responses received from 15 states show only 3% of their local bodies have done the documentation. Only one Panchayat in these states has got share from the profit of a medicine company using local plants.

India’s forests valued at Rs 115 trillion, but tribals unlikely to get a share
Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava, Hindustan Times
After enacting the CAMPA law, NDA government is set to put a new price tag on India’s forests. It values country’s forests at Rs 115 lakh crore or equal to the worth of the Bombay Stock Exchange and has decided to double the levy charged on Industry for using forests for non-forest use. But, it dumped the suggestion of an expert panel that 50% of the money collected from diverting forestland for industries should go to communities that live in and are dependent on the jungles. (RELATED: The Modi government is short changing dirt-poor tribal communities 

How to ‘create’ forests
Ritwick Dutta, Deccan Herald
Public discourse on the CAMPA Bill had essentially focussed on the synergy between the Campa Bill and the Forest Rights Act, 2006, specifically with respect to the role of the gram sabhas. Notwithstanding these valid objections and concerns, there are some fundamental problems with the basic premise of the now passed bill which needs to be highlighted. First and foremost, Campa is based on the faulty assumption that loss of natural forest and ecosystem can be ‘compensated’ by planting trees. (Also read: The CAMPA Bill Has Greed Written All Over It)

Coastal Law Got a Skewed Review – and Now, an Opaque Revamp
Meenakshi Kapoor, The Wire
In June this year, the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change disclosed the report of the committee constituted to review the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2011. The environment ministry shared the report after eighteen months of its completion and that, too, on being directed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) to do so. While the ministry’s reluctance to make the report public flouts the principles of democratic decision-making, the process of CRZ review in itself has been opaque, obscure and one-sided.

An open digital repository of marine biodiversity data covering 5,272 species and 1.19 lakh records of marine species
K.S. Sudhi, The Hindu
Information on thousands of species — from microscopic bacteria to the mighty blue whale — thriving in the depths of the Indian Ocean and beyond is available at the click of a mouse. An open digital repository of marine biodiversity data covering 5,272 species and 1.19 lakh records of these species is hosted online (http://www.iobis.org) on the Ocean Biographic Information System (OBIS). India is a partner in a global alliance of more than 56 countries for developing the database. (Also read: The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to house the country’s first repository on tigers)

NITI Aayog to unveil National Energy Policy
Deccan Herald
NITI Aayog is likely to unveil the new National Energy Policy in the next three months, with a focus on air quality issue, renewable energy, natural gas, universal electrification and clean cooking fuel. The policy will replace Integrated Energy Policy that envisioned a road map for sustainable growth with energy security over a reasonable period of time. It was approved by the Union Cabinet in December 2008, during UPA regime. (Also read: NTPC betting more on home coal-driven growth)

Land To The Tiller: Revisiting The Unfinished Land Reforms Agenda
Ashish Singh, Countercurrents.org
ActionAid India has recently come up with a report on the issues of Land Rights in India. Land, forest and water being three major issues for the larger part of the world, the report is an important document to be read and discussed at multiple levels. Titled as “Land to the Tiller: Revisiting the Unfinished Land Reforms Agenda”, was an outcome of the research on land reforms and the recommendations for implementation of the land reforms in 11 states (Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh).

When the Environment Ministry Copied the EPA’s Rules But Deceptively
William J. Lockhart, The Wire
As a US environmental lawyer, I find it grossly deceptive that the environment ministry pretends to justify its plan by claiming that this arrangement adopts the practices of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Obviously, India is utterly free to follow whatever policies it can credibly justify to its citizens. But the only thing that the ministry’s plan has in common with USEPA’s ‘Supplemental Environmental Projects Policy’ is its characterisation of the plan as ‘supplemental’. That deception is nothing more than the wrapping in which the misrepresentations of this destructive initiative are being sold in India.

Targeting an activist
Ilangovan Rajasekarana, Frontline
The rejuvenated Mookaneri lake is an “iconic model” for those working in the area of conservation of waterbodies. The credit for this conservation initiative and awareness-generation should go to a lone crusader, Piyush Sethia, or Piyush `Manush, as he prefers to call himself today. The 40-year-old who is from Rajasthan and has made Salem his home became an environmental crusader when he was still in school in Salem, which was sitting on an ecological powder keg because of mindless industrial pollution and reckless bauxite mining atop the Yercaud and Kolli hills. Piyush has fought against mega industrial lobbies, powerful miners, land sharks and an insensitive State government. One of his big successes came when he mobilised local support and prevented an industrial major from mining iron ore on the picturesque Kanjamalai Hills in Salem. This enthused even the people of Tiruvannamalai, the temple town in northern Tamil Nadu, to fight off an attempt by the same industrial house to mine a hill there.

Growth rate of 8% for 30 yrs to give India best of world: PM
Deccan Herald
Addressing his first townhall, Modi stressed upon the need for providing grievance redressal system that not just listens to complaints of citizens, but also redresses them in a time- bound manner. “With rapid and continued economic growth of over 8 per cent over the next 30 years, we can have whatever best we see in the world,” Modi said at the event to mark two years of the government’s citizen partnership app MyGov. Modi said India has become the fastest growing large economy in the world with a growth rate of over 7.5 per cent which is credible despite global slowdown and two consecutive years of drought.

