Introducing an In-depth Analysis of Decreasing Pollution related to Coronavirus Outbreak in Italy

In the following weeks, as an information network devoted to sustainability, we will try to look at current coronavirus outbreak from an economic perspective, to implement and offer an analysis on good practices that shall be implemented as soon as the direct emergency ends. We want to dedicate our effort to all the victims and families deeply damaged by the pandemic, as well as all the people that are constantly working to save lives.  

Bitterly, economists might serve under these situations to read the present for assessing and try to prevent future damages. We intend to serve in this purpose with all due respect.

Since over three months ago, Cina has been affected by a virus that overstepped Asiatic borders and arrived in Europe within a few weeks. 

The “deadlock” of the country provoked a slowing down in transports and economic sectors such as flying, logistics, commercial distribution etc. As a result, environment was affected in a positive way. In fact, experts noticed a decrease in GHGs emission by 25%, something never happened before in China, an overpopulated country that is still highly dependent on coal as primary energy source.  

According to the Climate Index Risk, 500,000 victims have been caused by meteorological effects exacerbated by climate change. Moreover, World Health Organization states that deaths will increase, reaching 250,000 per year. The scenario seems apocalyptic, yet the choices of national governments do not reflect serious concerns (for example, only a few countries in the world had a clear transition to renewable energy). Particularly, governments’ measures taken to face climate change cannot be compared to those concerning the virus. This can be explained by the assumption that people’s adversity of risk is higher for Covid-19 than climate change.

Giovanni Carrosio, professor at the University of Trieste, tried to explain the irrationality of risk by comparing travelling by car with travelling by plane. Rationally, the latter transport would be safer, and yet most people prefer the former one. Actually, the probability of dying by car is 1 over 103, while the likelihood of a person to die by plane is 1 over 188,364.

For what concerns COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, Doctor Milena Gabanelli’s Dataroom outlined the short-term situation, having most data explicitly covered. ASPI data outlined an 18% reduction in highway traffic (-20% light car traffic, +2% heavy truck traffic). School and business closure have also caused a reduction in CO2 emissions, as well as airline traffic reduction. Air currents did also play a role in reducing CO2 presence in the atmosphere surrounding Italy. All these events caused, in the short term, a reduction in CO2 by 428,000 tons in the three regions most affected by COVID-19. This numbers only reflect the first week and will exponentially grow as long as these restrictive measures are kept. These measures must be analyzed in the long term to have scientific relevance, and we will do so as soon as AQI, ISPRA and ARPA data will be updated. Only time will mutate collective perception into real consequences.  

2020-02-14 Image taken by Copernicus Sentinel-5P Satelite
2020-03-08 Image taken by Copernicus Sentinel-5P Satelite

On the other side, it must be acknowledged that Human and Economic costs will be monstrous. We state this to clarify that the data on CO2 reduction, and consequent social welfare increase, will be analyzed only as an empiric opportunity to evaluate smart working policies, shorter supply chains. A model that we should aim in reaching as soon as this emergency will end. We say this by remembering that any economic assessment of human health, in particular Value of Statistical Life (VOSL), takes health into account related to human productivity. Restrictive measures that prevent the citizen from working or going to school undermine any evaluation attempt. 

In the next article, to keep following COVID-19 outbreak consequences, we will assess “positive” CO2-health related changes that in the long term might affect workers’ and citizens’ life. The data that we are taking into account comprehend PM10, PM 2.5 and NO2 in the atmosphere.  

Useful Links for insights:

Milena Gabbanelli, Coronavirus ed emission di CO2, l’aria è più pulita ma non è una buona notizia: perchè? https://www.corriere.it/dataroom-milena-gabanelli/coronavirus-ed-emissioni-co2-l-aria-piu-pulita-ma-non-buona-notizia-perche/3f1d4156-62d6-11ea-a693-c7191bf8b498-va.shtml

Jonathan Watts, Coronavirus could cause fall in global CO2 emissions. Responses to utbreak also show how governemtn policy and behavioural changes can have impact https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/10/coronavirus-could-cause-fall-in-global-co2-emissions

Video:

Minute Earth, How Do Greenhouse Gases Actually Work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTvqIijqvTg

Database:

ARPA Lombardia https://www.arpalombardia.it/Pages/Ricerca-Dati-ed-Indicatori.aspx

World Air Quality Index Project https://aqicn.org/city

Water scarcity in Northern Europe… Do we any issue?

