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China Declares ‘People’s War’ on Pollution As Smog Envelops Beijing

A smokestack spews soot into the smoggy skyline of the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun, in file photo. Credit/AFP
A smokestack spews soot into the smoggy skyline of the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun, in file photo. Credit/AFP

Reported by: Yang Fan and Xin Lin for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie

As Beijing geared up for the annual session of the country’s parliament on Thursday amid a grey pall of smog, a top government adviser declared a “People’s War” on pollution, sparking widespread ridicule and criticism at the use of old Maoist jargon.
“The fight against smog is a long-running war,” Wang Guoqing, spokesman for the parliamentary advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) told reporters in Beijing as the authorities announced a yellow alert for pollution.

“It’s also a People’s War,” he said, calling for patience from the public, and warning that measures to tackle pollution “cannot be effective at once.”

As he spoke, the whole of northern China was under a yellow alert pollution warning, with readings of the smallest particulates, PM 2.5, hovering around 300 micrograms per cubic meter, according to the U.S.embassy in Beijing.

The embassy, which measures air quality independently of the Chinese government, described the air quality as “hazardous at 24-hour exposure to this level.” The World Health Organization (WHO)recommends levels of no more than 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

“Smog … has shrouded the country’s northern and eastern regions, including Beijing and Tianjin,” the official Xinhua news agency reported.

“Smog will blanket parts of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Jiangsu and Liaoning until Friday night,” it quoted state meteorologists as saying.

War talk mocked online

Online commentators hit out at Wang’s plea, however.

User @songtieping quipped: “Are we talking about the War of Resistance Against Japan (eight years) or the civil war (three years)? That’s the big question. We must have a timetable.”

“He is comparing anti-pollution measures to a long-running battle … but why can’t they fix the problem at its source?” user @weixianqianqianwanwanbian wrote.

Others wanted to know how it was that pollution became a “People’s War,” when the people had no share in the profits from it.

Beijing resident Liu Tianyi said there appears to have been a minor improvement in pollution levels in the capital since the governmentintroduced a slew of new anti-pollution measures last year.

“There is some fog today, but it’s not really bad; maybe medium to mild,” Liu said. “There’s a yellow alert, but it’s much better than the same time last year.”

“It comes in fits and starts … but I’m still not very happy; after all, the air that we breathe is a pretty major issue,” he said.

“It affects our health, and it affects our mood, when every day is so gloomy.”

He said many Beijing residents are highly suspicious of calls for patience, because the government has shown it is able to clear the city’s skies for major international events, a phenomenon that has been dubbed “APEC blue” after a gathering of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

“I think that this is really about profit … because a lot of the pollution is linked to heavily polluting industries in Hebei,” Liu said.

“We have blue skies for … a military parade, but once the political event is over, then the grey comes flooding back in again.”

Police harass environmentalists

Environmental activist Wu Lihong said the responsibility for the smog ultimately must remain with the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

“Of course it’s mostly the government, because it’s only the government who has the wherewithal to make laws, and to enforce them,” Wu said.

“If industry would respect the law, then the problem wouldn’t be as serious as it is now,” he said.

Giving the lie to the concept of a People’s War, Wu said he has frequently been targeted for police harassment because of his environmental activism.

“I have been detained on the streets of Beijing and escorted home by state security police from my hometown,” he said. “My work is on behalf of everyone, so why do they expend so many resources, so much time, money and energy [on suppressing me]?”

“They shouldn’t be doing that,” he said.

Shandong-based independent commentator Zhang Hengjia said pollution in China is closely bound up with the country’s political system.

“The smog in China basically stems from issues of power in China, because power doesn’t base itself on scientific evidence,” Zhang said.

“They know the law and they break it anyway; and [the government] does nothing to stop them,” he said. “Of course it’s mostly about official inaction.”

“There is no way to wipe out corruption; you can just pay a bit of money, pay the fine, give a few gifts and it all goes away. All this is totally normal,” Zhang said.

“And in an authoritarian regime such as that of the Chinese Communist Party, there is no way to make adjustments to the system, and so the smog just gets worse and worse.”

