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NEWS UPDATE #100


Common Dreams reports: Record carbon dioxide levels are set to surpass the symbolic threshold of 400 parts per million (PPM) this year and will likely never fall below that line again in our lifetimes, according to a new study published recently in the journal Nature Climate Change by scientists at the UK Met Office .

India drought crisis: Situation dismal, says SC food panel member
Seema Chisti, The Indian Express
On May 11, the Supreme Court, in an unprecedented order, laid down certain directions for the Centre and state governments of drought-affected regions to follow. The Principal advisor of the Supreme Court Food Commissioner’s office (mandated to monitor the food schemes of the government in the ‘right to food’ case) Biraj Patnaik has expressed concern that despite the recent tough, clear and unambiguous directions from the Supreme Court regarding the drought-affected areas, nothing has happened or moved on the ground. (Also read: Hundreds of Drought Migrants Come Knocking On The Doors Of Delhi)

States have failed to comply with SC order on drought, say activists
Sayantan Bera, Live Mint
It has been more than a month that the Supreme Court gave a series of orders to provide relief to the drought affected but state governments are yet to comply. So far not a single state has universalized the public distribution system (PDS) in drought hit areas. The court on 13 May ordered that no household in a drought hit districts be denied subsidised rations for want of a ration card. Also, implementation of the top court’s directive that mid day meals be served to school children during summer vacations was either non-existent in most states or patchy where it was taken up. These were among the revelations during a review on Thursday by a host of civil society organisations tracking the ground level implementation of the Supreme Court orders.

Farmers harvest nothing but debt, finds Government survey
The New Indian Express
If a government survey is to be believed, forget making money to sustain the family, an agricultural household is accumulating Rs 3,000 debt every month. The Agricultural Household 70th Round Survey of National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), conducted during July 2012–June 2013, has found that the total income of an agricultural household per month was Rs 6,426. However, the total expenditure, including household and expenses on crop production, was Rs 9,502. “This shows why farmers are committing suicide,” says Kishor Tiwari who has been championing farmers’ cause in Vidarbha.

Greenpeace Analyses Coal Revenues Suffer Rs 2,400 Crore Loss In 2016 Due To Drought
Greenpeace India
The water scarcity crippling large parts of India has already cost coal power companies nearly 7 billion units in lost electricity generation, with an estimated revenue loss of Rs. 2,400 crore in the first five months of 2016 alone, according to an analysis by Greenpeace India presented today at a press conference in Mumbai. The Greenpeace findings have been independently reviewed by equity analysts at the research firm Equitorials. Speaking at the press conference, Ravi Chellam, Executive Director of Greenpeace India said, “The coal power sector is already a water guzzler, consuming 4.6 billion cubic metres a year – water that could have met the most basic needs of 251 million Indians. Shocking as these figures are, they will more than double if all proposed coal plants are built. (Also read: India lost almost 7 billion units of electricity due to water shortages this year, says Greenpeace report)

India’s extreme summer has seared its animal life
Vinita Govindarajan, Scroll.in
As temperatures in India have touched record highs this summer, the heat has taken a toll on wildlife and domestic animals alike. Veterinary doctors have had their hands full with cases of animals suffering from skin diseases, heat stroke, high fever and dehydration. Friendicoes, a non-profit organisation in Delhi that rescues and provides care for animals, has seen an increase in the number of sick animals brought to their clinic during the summer. The situation has been exacerbated by the devastating drought across the country.

Govt plans to spend Rs10,000 crore during FY18-22 on integrated bio energy mission
Mayank Aggarwal, Live Mint
The central government on Tuesday proposed an integrated bio energy mission which will focus on progressive blending and substitution of fossil fuels like petrol and diesel with greener fuels like bioethanol and biodiesel. The Union ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE), which made the proposal, also recommended spending Rs.10,000 crore from 2017-18 to 2021-22 for initiatives in this field. It will also approach the finance ministry to request that the biofuels sector gets benefits such as customs and excise duty exemptions and tax holidays, currently available to other renewable energy sectors.

