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NEWS UPDATE #87


The Guardian reports: According to a new NASA study, the average global surface temperature in February was 1.35C warmer than the average temperature for the month between 1951-1980, a far bigger margin than ever seen before. The unprecedented leap led scientists, usually wary, to label the new record a “shocker” and warn of a “climate emergency”.

Groundwater levels are more critical in India than anywhere else on the earth
Sandeep Pai and Prathamesh Mulye, Indiaspend.com
In a country where 74% of farmland is not irrigated and water shortages are growing – this report by EA Water, a water consultancy, warns India will become “water scarce” by 2025 – depleting groundwater levels add to an ongoing farm crisis. India draws more freshwater annually compared to any other country – 761 billion cubic metres per year for domestic, agricultural and industrial use, according to four-year (2011 to 2015) World Bank data. The scarcity has worsened because more than half of that water is now contaminated, mainly by industry and sewage, sparking diarrhoea, typhoid and viral hepatitis. (Also read: 3 Maps Explain India’s Growing Water Risks)

Nuclear leak in Kakrapar may be more serious than the government is telling us
Kumar Sundaram, Scroll.in
On March 11, news came out that there has been a leak at the Kakrapar Atomic Power Station in Gujarat… Since then though, there has been no update – neither from the Nuclear Power Corporation nor from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, which monitors nuclear safety in India… The secrecy would perhaps have not been so absolute if ordinary citizens were allowed to use geiger-counters in India to measure radiation. In India the government disallows the use, citing national security, which is outrageous give that globally it is normal for citizens to monitor radiation and ensure their own safety

Disaster airport: Goa’s new runway in Mopa will run the ecology over
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
It has since emerged, through several such independent studies, that the environmental clearance to the Mopa airport is a joke. The project threatens several endangered wildlife and plant species, as it does a unique water recharge system that provides for thousands of people as well as countless ecosystems… Mopa is probably the best example of how EIAs, and the entire environment clearance process, actively threatens ecological sustainability in this country.

Delhi’s air pollution is a classic case of environmental injustice
James K Boyce and Aseem Shrivastava, The Guardian
Beneath the headlines, Delhi’s air pollution is not only a public health disaster; it is a classic case of environmental injustice. The city’s affluent classes reap the lion’s share of the benefits from the activities that poison the air, while less privileged residents bear most of the human health costs. This fateful disjuncture – and the inequalities of wealth and power that lie behind it – has posed the single biggest impediment to addressing the problem.

1.4 Million Farmers in K’taka Are Selling Their Produce Online – without Worrying about Middlemen
Neeti Vijaykumar, The Better India
The farmers in Karnataka have taken their business online, all thanks to the Unified Marketing Platform (UMP), an initiative by the state government. For farmers, middlemen have always been a hindrance. They eat up almost 75% of the final price, leaving very little for the farmers. But the UMP has managed to eliminate middlemen from the equation all together. Traders can quote product prices online, which the farmers then have a right to reject if it isn’t satisfactory.

Rs 1 Cr sales in four months – how a software engineer is giving Mandya’s debt-ridden farmers a new lease of life
Shweta Vitta, YourStory
It’s just been around six months since Organic Mandya has been fully operational and its well on its way to success. The cooperative has already over 500 registered farmers who collectively own close to 200 acres of land and are producing over 70 varieties for sale – rice, dals and pulses, edible oils, personal healthcare products, beverages, masalas and spices. In terms of revenue, the company reached Rs one crore in just four months.

Unilever mercury poisoning case: Can corporations really be human?
Nityanand Jayaraman, Scroll.in
From Chesebrough-Pond’s Inc, which shut shop and moved its mercury thermometer plant from Watertown, New York, to Kodaikanal in the mid-1980s, to HUL which was operating it when it was shut down in 2001, the story of the factory is one of corporate irresponsibility, toxic trade and environmental racism. It is also a story of how workers and citizens, victimised by corporate crime, are left to fend for themselves. Victories like this are a rarity, and are won not with the government’s intervention but despite it.

RSS Stand on Bt Cotton Forced Government’s Hand on Monsanto
Bhavdeep Kang, The Wire
Monsanto, the controversial munitions manufacturer-turned-multinational seed giant, had threatened to quit India if the agriculture ministry capped royalty on its Bt cotton seeds – currently the only GM seeds available commercially in India. In response, RSS-affiliates Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh said farewell and godspeed. They cheered as the ministry cut royalty on Bt cotton seeds by over 70% on March 9 and capped the price of the seeds – which earlier retailed at 1,000 rupees or more – at 800 rupees per 450 grams. A miffed Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech India (MMBL), which licensed its Bt seeds to 28 Indian companies, has moved court.

Union Budget 2016-17: Coal cess doubled to fund ministries, green drives
The Indian Express
This was the third time the cess was doubled, since being introduced as Rs 50 per tonne in the 2010 budget. When it was doubled from Rs 100 per tonne to Rs 200 per tonne last year, it was estimated that it would contribute about Rs 13,000 crore to National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) every year. With the value of this fund going up further with the latest hike, the entire budget allocation for Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for this year — Rs 5,000 crore — is proposed to come from NCEF. Half the plan outlay for Environment Ministry, about Rs 1,000 crore, is also proposed to be met through this fund.

Environment ministry had the power to stop AOL event. Why didn’t it?
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
By now, it’s established that Art of Living’s (AOL) mega event on the Yamuna floodplains in Delhi has made permanent changes to the river’s ecology. It is the opinion of expert panels, and even the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has accepted this in its latest order. So, the big question is – where has the environment ministry been while all this has been unfolding? (Also read: What on earth is ‘ecofeminist’ Vandana Shiva doing at Sri Sri’s event?)

