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April 2023, Volume 29, Number 2

Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in March 2023 reported that the earth has warmed 1.1C above preindustrial levels, and predicted that global average temperatures will rise to 1.5C or 2.7F in the first half of the 2030s. The IPCC called on countries to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions to slow global temperature increases that could otherwise raise global temperatures by over 2C.

There has been a significant slowing of carbon emissions, but UN SG António Guterres in February 2023 warned that up to a billion people could be forced to move by rising sea levels, forcing residents of low-lying cities from Bangkok to Lagos, and from Mumbai to Shanghai, to move as oceans warm. The latest UN projection is for an average global temperature increase of 2.4C or 4.3F by 2100, which could speed the melting of glaciers and ice sheets.

Former Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga was nominated in February 2023 to replace World Bank President David Malpass, who was criticized for not doing enough to tackle climate change. Banga, who was born in India, is expected to emphasize both reducing poverty and slowing global warming.

Policies to slow global warming may affect trade patterns, as the US and EU governments subsidize local producers of green energy at the expense of foreign competitors. Requirements that batteries for electric cars be made in the US in order to receive US tax credits have alienated EU allies and may prompt European governments to favor EU-made vehicles in Europe. The EU plans to impose a new carbon tariff on imports from countries that are not reducing emissions via a carbon border adjustment mechanism.

California has 40 species of evergreen trees. Red firs are dying faster than Douglas firs, which have deeper roots to obtain water during droughts. California forests have become more crowded due to fire suppression policies that produce more and less well rooted trees that were weakened by prolonged droughts and insect infestations.

Australia pays $450 million a year to farmers and others who sequester carbon by preserving or replanting trees. Critics say that ACCUs or carbon credits amount to greenwashing because they allow new gas and coal projects to be developed while paying farmers to maintain cattle and forest stations.

The Emissions Reduction Act of 2014 required the 215 largest US polluters, mostly energy companies, to offset the emissions beyond target limits. However, these limits were set so high that the Australian government rather than private firms became the major buyer of ACCUs, sending checks to farmers who would not have cut trees or where trees would regrow naturally. In some cases, the availability of ACCUs has increased land prices.

Many major oil companies are selling their wells in developing countries such as Nigeria in order to reduce their carbon emissions. The result is sometimes more emissions, as the local firms who buy oil wells fail to maintain them. Shell withdrew from onshore wells the Niger Delta, and the Nigerian companies that bought Shell’s wells have had far more spills than when Shell operated them. Nigeria’s oil output is falling, and Angola surpassed Nigeria as the leading African producer in 2022.

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