Last month, scientists published a report showing that air pollution kills more than 5.5 million people around the world each year, with some 1.6 million people dying of air pollution in China in 2013.

Researchers warned the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington that air pollution is the fourth-highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease.

In China, burning coal is the biggest contributor to poor air quality, causing 366,000 deaths in 2013, according to Qiao Ma, a Ph.D. student at prestigious Qinghua University in Beijing.

In February, Beijing and New Delhi typically see daily levels of PM 2.5 at or above 300 micrograms per cubic meter — 1,200 percent higher than WHO guidelines, researchers said.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by Radio Free Asia (RFA) on March 3, 2016 and was retrieved on March 4, 2016 and reposted here at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The contents, views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors only. Please cite the source appropriately.



Food security: Asia’s critical balancing act


35 year old Indian farmer Niren Das manually irrigates his paddy field on the outskirts of Gauhati, India. About 60 per cent of India’s population works in the agriculture sector. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: R. Quentin Grafton ; John Williams, ANU, and Qiang Jiang, Sichuan University. Date: February 2, 2016

Asia’s food systems are under an unprecedented confluence of pressures. Balancing future food demand and supply in ways that protect the most vulnerable, while also being sustainable, must be a first order policy priority.

Demand for food is driven by population and income growth, and also urbanisation. Global population size is projected to increase from over 7.3 billion today to more than 9.5 billion by 2050 under a medium growth scenario. Per capita income growth at 3 per cent a year will more than double average world income by 2050. More people and higher average incomes will result in greater food consumption and changes in diets.

For instance, rapid growth in per-capita income over the past two decades in China has been accompanied by sharp growth in the consumption of livestock products. Intensive livestock production is much less efficient than direct crop consumption in providing food calories. As meat contributes to a greater share of the calories consumed, proportionally more crops will need to be grown.

Recent studies estimate food production will need to increase by at least 60 per cent between 2005 and 2050. Not only are there about 800 million people in the world chronically undernourished today, global studies show that it is necessary to increase global crop yield by a minimum of 1.1 per cent per annum to feed the world by 2050. The current growth of average global crop yields varies between 0.9 and 1.6 per cent per year. The future challenge is whether crop yield increases on the lower end of this range will be sufficient to meet increased food demands.

Prospects for the future are all the more uncertain because past production has sometimes degraded or destroyed ecosystems on which agriculture is ultimately dependent. The availability of suitable lands for agriculture is likely to be plentiful in only a few regions by 2050. To make matters worse, there is increasing competition for land, water and energy for uses other than for food production.

Substantial water deficits from agricultural water use alone are also likely to occur in key food-producing countries, such as China and India. Increasingly high rates of crop water usage will put very large demands on water resources. The projected water deficit from current practices can be eliminated only by reducing water demand in other sectors, or by reducing water levels in surface flows or groundwater.

Climate change poses further risks to future food supplies. This is not just because of higher temperatures that are moderately negative for some plants and positive for some others. The major difficulty in terms of food supply lies in climate variability. A possible increase in the number of extreme weather events poses many challenges, not least of which is the increased variability of food prices.

Given bio-physical constraints such as the availability of land and water, technological improvements and efficiency gains are required. This is especially critical in tropical locations with low soil nutrient availability and water retention. There is a need for investment in research and development to ensure current rates of yield growth do not fall any further. This must also be achieved without compromising the soils and water on which future food production depends.

Food trade will be important for ensuring an adequate distribution of food across countries. Growing food shortages are predicted for South Asian countries such as India and Pakistan. These countries represent ‘choke points’ that are likely to remain even if global crop yields are sufficient in total.

While there is genuine concern about how Asia will meet anticipated increases in food demand, globally agriculture has successfully responded to increased food demand over the past decades. Food supply has more than tripled since 1960 and continues to rise at a global level.

Fertilisers will play an increasingly important role in overcoming yield gaps but complementary approaches are needed to promote sustainable growth. Provided sufficient nutrients are present, crop improvements through genetic modification and improved agricultural management can help overcome possible future food availability deficits. Even substantial improvements in potential crop yields and water productivity cannot offset critically-limiting nutrients.