February breaks global temperature records by ‘shocking’ amount
The Guardian
February smashed a century of global temperature records by “stunning” margin, according to data released by Nasa. The unprecedented leap led scientists, usually wary of highlighting a single month’s temperature, to label the new record a “shocker” and warn of a “climate emergency”. The Nasa data shows the average global surface temperature in February was 1.35C warmer than the average temperature for the month between 1951-1980, a far bigger margin than ever seen before. The previous record, set just one month earlier in January, was 1.15C above the long-term average for that month. (Also read: Record-breaking temperatures ‘have robbed the Arctic of its winter)

The climate emergency: time to switch to panic mode?
Ugo Bardi
James Schlesinger once uttered one of those profound truths that explain a lot of what we see around us: it was: “people have only two modes of operation: complacency and panic.” So far, we have been in the “complacency” mode of operation in regard to climate change. But we may be seeing something that portends a major switch in the climate system; an unexpected acceleration of the rate of change. There are reasons to be worried, very worried: the CO2 emissions seem to have peaked, but that didn’t generate a slowdown of the rate of increase of the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. If nothing else, it is growing faster than ever. And then there is the ongoing methane spike and, as you know, methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

New Research Helps Attribute Specific Extreme Weather to Climate Change
Common Dreams
Climate scientists have long been pressed to answer the question “did climate change cause this?” in the days following the most recent devastating weather event. A watershed report released Thursday helps those scientists to more conclusively answer: “yes.” This new area of scientific research, called “extreme weather attribution,” is more definitively affirming a connection that many have long asserted and perhaps also helping to silence those deniers who claim that catastrophes such as Cyclone Winston are not caused by global warming.

Surge in renewable energy stalls world greenhouse gas emissions
The Guardian
Falling coal use in China and the US and a worldwide shift towards renewable energy have kept greenhouse gas emissions level for a second year running, one of the world’s leading energy analysts has said. Preliminary data for 2015 from the International Energy Agency (IEA) showed that carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector have levelled off at 32.1bn tonnes even as the global economy grew over 3% . Electricity generated by renewable sources played a critical role, having accounted for around 90% of new electricity generation in 2015. Wind power produced more than half of all new electricity generation, said the IEA.

Peabody Energy, world’s largest private coalminer, may file for bankruptcy
The Guardian
The world’s largest private coal mining company is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, driven to the brink of collapse by plummeting energy prices around the world, cheaper and less polluting rivals such as natural gas, and widespread economic uncertainty. US mining giant Peabody Energy announced in New York on Wednesday that it is facing the prospect of filing for bankruptcy protection, a legal strategy to shield it from its creditors while it restructures, after failing to make a routine interest payment on its debts.

In a World Made Toxic, Nearly a Quarter of All Human Deaths Caused by Pollution
Common Dreams
Nearly a quarter of all deaths around the world are caused by living and working in toxic and polluted environments, and the worst affected are children, the poor, and the elderly, a new report released on Tuesday by the World Health Organization (WHO) has found. “If countries do not take actions to make environments where people live and work healthy, millions will continue to become ill and die too young,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, according to Business Insider.

World Outside US and Canada Doesn’t Produce more Crude Oil than in 2005
Matt Mushalik, Crude Oil Peak
We can see that almost all additional oil produced now above that level is US shale oil. In other words: without US shale oil (which required cheap money from quantitative easing), the world would be in a deep oil crisis. We can therefore confidently say that growth of the world economy managed to make itself completely dependent on unconventional oil from the US and Canada. The oil price in October 2015 of $48 is the same as the average oil price in the first 5 months of 2005. Many will call this a price cycle and not worry. But in oil depletion there are no cycles, there is only a race to the bottom of the barrel. Since 2005, the world has gobbled up more than 300 Gb of crude oil and that was definitely oil which was easier to extract than what lies ahead of us. (Also read: International Rig Count Still Falling)

Green Climate Fund: Where Big Banks Profit Again from Crisis They Helped Create
Common Dreams
As the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the financial mechanism for the UN climate agency, meets this week in South Korea, more than 170 civil society groups are calling on the international body to reject bids from big banks HSBC and Crédit Agricole to receive and manage funds to help poorer nations tackle climate change. Given their role in financing climate pollution and their poor records on human and environmental rights, approving the financial giants’ applications would run counter to the Fund’s goals, the groups say.

Louisiana Tribe Officially Becomes America’s First Climate Refugees
Weather.com
French-speaking Indians who live deep in Louisiana bayou, some 50 miles south of New Orleans, became the United States’ first official climate refugees last week when the federal government awarded them $48 million to relocate. The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe has inhabited Isle de Jean Charles for centuries, but because of a slow-moving disaster caused by sinking land, climate change and oil exploration, they’ve all but lost the land they call home.

This 4,000-year old financial indicator says that a major crisis is looming
Simon Black, Sovereign Man
Over 4,000 years ago during Sargon the Great’s reign of the Akkadian Empire, it took 8 units of silver to buy one unit of gold. But given that gold is still traditionally seen as a safe haven, the ratio tends to rise dramatically in times of crisis, panic, and economic slowdown. We’re seeing another major increase once again. Right now as I write this, the gold/silver ratio is 81.7, nearly as high as the peak of the 2008 financial crisis. This isn’t normal. In modern history, the gold/silver ratio has only been this high three other times, all periods of extreme turmoil—the 2008 crisis, Gulf War, and World War II.

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