The article below is mostly excerpted from a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, with a few additional comments by me, Jim Roemer. Climate Change and overpopulation are certainly close to my heart and while this article does not discuss weather forecasting or the commodity markets, it is yet another important sign of how we are destroying our planet. The good thing is, is that China and several other major developing countries in the world, are taking steps to be close to 0% carbon emissions by the year 2050. Hopefully, China and others will remain firm on this commitment, but unless we take more action now, waiting till 2050 may be too late to reverse climate change–Jim Roemer
In recent weeks, a herd of 15 wild elephants on a long, strange trip out of the jungles of far southwestern China have transfixed millions of people across the country.
Millions have tuned in to watch the elephants’ 300-mile journey on television and on internet live streams, or tracked their movements on social media. While enamored with the creatures, some increasingly see the elephants and their journey as a lesson on the perils of nature and a rapidly urbanizing China crashing into one another, especially as development booms.
Along the way, the elephants have broken into villagers’ homes, eaten their food, drank their water and destroyed their crops. All told, the herd has now caused more than 400 separate incidents of damage, worth some $1.1 million, according to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.
The elephants, which have gone into rural villages and somewhat larger towns, have shown a continued interest in wooden barrels of alcohol. Last month, one of the baby elephants passed out after imbibing a kind of fermented alcohol, and was only able to rejoin the herd the next day.
Some scientists have hypothesized that the elephants are on the move because their habitat has shrunk while their population has grown.
China’s environmental crisis, the result of decades of rapid industrialization, not only threatens the health and livelihoods of the country’s 1.4 billion people but also the global fight against climate change. As the world’s largest source of greenhouse.
China suffers from notoriously bad air pollution. Its carbon-intensive industries have caused additional environmental challenges, including water scarcity and soil contamination. And, like the rest of the world, China will face increasingly harsh consequences of climate change in the coming decades, including flooding and droughts.
China’s staggering pace of urbanization has also contributed. Urbanization increases energy demands to power new manufacturing and industrial centers, and construction of these centers rely on high energy-consuming products such as cement and steel. Another contributor is the increase in cars on the road: In 2018, people in China owned 240 million vehicles, up from about 27 million in 2004.
Internationally, China is the largest financier of fossil fuel infrastructure.
Record heat and fires burn California again. The historical 2018-2019 Australian drought killed millions of animals and put the Australian agricultural economy in a tail-spin. Melting permafrost in Siberia and Russia that threatens wildlife and rivers. These are just a few of the many “obvious” signs that climate change is getting worse.
Some 90% of all scientists agree that we are on a crash course to a global disaster if actions are not taken immediately. This subject of climate changehas become “far too political”, when scientific evidence (just like with COVID-19 and warnings months ago by experts), is overwhelming.
Dr. Robert Corell is an ocean scientist, one of the recipients of the 2007 Noble Peace Prize, and a renowned scientist. Dr. Corell and a friend of mine, Robert Bunting, will be speaking in this all-star panel addressing the topic of Climate Change on Thursday, September 17th. Robert Bunting is the director of the new Sarasota Climate Adaption Center (CAC). He is also a hurricane and climate expert and started the CAC center.
CLICK ON THE ARTICLE ABOVE TO LEARN ABOUT BOB BUNTING AND THE SARASOTA, FLORIDA CAC
The CAC will participate in a Climate Event and we would love your virtual attendance! While the CAC is non-partisan, we talk about climate everywhere! Please register below to find out more.
Join us for a Climate Call to Action webinar in support of Margaret Good’s campaign for Congress Thursday, September 17th at 5:30 pm.
Drought has prevailed from Myanmar through Vietnam for months. With the Mekong River at some of its lowest levels in decades, monsoon rains began in parts of SE Asia in June.
Starting in Tibet, the Mekong winds through six countries: China, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. 60% of the population along the Lower Mekong make a living from agriculture. Over 70% of the water that is used from the lower reaches of the Mekong is for agricultural irrigation.
The 2020 Drought for Mekong Countries
This year the river’s water has been scarce, making the drought worse for agricultural commodities and life in general. Called the worst in 40 years, this year’s drought comes after the 2018-19 season was marred by drought, low Mekong levels, and a truncated monsoon season.
The Thai Meteorological Department declared that 2020’s rainy season officially began May 15, but expects water for the first two months to be insufficient for farmers. Irrigation water is scarce. The Thai government has started projects to tap groundwater for irrigation and household use.