Scientists warn world will miss key climate target
The Guardian
Leading climate scientists have warned that the Earth is perilously close to breaking through a 1.5C upper limit for global warming, only eight months after the target was set. The decision to try to limit warming to 1.5C, measured in relation to pre-industrial temperatures, was the headline outcome of the Paris climate negotiations last December. However, figures – based on Met Office data – prepared by meteorologist Ed Hawkins of Reading University show that average global temperatures were already more than 1C above pre-industrial levels for every month except one over the past year and peaked at +1.38C in February and March. Keeping within the 1.5C limit will be extremely difficult, say scientists, given these rises.

Humanity Just Ate Through Planet’s Annual Resource Budget Faster Than Ever
Common Dreams
Earth Overshoot Day—the day on which people worldwide have officially used up more natural resources like air, food, and water than the planet can regenerate in a year—has come early. The 2016 threshold was hit on Monday, making it the fastest pace yet, according to a new report by the Global Footprint Network, which measures the dubious milestone every year. That’s five days earlier than last year, about five weeks earlier than in 2003, and months earlier than it was in 1987, when it fell on December 19. In 1961, the global population didn’t even use up 100 percent of the world’s natural resources, according to the network. But the next decade propelled the planet into an era of overconsumption, the group said.

Forests declining, but tree cover on agricultural land increasing globally
The Times of India
Although deforestation continues unabated in tropical forests, a new study has revealed some unexpected good news: tree cover on agricultural land is increasing across the globe, capturing nearly 0.75 Gigatonnes (billion tonnes) carbon dioxide every year. “Remote sensing data show that in 2010, 43% of all agricultural land globally had at least 10% tree cover, up from eight percent in the preceding decade,” said Robert Zomer of the World Agroforestry Centre, lead author of the study. “Given the vast amount of land under agriculture, agroforestry may already significantly contribute to global carbon budgets.”

Washington County Shocks Big Oil With Ban on Fossil Fuel Exports
Common Dreams
In an unprecedented gesture hailed by environmentalists, Washington’s Whatcom County enacted an emergency 60-day moratorium on fossil fuel exports late Wednesday. Environmentalists and industrialists were both shocked by the move from the coastal county once known as “Wide Open Whatcom” for its welcoming of oil refineries and a massive aluminum smelter. “The moratorium applies to ‘all forms of crude oil whether stabilized or not, raw bitumen, diluted bitumen and syncrude; coal; methane, propane, butane and other ‘natural gas’ in liquid or gaseous form,'” reports seattlepi.com.

Might the fossil fuel industries implode faster than the clean energy industries can grow to replace them?
Jeremy Leggett
Might it be that the ongoing implosion of fossil fuel industries will happen much faster than than the necessarily explosive transition to solutions? Of course. The top reason for concern from July was to be found in Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s figures for global investment in renewables in the first half of the year: a sharp fall, down 23% from the first half of 2015. Q2 2015 saw $90 bn invested. Q2 2016 saw $60bn. For comparison, BP learned its final bill (before tax breaks) for the Deepwater Horizon spill this month: $61.6 bn. One oil company. One oil spill. More cash “clearing up” an avoidable catastrophe than invested in the entire global renewable industry in a full quarter of a year.

New “Bionic” Leaf Is Roughly 10 Times More Efficient Than Natural Photosynthesis
David Biello, Scientific American
A tree’s leaf, a blade of grass, a single algal cell: all make fuel from the simple combination of water, sunlight and carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. Now scientists say they have replicated—and improved on—that trick with their own “bionic leaf.” Chemist Daniel Nocera of Harvard University and his team joined forces with synthetic biologist Pamela Silver of Harvard Medical School and her team to craft a kind of living battery, which they call a bionic leaf for its melding of biology and technology. The device uses solar electricity from a photovoltaic panel to power the chemistry that splits water into oxygen and hydrogen. Microbes within the system then feed on the hydrogen and convert carbon dioxide in the air into alcohol that can be burned as fuel. (Related: Abu Dhabi project uses sand to store solar power)

You can’t handle the truth
Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Institute
Bernie Sanders offered the best climate policies of any of the pre-convention candidates in the upcoming US presidential elections, but even he shied away from describing what’s really at stake. The times call for a candidate more in the mold of Winston Churchill, who famously promised only “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” in enlisting his people in a great, protracted struggle in which all would be called upon to work tirelessly and set aside personal wants and expectations. The candidates we have instead bode ill for the immediate future. Given the absence of helpful leadership at the national level, our main opportunity for effective preparation and response to the wolf at our doorstep appears to lie in local community resilience building. It’s the truth. Can you handle it?

Climate Change Is Not The ‘Biggest Killer’ Of Biodiversity
The Huffington Post
Global climate change, including sea-level rise, drought and extreme heat, is no doubt taking a toll on our planet ― but it’s far from the biggest threat humans have imposed on Earth’s plant and animal species. A new analysis of threatened wildlife has provided a much-needed dose of perspective, showing that age-old human activities, including logging, hunting and farming, continue to pose a greater and more urgent threat. Despite a “growing tendency for media reports about threats to biodiversity to focus on climate change,” over-exploitation and agriculture are “by far the biggest drivers of biodiversity decline,” the authors write in a comment published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

 

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