World’s carbon emissions set to spike by 2% in 2017

Humanity’s carbon emissions are likely to surge by 2% in 2017, driven mainly by increased coal consumption in China, scientists reported on 13 November1–3. The unexpected rise would end a three-year period in which emissions have remained flat despite a growing global economy.

Researchers with the Global Carbon Project, an international research consortium, presented their findings at the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany. Countries there are ironing out details of how to implement the 2015 Paris climate accord, which calls for limiting global warming to a rise of 1.5–2 °C. The projected jump in the world’s greenhouse-gas output underlines the challenges ahead; if the latest analysis proves correct, global carbon dioxide emissions will reach a record-breaking 41 billion tonnes in 2017.

Several factors caused the world’s CO2 emissions to level out from 2014 to 2016, including an economic slowdown in China, the world’s largest emitter; a shift from coal to gas in the United States; and global growth in the use of renewable energies such as solar and wind. Many climate scientists and policymakers had hoped that the pause in emissions growth represented a shift in energy use that would eventually cause global greenhouse-gas emissions to peak — and then decline.

The latest analysis projects that CO2 emissions in the United States and the European Union will continue to decline — by 0.4% and 0.2%, respectively, in 2017 — although at a slower pace than in recent years. And emissions growth in India is set to slow, rising by just 2% this year, compared with an average of 6% per year over the past decade.

But the picture is very different in China, which produces nearly 26% of the world’s output of CO2. This year, the country’s emissions of the greenhouse gas are expected to surge by 3.5%, to 10.5 billion tonnes. The main causes are increased activity at the country’s factories and reduced hydroelectric-energy production, the Global Carbon Project analysis finds.

The effort highlights nagging uncertainties about greenhouse-gas emissions trends, particularly in China, India and other countries with economies that are rapidly growing and changing, says David Victor, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego. He is not convinced that government actions — at the national or international level — have driven the recent levelling of emissions. And although emissions are projected to grow this year, Victor says that China is still on a trajectory that would see its emissions peak well before its 2030 target.

Taken together, the projections for 2017 reinforce the notion that the world has far to go before it solves the climate problem, says Glen Peters, a climate-policy researcher at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Oslo and a co-author of the Global Carbon Project’s 2017 analysis.

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India becoming world’s top sulphur dioxide emitter

India’s emissions of the air pollutant sulphur dioxide increased by 50 percent since 2007, while China’s fell by 75 percent, claims a study which found that India is yet to implement emission controls like its neighbour. The study led by researchers at the University of Maryland in the US suggests that India is becoming, if it is not already, the world’s top sulphur dioxide emitter.

Sulphur dioxide is an air pollutant that causes acid rain, haze and many health-related problems. It is produced predominantly when coal is burned to generate electricity. “The rapid decrease of sulphur dioxide emissions in China far exceeds expectations and projections,” said Can Li, an associate research scientist at the University of Maryland.

“This suggests that China is implementing sulphur dioxide controls beyond what climate modellers have taken into account,” said Li, first author of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports. China and India are the world’s top consumers of coal, which typically contains up to three percent sulphur, researchers said.

Most of the two countries’ sulphur dioxide emissions come from coal-fired power plants and coal-burning factories. In particular, Beijing suffers from severe haze problems because of the many coal-burning factories and power plants located nearby and upwind.

Starting in the early 2000s, China began implementing policies such as fining polluters, setting emission reduction goals and lowering emissions limits. According to the results of the current study, these efforts are paying off.

“Sulphur dioxide levels in China declined dramatically even though coal usage increased by approximately 50 percent and electricity generation grew by over 100 percent,” said Li, who is also a research associate at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “This suggests that much of the reduction is coming from controlling emissions,” said Li.

Despite China’s 75 percent drop in sulphur dioxide emissions, recent work by other scientists has shown that the country’s air quality remains poor and continues to cause significant health problems. This may be because sulphur dioxide contributes to only about 10 to 20 percent of the air particles that cause haze, according to Li.

By contrast, India’s sulphur dioxide emissions increased by 50 percent over the past decade. The country opened its largest coal-fired power plant in 2012 and has yet to implement emission controls like China, researchers said. “Right now, India’s increased sulphur dioxide emissions are not causing as many health or haze problems as they do in China because the largest emission sources are not in the most densely populated area of India,” Li said.

First, they collected estimated emission amounts from inventories of the number of factories, power plants, automobiles and other contributors to sulphur dioxide emissions. The researchers’ second data source was the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite, which detects a variety of atmospheric pollutants including sulphur dioxide.

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Andaman’s new taste is sweet-and-sour

Edible wild banana species discovered, the second such on the island in two years.

