A round-up of climate and energy news. Please post additional stories below.
More than 100 people have died and tens of thousands of others have been displaced as monsoon rains continue to wreak havoc across Southeast Asia.
In Cambodia and southern Vietnam, more than a 100 people have died this week in the worst flooding along the Mekong River in 11 years. Heavy rain swamped homes, washed away bridges and forced thousands of people to evacuate.
Worse could be in store if Typhoon Nesat, which killed at least 39 people in China this week and is expected to pound northern Vietnam on Friday, dumps rain deep enough inland to further swell the Mekong.
Floods are affecting hundreds of thousands of people throughout India, the Philippines, and now Thailand. One-third of Thailand was deluged and Chiang Mai, one of the largest cities was being prepared for evacuation.
China issued its first red alert weather warning of the year as Typhoon Nesat moved closer. In Guangdong province, waves damaged a seawall, causing serious disruption to transport and about 300,000 people fled from their homes there and in Hainan province.
Flooding across the fertile Mekong Delta helped drive rice prices to a three-year high in Vietnam this week, traders said, which will add to inflation problems. The delta produces more than half of Vietnam’s rice and 90 per cent of its exportable grain.
In Cambodia, 97 people have died in weeks of flooding.
“Now, more than 200,000 hectares of our rice paddies are under water but we don’t yet know the full extent of the damage,” said Keo Vy, deputy information director at the National Disaster Management Committee.
Cambodia is a rice exporter, but Vietnam is the world’s second-biggest exporter behind Thailand.
In 2000, the worst flooding in decades killed more than 480 people across the Delta region. The following year, more than 300 people died when the Mekong, which flows 4,350km from the glaciers of Tibet to the rice-rich Delta of southern Vietnam, overflowed its banks.
Some 150,000 families had been affected by the flooding in Cambodia this year and another 15,000 evacuated to higher ground, said Men Neary Sopheak, deputy secretary general of Cambodia’s Red Cross.
… Water had reached 4.76m early on Friday at Vietnam’s Tan Chau gauging station, above Alarm Level Three, the most dangerous flood condition at which inundation is widespread and dykes are in jeopardy.It was forecast to peak at 4.9m by Sunday, the government said. Water five metres deep can submerge one-storey houses, which are common in the Delta in southern Vietnam.
Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai urged the provincial authorities to evacuate people from dangerous areas, speed up the rice harvest and close more schools to prevent deaths.
Around 5,000 hectares of the Delta’s third rice crop have been inundated as floods broke through dyke sections in the provinces of Dong Thap and An Giang, and another 90,000 hectares were under threat.
The region has planted nearly 600,000 hectares for the current crop, which is mainly for domestic consumption, and only 5 per cent has been harvested, the agriculture ministry said.
In Thailand, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said 180 people had died in flooding since mid-July caused by tropical storms and seasonal monsoons.
Two million people in 23 provinces have been affected, with 2.4 million acres of farmland under water. Officials say rice has been harvested early in some areas, which may cut yields.
A tropical storm whacked into Vietnam on Friday, forcing 20,000 people to be evacuated, as the Philippines braced for a new typhoon and several Asian countries reeled under floods after some of the wildest weather this summer.Prolonged monsoon flooding, typhoons and storms have wreaked untold havoc in the region, leaving more than 600 people dead or missing in India, Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, China, Pakistan and Vietnam in the last four months. In India alone, the damage is estimated to be worth $1 billion, with the worst-hit state of Orissa accounting for $726 million.
Several studies suggest an intensification of the Asian summer monsoon rainfall with increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, the state-run Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology said. Still, it is not clear that this is entirely because of climate change, especially in India, it said.
After pummeling the Philippines and China this week, Typhoon Nesat was downgraded to a tropical storm just before churning into northern Vietnam on Friday afternoon with sustained wind speeds of up to 73 mph (118 kph), according to the national weather forecasting center.
Heavy rains were reported in northern and central areas. Warnings were issued for flash floods and landslides in mountainous regions, and for flooding in low-lying areas. High winds whipped through the streets of the capital, Hanoi.
The California Supreme Court Wednesday declined to order state regulators to halt work on a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program while a lower court considers legal challenges filed by environment groups.
The California Air Resource Board is scheduled to adopt a final rules on October 21 implementing the nation’s first economy-wide cap-and-trade plan. While the program is scheduled to start in January, CARB has decided to delay enforcement until January 2013.
While the court’s ruling does not end legal challenges to the cap-and-trade program, it does represent a setback for Communities for a Better Environment and other groups that had sued CARB, arguing that the agency had failed to consider alternatives before it adopted a cap-and-trade implementation plan.
The thumb-size black strip looks like a thin magnet. But in reality, it is an artificial leaf, made of silicon and capable of using sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen that can be fed into fuel cells to make power.
“You drop it in a glass of water and you walk outside and hold it in the sun, and you’ll start to see bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen,’’ explained Daniel Nocera, an MIT professor who led the team that invented the device.
The next step, he said, is to make the technology work on a large scale to produce enough hydrogen and oxygen for a fuel cell to power a car or home.
The leaf, which Nocera has worked on for about three years, has the potential to solve one of the most pressing challenges facing solar power: how to store energy produced by the sun so it can be used on cloudy day.
Instead of a battery, that energy could be stored as oxygen and hydrogen gases, then recombined in fuel cells, which generate electricity from the chemical reaction.
New Zealand is looking to exclude the use of U.N. offsets from industrial gas projects in its emissions trading scheme from as soon as 2012, as these offsets threaten to distort the market, the government said on Friday.
Climate change minister Nick Smith said he wanted to maintain the integrity of the emissions trading scheme, which is why the government is considering banning offsets from the potent greenhouse gas hydrofluorocarbon-23 (HFC-23) and nitrous oxide credits.
“The high value for destroying these gases creates perverse incentives in developing countries to manufacture more of them bringing into question the environmental gains,” Smith said in a statement.
The New Zealand scheme allows polluters and traders to import U.N. offsets called Certified Emission Reductions from clean energy projects in poorer nations. The CERs can help polluters meet their emissions reduction obligations.
An ongoing federal investigation into last year’s massive rig explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has found that a particularly lax U.S. regulatory regime was a significant factor in the events leading up to the disaster.
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) is conducting an extensive examination at the request of Congress of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident, which killed 11 workers. Its probe, which will likely take another year to complete, will analyze all factors that may have contributed to the accident.
CSB has already found one issue to be particularly worrisome: how U.S. regulations stack up to those of other countries where offshore drilling occurs.
In particular, CSB is raising questions about why the United States does not adopt the “safety case” hazard system used internationally.
“Nearly every regime where there is significant oil exploration has adopted the safety case,” Don Holmstrom, a CSB investigator, told Greenwire.
Arun Majumdar, Director of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), today announced 60 cutting-edge research projects aimed at dramatically improving how the U.S. produces and uses energy. With $156 million from the Fiscal Year 2011 budget, the new ARPA-E selections focus on accelerating innovations in clean technology while increasing America’s competitiveness in rare earth alternatives and breakthroughs in biofuels, thermal storage, grid controls, and solar power electronics. Demonstrating the success ARPA-E has already seen, the program announced this year that eleven of its projects secured more than $200 million in outside private capital investment.
“These innovative projects are at the forefront of a new technological frontier that plays a critical role in our future energy security and economic growth, “said Majumdar. “It is now more important than ever to invest in game-changing ideas that will build the technological infrastructure for a new, clean energy economy.”