Haryana govt approves climate resilient agri practices project
Money Control
To make agriculture production system more flexible to climate change, Haryana government today approved a Rs 25 crore project that will benefit 75,000 farmers. The state level steering committee, which met under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary D S Dhesi, here approved the detailed project report of this ambitious project. Climate resilient agriculture practices include all possible methods that are required to make agriculture production system more flexible to climate change, an official release said here. The project will be implemented in northern part of the state and benefit 75,000 farmers. (Also read: Centre has plans to irrigate two crore hectares across the country, says Nitin Gadkari)

Move over, Bihar. There’s a jungle raj in Goa that not too many talk about
Madhav Gadgil, Scroll.in
The gram sabha of Cauvrem village has unanimously resolved to establish a multi-purpose cooperative society, the manifold objectives of which include handling mining activities. The villagers demand that if mining activities, suspended because of serious irregularities, are to be resumed, they should be handed over to a village-level cooperative society run by them that will ensure mining is conducted prudently and without damaging the environment while also ensuring that the benefits actually reach the weaker sections of the society. Cooperative mining is evidently a most desirable alternative, one that is very much in conformity with our prime minister’s slogan: vikas ko jan andolan banayenge – we will make development a people’s movement. Yet, the government of Goa is refusing to register the Caurem village cooperative society and has not cited any valid reasons for not doing so.

Power Tariff Scam Gets Bigger at ₹ 50,000 Crore
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, EPW
The dimension of the scam relating to inflation of power tariffs by, among other things, over-invoicing imported coal has become considerably bigger. It has now come to light that electricity generating companies are seeking to obtain compensatory tariffs from regulators. In addition, particular firms in the Adani and Essar Groups have allegedly over-invoiced imports of equipment. The total size of the scam is currently estimated at ₹50,000 crore, if not more.

These charts explain why many people are sceptical about India’s amazing growth figures
Mayank Jain, Scroll.in
The government claims India is the world’s fastest growing major economy. Yet, even the most ardent cheerleader of the Indian economy would have to concede that many people no longer trust India’s official Gross Domestic Product numbers. Why is that? A look at data points from the most recent quarters offers a perfect demonstration of why analysts both in India and abroad are deeply sceptical of the government’s claims of 7.9% GDP growth between January and March. Yet a host of other indicators – from industrial growth to exports to items within the GDP figures themselves – suggest a different picture.

The Rising Heat is Sapping India’s Productivity
Soumya Sarkar, The Wire
Millions of outdoor workers in India are finding it difficult to work as temperatures rise every year, hurting productivity and health. This has a direct impact on the economy, a fact recognised only recently. A major report last month by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said levels of heat in many tropical locations are already very high with respect to thermal tolerances, even for acclimatised populations. In places across India, temperatures are frequently higher than 40 ºC, even breaching the 50º-mark in quite a few places in Odisha and Rajasthan. “The lowest income-bracket work – heavy labour and low-skill agricultural and manufacturing jobs – are among the most susceptible to climate change,” according to the UNDP. (Also read: Rising temperatures could cut 3.6% of India’s daylight work hours by 2025)

Report: Carbon Dioxide Levels Are Set to Pass 400ppm—Permanently
Common Dreams
Record carbon dioxide levels are set to surpass the symbolic threshold of 400 parts per million (PPM) this year and will likely never fall below that line again in our lifetimes, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. Scientists at the UK Met Office used emissions data, sea surface temperature figures, and a climate model from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii to track the trajectory of CO2 levels and found that carbon dioxide “will for the first time remain above 400 ppm all year and hence for our lifetimes.”