Botanists in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been quietly going bananas. And it is not their fault, for the islands are a biodiversity hotspot that hosts seven different species of wild banana that we know of, not to mention numerous, as yet undocumented, others.

The latest discovery, published in the Nordic Journal of Botany, is of a species of wild banana named Musa paramjitiana, in honour of Paramjit Singh, who happens to be the director of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI). The species was found in North Andaman’s Krishnapuri forest, 6 kilometres from any human habitation.

The plant grows to a height of nine metres and bears an edible, sweet-and-sour tasting fruit that is boat-shaped and has numerous bulb-shaped seeds. Its conservation status has been declared as ‘Critically Endangered’ as it has so far been spotted in only two locations on the islands, each with 6 to 18 plants in a clump.

According to Mr Lal Ji Singh(a BSI scientist),who made the discovery, the fruit is part of the diet of local tribes. “The fruits and seeds have ethnomedicinal importance. Pseudo-stem and leaves of these species are also used during religious and cultural ceremonies,”

“These discoveries present a great opportunity for plant breeders and horticulture experts to improve the existing banana crop. The germplasm of all the wild banana species needs to be conserved on an urgent basis since most of these are found in very small habitats and at risk of extinction,”
In 2014, he discovered Musa indandamanensis, another wild banana, in a remote tropical rainforest on the Little Andaman island. It has dark green cylindrical flower buds.

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New ant species discovered in the Western Ghats

Researchers have discovered a new species of ant in the Western Ghats, recognised as one of the world’s ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity.
The new species was found in the Periyar Tiger Reserve. The research, published in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal Zootaxa, was undertaken by Kalesh Sadasivan and Manoj Kripakaran, members of the non-governmental organisation Travancore Natural History Society’s Ant Research Group.

Belonging to Tyrannomyrmex, a rare tropical genus of ants, the species was discovered by the team from the Vallakadavu range during an expedition a year ago. Paying tribute to their mentor and eminent myrmecologist Musthak Ali, who is regarded as the country’s ‘ant man’, the authors of the study have named the new species Tyrannomyrmex alii (or T. alii) Sadasivan and Kripakaran 2017.

According to Dr Sadasivan, Tyrannomyrmex is a rare myrmicine (subfamily of ants) ant genus that is distributed in the Indomalayan bio-region that extends from southern India and Sri Lanka to Southeast Asia.

The particular genus had been erected in 2003 with the discovery of the species, Tyrannomyrmex rex Fernández, in Pasoh Forest Reserve, Malaysia. Later, two more species that were under the same genus had been discovered; Tyrannomyrmex dux (or T. dux) from the Ponmudi hills in 2007 and T. legatus from the Sinharaja Forest Reserve in Sri Lanka in 2013. T. alli has thus become the four species of the rare genus and the second one from India. Notably, both of the Tyrannomyrmex species that have been described from the country are known from the Western Ghats range in Kerala.

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Carnivorous plants use CO2 to lure prey

Scientists unravel another prey capture mechanism by pitcher plants
Carnivorous plants have been known to employ a variety of techniques like nectar, smell, colour and ultraviolet florescence to lure and capture prey. But now, scientists at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Gardens and Research Institute here have come up with evidence that some carnivorous plants use carbon dioxide (CO2) to attract insects and ants to their prey traps.

A study conducted by the division of Phytochemistry and Pharmacology at the institute has found that the Indian pitcher plant (Nepenthes khasiana) uses the gas, both to attract prey and to aid the digestive process. The research team led by Sabulal Baby demonstrated that the unopened pitchers of the plant are carbon dioxide-enriched, with a gas concentration of 2,500 to 5,000 ppm (parts per million), approximately 10 times that in the earth’s atmosphere.

The open Nepenthes pitchers were found to emit CO2 constantly to attract insects. The study also detected high levels of CO2 dissolved in acidic pitcher fluids, ensuring optimum activities of the digestive enzymes. The findings have been reported in Scientific Reports, a journal published by Nature.

Carnivorous plants of the genus Nepenthes supplement their nutrient deficiency by capturing insects through their leaf-evolved pitchers which act as biological traps.

The study found that the high CO2 inside the pitchers was produced by the respiration of tissues within the cavity.

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First zero-emission hydrogen-powered tram

A domestically-produced hybrid electric tram powered by hydrogen fuel cells has begun operating in Tangshan, northern China. The ecologically sound vehicle was launched amid China’s huge pollution challenges.

The world’s first hydrogen-powered tram began its commercial operations in Tangshan, one of China’s oldest industrial cities not far from the capital, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported Friday. It was developed by the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) in 2015.

The tram carried around 300 passengers during its maiden trips on Thursday, Chinese media reported citing the production company. One of the first riders, Tangshan resident Su, 31, described the trip as “quite comfortable.”