But fertiliser can impose negative environmental costs on landscapes, as well as planetary nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. Reductions in its excessive use must be accompanied by methods of crop production that offset the expected decline in yields. For countries highly dependent on crop fertilisation, such as China and the United States, finding sustainable ways to deliver nutrients essential to food production is a major challenge.

The sustainability of Asia’s food production systems is being questioned in a world with intensive agriculture. Current agricultural production and distribution already leaves hundreds of millions of people hungry in the world, while growth in agricultural production under a business-as-usual model will likely contribute to the planet approaching or even surpassing its safe operating space in terms of biodiversity, climate change and the nitrogen cycle. Land, biodiversity and water degradation have, and will continue, to restrict growth in food availability in the coming decades. Effectively responding to the nexus of food security and environmental risks will be a key policy challenge for Asian countries in the coming decades.

Information About the Authors:

Quentin Grafton is a professor of economics at the Australian National University and Editor-in-Chief of Policy Forum.net.

John Williams is an adjunct professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University and adjunct professor at CSU Institute of Land Water and Society.

Qiang Jiang is an associate research fellow at Sichuan University, China.

An extended version of this article was published in the most recent edition of the East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘Asia’s Inter-generational Challenges‘.

Article Disclaimer: This article was originally published at East Asia Forum and was retrieved and posted here at INDESEEM on 02/02/2016 for information and educational purposes only. Please cite the original and this source accordingly.


Congressional skeptic on global warming demands records from U.S. climate scientists

The dome of the U.S. Capitol in Washington is seen behind the emissions, and a smokestack, from the Capitol Power Plant, the only coal-burning power plant in the nation’s capitol, on March 10, 2014.  (EPA/JIM LO SCALZO)

Written October 23, 2015. 

Joby Warrick joined the Post’s national staff in 1996. He has covered national security, intelligence and the Middle East, and currently writes about the environment.

The head of a congressional committee on science has issued subpoenas to the Obama administration over a recent scientific study refuting claims that global warming had “paused” or slowed over the last decade.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and a prominent congressional skeptic on climate change, issued the subpoenas two weeks ago demanding e-mails and records from U.S. scientists who participated in the study, which undercut a popular argument used by critics who reject the scientific consensus that man-made pollution is behind the planet’s recent warming.

Smith’s document request to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ordered the agency to turn over scientific data as well as internal “communications between or among employees” involved in the study, according to a letter Friday by the House committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Tex.). Johnson accused Smith of “furthering a fishing expedition” by looking for ways to discredit NOAA’s study, which was published in June in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

“It is a disturbing trend for the legitimacy of this committee,” Johnson said in the letter to Smith. She linked the subpoena to previous requests by the committee’s Republican staff seeking information about NOAA’s climate researchers, which Johnson called “a serious misuse of Congressional oversight powers.” Noting that NOAA routinely publishes supporting data for its studies, Johnson said Smith had “not articulated a legitimate need for anything beyond what NOAA has already provided.”

[U.S. scientists say the global warming “pause” never happened.]

Smith, responding to Johnson’s letter, said the subpoena was not “harassment” but “appropriate constitutional oversight.”

“This scandal-ridden administration’s lack of openness is the real problem,” Smith said in a statement released by his office. “Congress cannot do its job when agencies openly defy Congress and refuse to turn over information. When an agency decides to alter the way it has analyzed historical temperature data for the past few decades, it’s crucial to understand on what basis those decisions were made.”
Smith, a lawyer who became chairman of the science committee in 2013, has repeatedly rejected mainstream scientific views about climate change, while accusing the Obama administration of undermining the U.S. economy with policies that seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In writings and speeches, Smith has frequently cited scientific studies that suggested a slowing or even a halt in the rise of global temperatures since 2000.

[Scientists reject claim that the solar changes are causing climate change.]

The existence of a warming “pause” came under question following several new scientific analyses early this year. The study that prompted the subpoenas was led by NOAA’s Thomas Karl, who heads its National Centers for Environmental Information, and was regarded by many experts as a bombshell in the climate change debate.

