NASA reported last week that the year 2017 was the second hottest year on record, bested only by 2016 when El Niño temporarily helped boost temperatures slightly. Global average temperatures were 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1951-1980 average. The five hottest years on record have all occurred since 2010. Seventeen of the 18 hottest years have occurred since the year 2000.
Last month the World Bank announced that it no longer would provide funding for fossil fuel projects. This week the Conversation published an article by Professor Jason Kirk of Elon University noting that this decision represents the Bank showing a new found sense of independence from the United States, its largest funder, at a time when the Trump administration is promoting greater use of oil and gas. https://theconversation.com/signaling-more-independence-from-the-us-the-world-bank-phases-out-its-support-for-fossil-fuels-89497
Several sources report that there has been a noticeable improvement in air quality this winter in Beijing. The improvement in levels of fine particulates (PM2.5) is confirmed by data from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Te-Ping Chen, Air Quality Improves in Beijing, Wall St. Journal, Jan. 18, 2018, at A6. PM2.5 levels in Beijing during the last quarter of 2017 dropped to 58 micrograms per cubic meter of air, a substantial drop from the year before, but still several times above the level the World Health Organization deems to be safe. The improvement is attributed to stepped up inspections and fines against polluting factories in the provinces near Beijing, and cutbacks in coal use and steel production designed to meet environmental goals in the 5-year plan that expired at the end of 2017.
Egypt is protesting Ethiopia’s plans to fill the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River within three years of the project’s completion in 2019. Egypt maintains that this will reduce the flow of the river to Egypt to levels that will cause it harm. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn held meetings with Egyptian officials in Cairo last week to discuss the conflict. When completed, the da will be the largest in Africa. Matina Stevis-Gridneff & Dahlia Kholaif, Egypt, Ethiopia Wrangle Over Nile Dam, Wall St. Journal, Jan. 18, 2018, at A9.
A Ukrainian firm, Rodina Energy Group, and a German company, Enerparc Ag, are building a solar energy farm in the exclusion zone around the damaged Chernobyl nuclear reactor. They are expected to install 100 MW of solar generating capacity. The site is seemingly ideal because it has easy access to the transmission lines that formerly carried power from the nuclear power plant that was irrevocably damaged in the 1986 accident.
Last week Coca Cola launched a “World Without Waste” campaign. The company pledged that it will recycle all of its packaging by the year 2030. Chief executive James Quincey stated that “the world has a packaging problem - and, like all companies, we have a responsibility to help solve it.” Greenpeace was not impressed, http://www.bbc.com/news/business-42746911.
Authorities in Bangkok arrested Boonchai Bach, who they allege is the mastermind of an international ring that smuggles endangered wildlife, including rhino horns. The authorities allege than Bach operated the ring for more than a decades, reaping millions of dollars in revenue. Bach is alleged to have ties to Vixay Keosavang of Laos, who has been described as “the Pablo Escobar of wildlife trafficking.” Keosavang is still at large with a $1 million reward being offered by U.S. authorities for his capture.