Shattered records show climate change is an emergency today, scientists warn
The Guardian
May was the 13th month in a row to break temperature records according to figures published this week that are the latest in 2016’s string of incredible climate records which scientists have described as a bombshell and an emergency. The series of smashed global records, particularly the extraordinary heat in February and March, has provoked a stunned reaction from climate scientists, who are warning that climate change has reached unprecedented levels and is no longer only a threat for the future. (Also read: Seven climate records set so far in 2016)

New climate fund established to help developing countries track climate actions
Down to Earth
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has set up a new financial initiative and trust fund to help developing countries monitor and report the progress on their climate actions domestically. GEF established the Capacity-Building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT) fund in response to a decision during COP21 in Paris for an urgent reporting-related mechanism, including through voluntary donor contributions. The fund is expected to help countries track their progress according to their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). A number of donor countries have expressed their support for the new fund. This includes pledges of US $15 million from the United States, $14 million from the United Kingdom, and $4 million from Canada.

Renewable energy smashes global records in 2015, report shows
The Guardian
An upsurge in new wind, solar and hydro plants and capacity saw renewable energy smash global records last year, according to a report on new supply. Some 147 Gigawatts of renewable electricity came online in 2015 – the largest annual increase ever and as much as Africa’s entire power generating capacity. Clean energy investment increased to $286bn (£198bn), with solar energy accounting for 56% of the total and wind power for 38%. Overall, more than twice as much money was spent on renewables than on coal and gas-fired power generation ($130bn in 2015), the REN21 global status report found. (Also read: Solar and wind energy’s stunning cost falls to continue)

Air pollution linked to increased mental illness in children
The Guardian
A major new study has linked air pollution to increased mental illness in children, even at low levels of pollution. The new research found that relatively small increases in air pollution were associated with a significant increase in treated psychiatric problems. It is the first study to establish the link but is consistent with a growing body of evidence that air pollution can affect mental and cognitive health and that children are particularly vulnerable to poor air quality.

World’s Banks Driving Climate Chaos with Hundreds of Billions in Extreme Energy Financing
Common Dreams
Turning their backs on climate science and the consensus of governments and civil society across the globe, the world’s biggest banks are dangerously advancing the climate crisis by pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the world’s most polluting fossil fuel industries, according to a new report published Tuesday. The report, $horting the Climate: Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card 2016, evaluates the private global banking industry based on its financing for fossil fuels. For the first time, the seventh annual installment of the report breaks that funding down by the most high-risk subsectors of that industry, including coal power, extreme oil (tar sands and Arctic and ultra-deep offshore drilling), and Liquified National Gas (LNG) export.

‘Bright spots’ offer fresh hope for survival of coral reefs
The Guardian
Surprising “bright spots” where coral reefs are flourishing against the odds despite overfishing and environmental pressure have given new hope to conservationists. Experts believe they could shine a light on better ways to protect embattled coral reefs affected by climate change, overfishing and pollution. The same team found other “dark spots” that were not faring well – some of which included remote and relatively undisturbed locations. In one of the largest studies of its kind, researchers conducted more than 6,000 reef surveys in 46 countries around the world.

New atlas shows extent of light pollution – what does it mean for our health?
Richard G. ‘Bugs’ Stevens, The Conversation
The new comprehensive World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness has just appeared in Science Advances. The atlas measures what is called artificial sky glow – reflected light scatter in the atmosphere from the electric lighting below – across the world. Thanks to sky glow, the Milky Way is no longer visible to one-third of humanity, with the most heavily industrialized regions suffering the greatest loss: 60 percent of Europeans and 80 percent of North Americans can no longer see the Milky Way at night.

How we stored carbon dioxide underground to tackle climate change
Dom Wolff-Boenisch, The Conversation
To halt climate change and prevent dangerous warming, we ultimately have to stop pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. While the world is making slow progress on reducing emissions, there are more radical options, such as removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and storing them underground. In a paper published in Science my colleagues and I report on a successful trial converting carbon dioxide to rock and storing it underground in Iceland. Although we trialled only a small amount of CO₂, this method has enormous potential.

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