The NOAA study reported on a series of adjustments to the agency’s influential temperature data set, seeking to address “residual data biases” affecting some sources of measurement, such as ocean temperature measurements taken by ships.

The result was that the “newly corrected and updated global surface temperature data … do not support the notion of a global warming ‘hiatus,’” Karl and his fellow researchers reported.

“Our new analysis now shows the trend over the period 1950-1999, a time widely agreed as having significant anthropogenic global warming, is 0.113°C [per decade], which is virtually indistinguishable with the trend over the period 2000-2014 (0.116°C [per decade]),” they continued.

Chris Mooney contributed to this report.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by The Washington Post and was retrieved on 10/30/2015 and posted here at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The thoughts, views, opinions, and analysis expressed in the article remains those of the author. Please cite the original source and INDESEEM accordingly.


Hopes Dim for Reversing Ocean Warming: Study States

The effects of global warming are frequently projected decades into the future, but two recent reports — one from the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the other from the U.N. — put into sharp focus visible consequences of our warming planet. An increase in temperature, extreme weather, loss of ice and rising sea level are just a few of changes we can measure right now. Let’s take a look at some of the most concerning trends. BLOG: War Of The Words: Climate Change Or Global Warming?

Written by  

Technology to drain heat-trapping CO2 from the atmosphere may slow global warming, but will not reverse climate damage to the ocean on any meaningful timescale, according to research published Monday.

A new NASA study has revealed that the ocean abyss has not warmed in the past few years. What does this mean for global warming?

At the same time, a second study reported, even the most aggressive timetable for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions will need a big boost from largely untested carbon removal schemes to cap warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Above that threshold, say scientists, the risk of climate calamity rises sharply. Earth is currently on a 4 Celsius (7.2 Fahrenheit) trajectory.

PHOTOS: Global Warming Right Before Your Eyes

Both studies, coming months before 195 nations meet in Paris in a bid to forge a climate pact, conclude that deep, swift cuts in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are crucial.

Planetary-scale technical fixes — sometimes called geo-engineering — have often been invoked as a fallback solution in the fight against climate change.

But with CO2 emissions still rising, along with the global thermostat, many scientists are starting to take a hard look at which ones might be feasible.

10 Signs Climate Change Is Already Happening

Research has shown that extracting massive quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere, through intensive reforestation programs or carbon-scrubbing technology, would in theory help cool the planet.

But up to now, little was known about the long-term potential for these measures for restoring oceans, rendered overly acidic after two centuries of absorbing CO2.

Increased acidification has already ravaged coral, and several kinds of micro-organisms essential to the ocean food chain, with impacts going all the way up to humans.

PHOTOS: Melting Glaciers

Scientists led by Sabine Mathesius of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, used computer models to test different carbon-reduction scenarios, looking in each case at the impact on acidity, water temperatures and oxygen levels.

If humanity waited a century before sucking massive amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere, they concluded, it would still take centuries, maybe even a thousand years, before the ocean would catch up.

In the meantime, they researchers say, corals will have disappeared, many marine species will have gone extinct and the ocean would be rife with dead spots.

“We show that in a business-as-usual scenario, even massive deployment of CO2 removal schemes cannot reverse the substantial impacts on the marine environment — at least not within many centuries,” Mathesius said.

US Cities Under 12 Feet of Sea-Level Rise

Even in a scenario in which large-scale carbon removal begins in 2050 — assuming such technology is available — the ocean does not fare well.

“Immediate and ambitious action to reduce CO2 emissions is the most reliable strategy for avoiding dangerous climate change, ocean acidification, and large-scale threats to marine ecosystems,” the researchers concluded.

Scientists commenting on the study said it should sound an alarm.

“The threat of ocean acidification alone justifies dramatic and rapid reduction of CO2 emissions,” said Nick Riley, a research associate at the British Geological Survey (BGS).

Animals Benefiting from Climate Change

The second study, led by Thomas Gasser of the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace, near Paris, uses state-of-the-art models to measure the trade-off between reducing emissions and carbon-removing technologies.