The ecologically-friendly tram emits only water without any pollutants. It does not produce any nitrogen oxides, as the temperature of the reaction inside the fuel cell is kept under 100 degrees Celsius.

It has three carriages with 66 seats and can run for 40 kilometers at a maximum speed of 70 kilometers per hour consuming 12 kilograms of hydrogen. It can be refueled in just 15 minutes.

The coach rides on a 136-year-old railway line and connects several industrial heritage sites of Tangshan.

Earlier this year, a contract was signed for the train’s commercial use in Foshan City in south China’s Guangdong Province. Еight hydrogen-powered tramcars will be manufactured according to the deal.

China has been struggling with air pollution for years, with its cities often blanketed in harmful thick smog. On Friday, a yellow smog alert was issued for the Chinese capital Beijing and its suburbs, which were covered with dense fog causing highway closures.

Fuel Cell

A fuel cell is a device that converts chemical potential energy (energy stored in molecular bonds) into electrical energy. A PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) cell uses hydrogen gas (H2) and oxygen gas (O2) as fuel. The products of the reaction in the cell are water, electricity, and heat. This is a big improvement over internal combustion engines, coal burning power plants, and nuclear power plants, all of which produce harmful by-products.

Hydrogen + Oxygen = Electricity + Water Vapor

 

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India to host UN summit on migratory species in 2020

India will host the next UN global wildlife conservation and international species protection conference in 2020.

“India to be the host of the next CMS Conference of the Parties CMSCOP13! Officially announced at the closing CMSCOP12 plenary, in Manila,” the UN for Environment Programme tweeted.

An announcement in this regard was made on the last day of the week-long 12th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals or CMS COP12, the only international treaty devoted exclusively to migratory animal species.

Delegates from 91 countries participated in the CMS COP that is held once in three years. This was for the first time the summit was held in Asia.
The CMS COP12 in Manila has been the largest-ever meeting in the 38-year history of the convention, which is also known as the ‘Bonn Convention’ after the German city in which it was signed.

The summit saw some notable outcomes, including a vulture multi-species action plan to better protect 15 species of Old World Vulture in more than 120 countries, comprising four that are critically endangered in India.

Governments also agreed to cooperate on reducing the negative impacts of marine debris, noise pollution, renewable energy and climate change on migratory species.

Other mammals that will benefit from the additional protection include the African wild ass — the most endangered wild equid in the world — Przewalski’s Horse and four species of Lasiurus Bat.

The proposal to add the Chinkara (Indian gazelle) was withdrawn.
Addressing the Plenary of COP12, UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim said the sustainable development goals were directed at both “people and planet”.

He added that new technologies and political commitment could protect both the planet and bring development to people with the same policies.

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SC bans dirty pet-coke, furnace oil in Haryana, Rajasthan, UP

In a landmark ruling today the Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta banned the use of dirty furnace oil and pet-coke in Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh from November 1, 2017. This ban is already in place in Delhi.

The bench has further directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC) to notify the standards for nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulphur oxides (SOx) for the industry sector and the industry has to comply with the standards by December 31, 2017. In addition, the MOEFCC will have to pay a fine of Rs 200,000 to the Supreme Court. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) lauds this directive as a big win for Delhi and NCR as well as the rest of the country fighting a tough battle against toxic pollution.

This order has come in response to the findings and recommendations of the Environment Protection (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) that has exposed widespread use of these fuels in industrial sectors of NCR and found very high sulphur levels in these fuels, ranging from over 20,000 PPM in furnace oil to over 64,000 PPM in pet-coke. Use of these fuels was banned in Delhi way back in 1996. Furnace oil and pet-coke are the dirtiest by-products and residual fraction from the refinery process.

Significance of the new directive

Eliminates dirtiest industrial fuels in Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and mandates first ever stringent NOx and SOx standards for the industry sector nationwide: This momentous order eliminates in one stroke the use of dirtiest bottom of the barrel fuels from the industrial units of the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryan, and Rajasthan and makes all industrial units across the country liable for compliance with the new emissions standards by December 31, 2017.

Enormous pollution reduction potential from the industrial sector: This action has high potential for pollution reduction as large number of industrial units in Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Bhiwani, Noida and Greater Noida, Hapur, Bulandshahar, Alwar, Jhajjar, Gurugram, Rohtak, Mewat, Sonipat, Rewari, Palwal, Karnal, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar are currently using these dirty fuels.

This order will have nationwide impact as the entire industrial sector will have to comply with the new standards for SOx and NOx that are not regulated currently in India.