While the drought led to seawater incursions in Thailand, and saltiness in Bangkok’s drinking water, in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, one of the country’s “rice bowls”, saltwater incursion has reached record levels. Vietnam has directed farmers to switch to other crops from rice in some parts of the Mekong Delta since freshwater is so scarce.
By May, 27 of Thailand’s 77 provinces had been declared disaster zones. The drought has been blamed on El Nino, but this did not explain the extent of low water levels in the Mekong.
Perhaps the country that will be most impacted by drought and low water levels is Cambodia. Its Tonle Sap lake is a unique environmental wonder. In the dry season (October to March) its river provides 50% of the water flow into the Mekong Delta.
At the monsoon’s heights, waters from the Mekong make the Tonle Sap River flow backward, into the lake. Fish caught from the lake make up 70% of the protein intake for Cambodians. In 2019, the fish catch was 80-90% lower than normal. What that catch will be this year is anybody’s guess.
Sugar, Rice, Rubber, Coffee: Mekong Farming Supports Many Global Markets
Weather along the Mekong, and the waters of the river itself, plays a large role in several global commodities markets. Thailand is the world’s largest rubber exporter and the second largest exporter of cane sugar and rice.
Vietnam produces 36% of the world’s robusta crop, more than twice that of its nearest competitor, Brazil. Vietnam also is the third-largest rice exporter and fourth-largest rubber exporter. Myanmar and Cambodia also contribute to the global rubber and rice trade.
The monsoon waters didn’t come soon enough for Thailand’s sugar cane growers. This month, the Thai cabinet okayed a relief package for the country’s 300,000 sugar cane growers. Thailand’s sugar cane harvest will be about 25% lower than expected, mainly due to drought. Meanwhile, drought caused rubber tapping to decrease, with annual production expected to be down about 5%.
Vietnam has seen up to 30,000 hectares impacted by the drought in the Central Highlands, the country’s largest coffee-producing region. Last year’s drought led to a 14% drop in coffee exports. Saltwater intrusion and low water supplies in the Delta also likely will impact rice harvests. However, the country expects to export more than last year due to existing stocks.
Water Is Traditionally a Shared Resource
What China, which controls the upper Mekong, seeks from the river, however, is not increased agriculture production. It wants electric power. Eleven hydropower dams now operate on the upper Mekong.
Many observers feel that China views the Mekong as a “sovereign” water source, one which they should control since it begins in Tibet. Other Mekong countries have been developing shared plans for its use, with varying degrees of success, since 1957, with the formation of the Mekong River Commission. As part of its Belt and Roads initiative, China started the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism in 2015. (Lancang is the Chinese name for the Mekong). A key goal of the mechanism was creating a five-year development plan for the river, which included more dams. It also included destroying rapids on the Laos-Cambodia border. This would enable China to ship goods from inland Yunnan all the way to the Pacific.
The current dams meet China’s power needs, but some commentators posit it is holding water back for future power and agriculture needs. A recent study held that China withheld water from the lower Mekong for six months in 2019, even though it had abnormally high rain and snowfall that year. By January this year, normally turbulent stretches of the Mekong were dry in Laos and Thailand.
The lower Mekong region’s current water problems are a combination of climate change, weather, and damming the river. The Lancang-Mekong development plan has been only partially successful. China has agreed to share data on the river with downstream countries, and at least one dam, in Cambodia, has been put on hold. The region will have to wait through the rainy season to see if the river starts flowing again at its normal levels.
Oil’s price drop, changing weather patterns, armed conflicts, and COVID-19 may bring the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II by the end of 2020.
“[W]e could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months,” David Beasley recently told the UN Security Council. Beasley, Executive Director of World Food Programme, predicted a worst-case scenario of famine in about three dozen countries.
Before COVID-19, an estimated 821 million people were classified by the UN and other agencies as food insecure. Another 135 million were on the edge of starvation. Because of the coronavirus, a further 130 million people are predicted to join that 135 million in 2020.
The fall in oil prices undermines the economies and budgets of many governments, including Venezuela, Nigeria, and Angola. Oil constitutes half of Russia’s exports, while Sudan also is heavily oil dependent.
Petroleum makes up 98.8% of exports in South Sudan. The country, often plagued by armed conflict and currently facing famine, could face more destabilization.