They show that even if nations strike a deal in Paris adhering to the most aggressive CO2-slashing pathway outlined by UN scientists, it may not be enough to keep Earth on a 2 C trajectory.

“Our results suggest that negative emissions” — the use of carbon removing technology — “are needed even in the case of very high mitigation rates.”

WATCH VIDEO: Global Warming and Climate Change: What’s theDiff?

To have a chance of meeting the 2 C target, 0.5 to 3.0 gigatonnes of carbon — up to a third of total annual CO2 emissions today from industry — would need to be extracted every year starting more or less immediately, they calculate.

The study exposes “an elephant in the room,” Riley said. ”The target to keep warming within the 2 C rise is looking increasingly unattainable.”


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by Discovery News based on a research published by  NASA and was retrieved on 10/18/2015 and posted at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The views, thoughts, opinions, and findings expressed in this article remains those of the author. Please cite the source accordingly.

Climate change a massive threat to food security, agriculture

Written by: Jason Thomas 6 OCT 2015 – 4:16 PM  UPDATED 7 OCT 2015 – 9:06 AM

Australia can expect climate change to make food more scarce and expensive in the future, a new report from the Climate Council says.

Climate change will threaten Australia’s food security and drive up the prices of foods, a report out today says.

The Climate Council’s report, Feeding a hungry nation: climate change, food and farming in Australia, says the agriculture industry has suffered and will suffer in future as Australia’s climate continues to change.

Rising temperatures and lower rainfall have already affected crop yields in areas of southern Australia, and yields will continue to be affected, the report said.

Greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, like bushfires, droughts and cyclones will lead to decreased productivity across the agricultural sector, including the livestock and dairy industries.

The prospect of reduced agricultural production is a big issue for Australia, where the gross value of all agricultural commodities produced was roughly $50 billion for the calendar year ending June 30, 2014.

The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector employed 2.8 per cent of all employed Australians in August 2014, and represented 2.4 per cent of real gross value added to Australia’s economy in 2013-14, data from Austrade reveals.

Some agricultural commodities – wheat and frozen, chilled or fresh beef – are in Australia’s top ten exports.

Australia has also enjoyed strong food security throughout history, with more agricultural exports than imports historically.

Note: food includes processed items, like bread and beverages.

But rising temperatures, more cyclones and bushfires and less available water in coming years could disrupt that security, the report says.

Australia’s exports will also need to cope with a growing population of Australians.

The report’s lead author, ecologist Professor Lesley Hughes from Macquarie University, said Australia had a lot of skin to lose as the world’s climate continues to change.

“We export about 65 per cent of our food production,” Prof Hughes said.

She said Australia had always been a nation with a high amount of food security, but Australia was the developed nation most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

“We’re the driest inhabited continent,” Prof Hughes said.

“That’s getting worse and will get worse. We’ve got good data on heat waves getting longer, getting hotter and getting earlier in the year.”

Data on climate change, like this chart below, can be found on the Bureau of Meteorology’s portal on climate change data.

Prof Hughes is a councillor for the independent Climate Council, formerly the Climate Commission until the Abbott government abolished the government body in its first days of government.

Australia is projected to be one of the most adversely affected regions from future changes in climate in terms of reductions in agricultural production and export – Climate Council report

A peak farming association, Grain Growers Australia, said farmers were concerned about climate change, but farmers have already been responding to challenges like drought and seasonally variability.

“We’re just always looking at ways of managing seasonal variability,” spokesperson, Laureta Wallace said.

The Climate Council’s report says 50 per cent of Australia’s agriculture sector is irrigated, and the supply of available rainfall is set to decline.

However, Australian farmers are becoming more efficient with their water use, data from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) reveals.

“Between 1982 and 2012 more than half of Australia’s wheat-growing regions have improved their WUE [water use efficiency] by at least 50 per cent,” the GRDC report says.

“Many areas have achieved even more than this.”

Young farmer, Joshua Gilbert, works on the family cattle stud in Nabiac NSW.