New order to offset adverse effect of perverse incentives allowed to dirty fuels under GST

The intervention of the Supreme Court is very opportune and timely as the recently enforced GST has created huge incentive for these dirty fuels to thrive. Both these fuels are included in GST and are in the 18 per cent tax bracket. But the industries, which use these fuels for manufacturing, get a credit. The tax of 18 per cent is fully credited to industry. But for the cleaner option, natural gas, which is not included in GST, the VAT is as high as 26 per cent in Uttar Pradesh.

The incentive for dirty fuel is fanning and expanding the use of dirty fuels. Demand for pet-coke has increased to such an extent that last year India imported 14 million tonnes of pet-coke, which is more than the domestic production. If import and domestic production is added, then India has used more pet-coke than China, when its pollution was at its peak.

Today, China has stopped imports of pet-coke. But India has become a dumping ground of pet-coke from the US, which has banned its internal use because of pollution.

The MoEF&CC submitted to the Supreme Court the draft standard for emission standards for SOx and NOx, which was issued on October 23, 2017. The CPCB submitted affidavit saying that they had sent proposed standards to the MoEF&CC on June 27, 2017. For two industrial sectors, Nitric Acid and Fertilizer, proposed standards were sent in 2014. Clearly, the process of setting standards was caught in a time warp. The honourable judges of the Supreme Court were not amused by this inexplicable delay in setting standards for pollution control.

India has continued the use of these extremely polluting fuels without any regulation for too long. Any further delay in standards and implementation of the court order will make air pollution and health risk worse. Implementation of the directive from the Supreme Court today has to be the top agenda for pollution control and we must take act urgently.

Pet-Coke

Petroleum coke, abbreviated coke or petcoke, is a final carbon-rich solid material that derives from oil refining, and is one type of the group of fuels referred to as cokes. Petcoke is the coke that, in particular, derives from a final cracking process–a thermo-based chemical engineering process that splits long chain hydrocarbons of petroleum into shorter chains—that takes place in units termed coker units(Other types of coke are derived from coal.).

Furnace Oil

Fuel oil, (also known as heavy oil, marine fuel or furnace oil) is a fraction obtained from petroleum distillation, either as a distillate or a residue. Broadly speaking, fuel oil is any liquid fuel that is burned in a furnace or boiler for the generation of heat or used in an engine for the generation of power, except oils having a flash point of approximately 42 °C (108 °F) and oils burned in cotton or wool-wick burners.

Image: Hindustan Times

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New species of large gecko discovered from Eastern Ghats

Geckos or house lizards usually evoke in us varying degrees of disdain. But a team of scientists’ fascination for these reptiles led them to discover a new species from the Eastern Ghats. The Kanger valley rock gecko Hemidactylus kangerensis is the newest addition to India’s lizard species.

The gecko was discovered from Chhattisgarh’s Kanger Ghati National Park. Though named after this park, the species is also found in Jagdalpur and Sukma in Chhattisgarh and in Khamman in the adjoining State of Telangana, which are part of the Eastern Ghats.

Growing to over eight inches long, the adult Kanger valley rock gecko is fairly large.

The distinct black-bordered beige bands that the new species sports right from its neck to its tail tip and specific scales on its thighs (which are visible only on closer inspection) set the Kanger valley rock gecko apart from the commonly-found rock gecko.

According to the researchers, the discovery highlights the need for dedicated surveys across the Eastern Ghats, where biodiversity has not been quantified too well. Most areas here also need protection from various anthropogenic pressures.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Zeeshan Mirza

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Projects sanctioned for Namami Gange programme.

The National Mission for Clean Ganga has approved eight projects worth over Rs 700 crore in the northern belt of the country to take forward the ambitious Namami Gange programme.

Out of the eight projects, four of them relate to sewage management in three Ganga basin states.

The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has approved a project for pollution abatement of river Ganga at Bally in West Bengal at an estimated cost of Rs 200.07 crore. This includes construction of a 40 million litres daily (MLD) STP under hybrid annuity-based PPP model among other works.

Similarly, construction of a 65 MLD-capacity STP under hybrid annuity model has been approved for Bihar’s Bhagalpur at an estimated project cost of Rs 268.49 crore, the statement said.

In Uttar Pradesh, sewage treatment-related works worth Rs 213.62 crore have been approved. The works to be carried out include construction of two STPs (28 MLD + 5 MLD) in Farrukabad and one 2 MLD-capacity STP at Bargadiya drain in Fatehpur, it said.

Pollution abatement works for river Ganga like interception, diversion and treatment of sewage at Bithoor in the northern state have also been approved at an estimated cost of Rs 13.40 crore.

The NMCG also approved a project for pollution inventorisation, assessment and surveillance on river Ganga at an estimated cost of Rs 42.9 crore, it added.

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