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January 2013, Volume 19, Number 1

Global: Climate, Commodities

Global emissions of carbon dioxide rose three percent in 2011 and another three percent in 2012 with recovery from the global recession, making it unlikely that the world will be able to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Coal emissions rose by five percent in 2011 compared with 2010.

The level of carbon dioxide has increased about 41 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and the average temperature of the planet has increased about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1850.

In 2009, the industrial countries in Copenhagen pledged to provide $10 billion a year in quick-start funding between 2010 and 2013 to help the least-developed countries to cope with climate change. Their contribution to the Green Climate Fund was to increase to $100 billion a year after 2020.

During the annual UN-sponsored meeting to deal with global warming in Doha, Qatar in December 2012, there was no commitment to provide funding between 2013 and 2020. After Copenhagen, most developing nations assumed that GCF funds would rise toward the $100 billion a year mark.

Palm oil. Indonesia and Malaysia lead the world in the production of palm oil, whose consumption is expanding as food makers phase out trans fats. Critics allege that government plans to clear rain forest to develop palm oil plantations on Borneo and elsewhere benefits very few residents.

Slash-and-burn agriculture accounts for 80├┐percent of Indonesia's carbon dioxide emissions, making it the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the United States and China. The Zurich-based Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil aims to reduce the environmental impacts of palm oil production and protect the migrant workers employed on plantations.

Tea. Tea estates around Darjeeling, India have persuaded the EU to agree that tea labeled Darjeeling be grown in the area that is 5,000 feet above sea level near India's border with Nepal. Darjeeling produces only one percent of the two billion pounds of tea grown in India each year, but four times more tea is labeled Darjeeling. Tea is harvested twice in Darjeeling between February and July during the so-called first and second flushes.

Assam, which produces half of India's tea, was the scene of labor disputes on tea plantations in December 2012.

Tea producers in southern China are switching to coffee. Mountainous Yunnan, long known for premium tea, is switching to coffee to satisfy urban youth, according to Ai Ni Coffee, China's largest coffee production and exporting company. A million tons of tea were consumed in China in 2011, compared to 120,000 tons of coffee (half produced in Yunnan) , but coffee consumption is increasing rapidly. Starbucks expects to double its current 750 stores by 2015, and is working with Yunnan farmers to raise productivity and improve quality.

Ivory. The rising demand for ivory in Asia is increasing the poaching of African elephants; the price of ivory in China can be $1,000 a pound. The New York Times reported December 30, 2012 that the contest between free-spending tourists who go on safari to see elephants and ivory poachers is playing out in countries such as Kenya, where some ex-poachers have become rangers who protect elephants to support safari tourism.

There are an estimated 500,000 jobs in Kenya dependent on safari tourism, and some pay as much as the lower level jobs in hunting elephants for their ivory. In Kenya, nonprofit wildlife zones or conservancies give 60 percent of their safari revenues to local communities and hire 75 percent local staff. They support rangers who are paid $25 to $320 a month to rangers who aim to discourage poachers.

Ivory poachers are fighting back, with some attacking park rangers and others poisoning vultures so that rangers do not have any early warnings of elephant kills. In Kenya, the janjaweed, who are Sudanese horseback raiders working with the Sudanese military, are blamed for poaching elephants.

Traffic, an organization that monitors wildlife trade, reported that 40 tons of ivory was seized by customs officials around the world in 2011, up from 10 tons in 2007.

Coal. The world consumed about eight billion tons of coal in 2012, and is projected to consume almost nine billion tons in 2016, as China, India and other fast-growing countries add power plants that burn coal to produce electricity. Each of China's 620 coal-fired plants produces about 1.5 gigawatts of electricity, and China plans to add 160 more plants within four years.

Coal provided 30 percent of the world's energy in 2012, and is projected to surpass oil as the world's primary fuel by 2015. Australia is the world's largest coal exporter.