He is the chair of Young Farmers, a sub group of the NSW Famers Association.

Mr Gilbert said farmers had already been dealing with the challenges of climate change without necessarily knowing what to call it.

However, many farmers are recognising that changing conditions on their land are due to climate change and some were making steps to protect their farms from the effects, Mr Gilbert said.

“I guess what we’ve seen is there is a lot more knowledge from younger farmers,” Mr Gilbert said.

Young farmers: why do young people choose to live on the land?
Why do young people choose to become farmers in this day and age?

He said seasonal variability, including the unknowns of rainfall and extreme weather events, have been affecting farmers for years.

The long term changes to the climate would worsen this variability, as farmers could expect more droughts and bushfires in future, the Climate Council’s report said.

SBS contacted the Australian Livestock Exporters Council and the National Farmers Federation, to ask if they were concerned about the effects of climate change on Australia’s agriculture sector. Both were unavailable for comment.

Key findings of the Climate Council’s report:

Climate change is making weather patterns more extreme and unpredictable, with serious consequences for Australia’s agricultural production

  • Climate change is driving an increase in the intensity and frequency of hot days and heatwaves in Australia, changing rainfall patterns, increasing the severity of droughts, and driving up the likelihood of extreme fire danger weather.
  • Average rainfall in southern Australia during the cool season is predicted to decline further, and the time spent in extreme drought conditions is projected to increase.
  • Water scarcity, heat stress and increased climatic variability in our most productive agricultural regions, such as the Murray Darling Basin, are key risks for our food security, economy, and dependent industries and communities.
  • Climatic challenges could result in imports of key agricultural commodities such as wheat increasingly outweighing exports.

More frequent and intense heatwaves and extreme weather events are already affecting food prices in Australia

  • Climate change is increasing the variability of crop yields.
  • Food prices during the 2005- 2007 drought increased at twice the rate of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) with fresh fruit and vegetables the worst hit, increasing 43 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.
  • Reductions of livestock numbers during droughts can directly affect meat prices for many years.
  • Rainfall deficiencies in parts of Western Australia and central Queensland are projected to reduce total national crop production by 12 per cent in 2014-15, and the value of beef and veal exports by 4 per cent.
  • Cyclone Larry destroyed 90 per cent of the North Queensland banana crop in 2006, affecting supply for nine months and increasing prices by 500 per cent.
  • The 2009 heatwave in Victoria decimated fruit crops, with significant production losses of berry and other fruit crops.

Climate change is affecting the quality and seasonal availability of many foods in Australia

  • Up to 70% of Australia’s wine-growing regions with a Mediterranean climate (including iconic areas like the Barossa Valley and Margaret River) will be less suitable for grape growing by 2050. Higher temperatures will continue to cause earlier ripening and reduced grape quality, as well as encourage expansion to new areas, including some regions of Tasmania.
  • Many foods produced by plants growing at elevated CO2 have reduced protein and mineral concentrations, reducing their nutritional value.
  • Harsher climate conditions will increase use of more heat-tolerant breeds in beef production, some of which have lower meat quality and reproductive rates.
  • Heat stress reduces milk yield by 10-25 per cent and up to 40 per cent in extreme heatwave conditions.
  • The yields of many important crop species such as wheat, rice and maize are reduced at temperatures more than 30°C.

Australia is extremely vulnerable to disruptions in food supply through extreme weather events

  • There is typically less than 30 days supply of non-perishable food and less than five days supply of perishable food in the supply chain at any one time. Households generally hold only about a 3-5 day supply of food. Such low reserves are vulnerable to natural disasters and disruption to transport from extreme weather.
  • During the 2011 Queensland floods, several towns such as Rockhampton were cut off for up to two weeks, preventing food resupply. Brisbane came within a day of running out of bread.

Australia’s international competitiveness in many agricultural markets will be challenged by the warming climate and changing weather patterns

  • Australia is projected to be one of the most adversely affected regions from future changes in climate in terms of reductions in agricultural production and exports.
  • Climate impacts on agricultural production in other countries will affect our competitiveness, especially if warmer and wetter conditions elsewhere boost production of key products such as beef and lamb.

