Other stories below: Africa Leads Climate Push as its People Go Hungry; Easy Loans Now a Burden for Chinese Solar Firms?
Soaring use of man-made gases used in refrigerators, air conditioners and fire extinguishers risks speeding up global warming and industry should adopt alternatives, a U.N. report said on Monday.
In the most dire forecast, unless governments and industry act to limit the growth, the annual emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, by 2050 could equate to pumping nearly 9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — about a third of mankind’s CO2 emissions now.
HFCs have been phased in since the 1990s to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which have damaged the Earth’s protective ozone layer and are also very powerful greenhouse gases.
On average, HFCs survive in the atmosphere for 15 years and are about 1,600 times more potent in trapping heat in the air than CO2, underscoring growing alarm about these compounds.
Several times a day, long trainloads of coal trundle through Missoula to power plants in Washington.
Those routine runs generate lots of electricity for homes and lots of consternation for politicians and scientists concerned about the trade-offs. In the short term, coal’s convenience and low price make it a simple answer to the nation’s energy needs. But its pollution, damage to water supplies and impact on global climate may produce a long-term cost we’re unable to afford.
“Two years ago, the United States was on the verge of adopting a comprehensive climate bill,” said Michael Gerrard, a Columbia Law School climate change expert who visited Missoula last week. “That fell apart, and we now have at best paralysis and at worst an effort to move backward. All this is happening in the face of a stream of new scientific evidence showing the serious worsening of climate problems. And the U.S. is now standing virtually alone in the world among major countries listening to voices that deny the reality of climate change.”
Africa is leading the push for clean energy policy-making as climate change turns millions of its people into “food refugees,” the head of the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) Achim Steiner said.
“On the African continent, there is sometimes more leadership being shown by countries, by governments, than we see in some of the industrialized nations,” Steiner told Reuters.
“Kenya is currently doubling its energy and electricity generating infrastructure largely using renewables. These are policies that are pioneering, that are innovative,” he said.
Kenya generates most of its energy from hydroelectric dams but water levels have fallen due to recurring drought. It is now investing heavily in geothermal and wind power.
The African Development Bank is financing Africa’s biggest wind farm on the shores of Lake Turkana, one of the windiest places on Earth. The $819-million project aims to produce 300 megawatts (MW) of electricity per year, boosting Kenya’s energy supply by 30 percent.
Toyota and Hyundai are building a fourth geothermal power station in Naivasha, 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Nairobi, which will increase geothermal capacity from 115 MW to 395 MW by 2014.
U.S. oil company Chevron will fully clean up a spill off Brazil’s coast, George Buck, the CEO of the local subsidiary said on Sunday, taking responsibility for an accident that has become a major test for one of the world’s fastest-growing oil frontiers.
About 18 vessels were supporting well-plugging operations and sheen cleanup, the company said in a later statement, adding that no new oil was being emitted.
Buck said the leak from the undersea well, owned in partnership with Brazil’s state-controlled Petrobras and a Japanese consortium, has been plugged.
“Chevron takes full responsibility for this incident,” Buck told reporters in Rio de Janeiro. “We will share the lessons learned here in the hope that this sort of incident won’t happen again in Brazil or anywhere else in the world.”
The spill, one of the largest to hit Brazil’s growing offshore oil industry has raised questions about its safety and ability to respond to accidents.
Generous state bank loans to Chinese solar companies, a bone of contention for their Western counterparts, are threatening the financial health of the firms, as they grapple with falling product prices and tumbling demand from their biggest customer, Europe.
The huge funds that flow into China’s solar sector, in which local governments hold stakes, have boosted production in the first half despite fragile demand, depressing product prices and setting off an anti-dumping probe by the United States.
State banks provide easy loans to the sector amid the Chinese government’s push to develop clean energy. Provincial governments that have helped build solar companies are also pressuring banks to continue lending, which may add to the woes of the struggling industry.
The glut of production and swelling inventories of the panels that turn sunlight into electricity have already driven down prices by about 40 percent so far this year. Analysts expect prices to slide by another 10 percent by early next year.
“The longer and larger the Chinese bank lending bubble for solar inflates, the sharper and more unpredictable will the eventual fundamental correction be due to industry consolidation,” Credit Suisse analyst Satya Kumar said.