Changing Weather Patterns Already Causing Hunger
In the Horn of Africa, increased rains have brought massive locusts swarms that are destroying potential harvests. Farmers in Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Sudan already face field damage. The worst locust outbreak in 70 years, these new pests also threaten agriculture in the Arabian Penninsula, Iran, and Pakistan
At the same time, several years of increasing drought is bringing hunger to Honduras, Somalia, Zimbabwe and other countries. Combined with a decrease in foreign remittances, increased drought and/or increased flooding have made finding food a challenge for many.
Climate change also may be depressing key nutrients in crops, making malnutrition more likely. Researchers at Stanford University found that zinc and copper is decreasing in crops due to increased carbon dioxide.
Covid-19 Undermines Agriculture Output
COVID-19 is hampering agriculture on both the export and subsistence levels. International supply chains for fertilizers and other inputs have been disrupted. Farmers who are ill cannot work their fields effectively.
Simultaneously, COVID-19 is handicapping the locust fight in countries like Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan. With lockdowns, farmers and workers are afraid to go to their fields. Pesticides, caught in supply chain tangles, are harder to find.
Concerns over Markets, Prices, and Impacts
The responses by markets and countries to the various crises may also have an impact on famine in the coming months. Impositions of export bans and tarrifs impact the global food supply chain.
Democratic Senator Gayord Nelson and Representative Pete McCloskey, a conservative Republican, founded Earth Day. Outwardly opposite, both men loved the outdoors. Each was against the Viet Nam war, but McCloskey had two Purple Hearts from his marine service.
They hired a young environmental activist, Dennis Hayes, to make Earth Day a nationwide event.
Hayes recruited nationwide for 85 other organizers, who built on a growing public consciousness about air and water pollution. They also tapped the enthusiasm and skills of the anti-Vietnam War movement.
On April 20, 1970, around 20 million Americans rallied, demonstrated, and attended Earth Day teach-ins. At the time, this was about 10% of the country’s population.
Earth Day’s First Achievements
President Richard Nixon already saw political gain in the environmental movement. On New Years Day, he had signed the National Environmental Protection Act. By December, the President had established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). At the end of his presidency, Nixon was putting the environment on his diplomatic agenda and including it in NATO talks.
The Ford and Carter administrations also pushed forward in passing environmental legislation, and the 1970s saw immense progress at both the federal and state levels. December 1970’s Clean Air Act mandated that the EPA set standards for air quality, while 1972’s Water Pollution Control Act addressed wastewater. Because of these laws and others like the Endangered Species Act, states started environmental oversight agencies.
Residents of northern India can now see the Himalayan snows, almost 100 miles away, thanks to decreased air pollution on the Indian sub-continent.
“We can see the snow-covered mountains clearly from our roofs. And not just that, stars are visible at night. I have never seen anything like this in recent times,” Mr Sant Balbir Singh Seechewa, an Indian environmental activist from Punjab, told the Associated Press.
The sudden appearance on the horizon of the famous mountains also was noted in Pakistan. The Himalayan range extends through Nepal, India, Pakistan, and China.
Why Is There Decreased Air Pollution?
Decreased air pollution in many countries is attributed to Covid-19 lockdowns. One measure of air pollution is how much particulate matter is present. Air pollution is also analyzed by the amounts found of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and other substances.
India’s Central Pollution Control Board found that carbon monoxide readings decreased as much as 67% in some areas once a nationwide Covid-19 lockdown began. Nitrous oxide readings plummeted up to 74% in heavily trafficked parts of New Delhi.
The amount of PM2.5 particles in the air fell by approximately 20% at the beginning of April in Kathmandu. Nepal’s capital is the jumping off point for most of that nation’s mountain-driven tourist trade.
Eager trekkers, Mt. Everest expeditions, and much-needed tourist dollars normally flood into the country during spring climbing season. This April and May, however, will be different.
Even with decreased air pollution and improved mountain visibility, both Nepal and China cancelled all spring climbing permits for Mt. Everest because of Covid-19. Despite the importance of tourism to the country, Nepal also has cancelled on-arrival tourist visas until April 30th.
Decreased air pollution, thanks to lockdowns, does not suggest that climate change will end anytime soon. Instead, it shows how much human behavior influences the natural world, including weather. Both the record warm summer in Australia that killed a billion animals and one of the warmest winters ever for much of North America have eased for the moment. However, in the longer term pollution could continue to ignite global weather extremes.