If the current rate of climate change is maintained, adaptation to food production challenges will be increasingly difficult and expensive

  • By 2061, Australia’s domestic demand for food could be 90 per cent above 2000 levels, with a similar increase in export demand.
  • Transitioning to a new, lowcarbon economy is critical to avoiding the most dangerous impacts of climate change.
  • The longer action on climate change is delayed, the more likely it is that progressive, small-scale adaptive steps to cope with climate change will become increasingly inadequate and larger, more expensive changes will be required.


New study highlights environmental, economic shortcomings of federal biofuel laws

New UT study highlights environmental, economic shortcomings of federal biofuel laws

A new study released by researchers with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture concludes that the nation’s Renewable Fuels Standard is too reliant on corn ethanol as opposed to advanced biofuels. Photo depicts a corn harvest at the UT AgResearch and Education Center in Milan, Tenn. Credit: Photo courtesy UTIA.

Provided by: University of Tennessee at KnoxvillePublished on Phys.org on Oct. 15, 2015


The federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its overreliance on corn ethanol has created additional environmental problems in its 10-year history, resulting in unmet targets for cutting air pollution, water contamination and soil erosion, concludes a new study released by University of Tennessee researchers.
In fact, the authors – Drs. Daniel G. De La Torre Ugarte and Burton C. English of the UT Institute of Agriculture – find that from an environmental and energy security perspective, the subsidies and mandates for corn ethanol would have been better and more effectively directed towards advanced biofuels.
“The anniversary offers an opportunity to thoroughly review this policy’s legacy, both in terms of its impacts on the broader economy as well as the environment,” said Dr. De La Torre Ugarte. “Our analysis shows that the RFS has created more problems than solutions, particularly with regard to hampering advancements in biofuels. Corn ethanol was presented as a ‘bridge’ to advanced biofuels and a means of reducing GHG emissions. However, the reality is clear that this policy has been a bridge to nowhere.”

“Due to the RFS’s inherent and structural limitations, we remain too reliant on corn ethanol,” said Dr. English. “As our research demonstrates, corn ethanol along with decreased demand of transportation fuels has restricted the growth and maturation of the advanced biofuel industry, resulting in fewer environmental and economic benefits.”

The authors also determined that the corn ethanol industry has received almost $50 billion in cumulative taxpayer and market subsidies since 2005, providing evidence that the industry “cannot survive in any real commercial sense without mandated fuel volume requirements and RIN markets.”

Moreover, according to the researchers, the RFS – in its current form – focuses almost exclusively on a single crop from a concentrated region of the country. Conversely, advanced biofuels represent a significantly more diverse portfolio of fuel feedstocks that can be sourced from a variety of regions and environments around the country.

“The RFS’s overemphasis on corn must be revisited, and more stable solutions that encourage – rather than discourage – biofuel diversification should be pursued in order to advance the policy’s original objectives,” said Dr. De La Torre Ugarte.

The researchers provide policy recommendations for improving the RFS to help make the transition to advanced biofuels possible. As the report notes, for advanced biofuels to enter the market, an investment-based mechanism is necessary to overcome capital intensity and technology risk.

“After 10 years of missed objectives, it’s time to rethink the structure and practical implementation of the RFS and examine other policy designs aimed at promoting the production and consumption of advanced biofuels,” added Dr. English.

The report finds that because the RFS’s framework continues to limit a transition from corn ethanol to advanced biofuels, the policy’s projected benefits – including improved air quality and broader based economic gains – have not materialized to the extent promised. The report notes there is evidence in the literature that “the production and use of  may actually increase smog levels and greenhouse gas emissions.”

More information: To view the full report, visit the UT Bio-Based Energy Analysis Group website: beag.ag.utk.edu/pub/TenYrReviewRenewableFuelStandard_1015.pdf

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the Phys.org and retrieved on 10/18/2015 and posted here for educational and information purposes only. The views and thoughts expressed in the article are those of the authors only. Please cite the original source of this article accordingly.