Summer is coming. These days this sounds more like a threat than a promise, as it was actually in winter.
so, while you are sweatingly walking through the concrete jungle of your city,  you catch yourself thinking “I wish I was in Lapland”… like really? You may change your mind with the following facts.

A pool party

Water scarcity is one of the  direct consequences of climate change. And it does not forget about those little fellows up there- while probably all the rest of the world sometimes do forget in practice that they exist.
Scandinavian Countries recognised that they were hit by this phenomenon in 2006 ( White paper, Norden) and started to develop adaptive policies. They are particularly concerned with water issues. Is it a positive or negative question?
It has some feature of both abundance of water and of scarcity.
Scarcity is a minor factor, mostly  concentrated in isolated spot areas beyond the arctic circle, that corresponds to melting glaciers that are obviously shrinking in dimensions more and more, as all of the other storages  of water of snow are showing to do. The phenomenon is worsened by the trend of decreasing precipitations in those areas.
This overall trend enacts also a runoff flow of water to southern regions, that causes in situ the opposite phenomenon.
Abundance of water derives from not only melting glaciers, which create a considerable flow of it towards other regions, but it is also due to increased precipitations in the southern part of Scandinavia: the average  in Europe is of an increase of 6-8% over the period 1901-2005 (EEA, 2009), and this is the evidence undertaken in this location.

 

Changes in annual rain precipitation in Europe
Changes in annual rain precipitation in Europe taken from EEA Report “Water resources across Europe — confronting water scarcity and drought” of 2009

So what?

What is particularly striking about this phenomenon is that is actually not very democratic.
The water issue has as drawbacks to the region the loss of water storages (in the form of ice and snow), a massive inflow of bad quality water to North southern regions, increased moisture in urban areas ( concentrated in the southern part of the Scandinavian countries) and an increased probability of extreme meteorological events.
However it has awkward and significant positive economic sides, such as increased potentiality of Hydroelectric power, due to the flow, opportunities in water- export due to external heavier water scarcity conditions, and recoverings on the quality of water due to oxygen-rich rains. Not to forget that one of the side effects of climate change is that it creates  an increase in the yields of horticultural crops in those region who were historically poor of it (Scandinavian countries, in fact).

Contextualising

Now: you may still want to go to Lapland, but maybe for other –fruitful– reasons.
However, results like those reported are forecasts inserted in a context of risk and uncertainty.
In fact Scandinavian countries are only marginally affected by climate change and water issues, in particular with respect to developing and middle east countries.

Climate change impacts on regional GDP with market rigidities
Climate change impacts on regional GDP with market rigidities from the paper
“Climate Change Impacts and Limited Market-driven Adaptation”
by Francesco Bosello and Ramiro Parrado

Still, we can notice very much  discrimination in such phenomenon, isn’t it?

Extreme weather is due to Climate Change. Really?!

Every once in a while, I meet someone who doesn’t believe in climate change. They say that all the changes are happening since the beginning of the time and will continue to be so it is quite normal for the Earth to be so warm or to be so cold. Well, I always partially agree with them. But since last century we can see more and more storms all over the world. Maybe 2 of them you might think as a normal phenomenon but we saw in UK,China and India among other countries made it clear that it is indeed happening due to Climate Change.
If you still do not agree, read this post where the scientist in UK did some research and Carbon Brief did further research on that research and then followed up some Question and Answers session to understand these disasters happening all over the world. Why I can a storm a disaster? Well, it completes ruins your city and daily routine and not to mention the financial problem it causes the government in the matter of days.

A series of storms – first Desmond, then Eva, and finally Frank – dumped 230mm of rain on the UK during December, triggering flooding across much of Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland. The preliminary results – from three different approaches – indicate the human impact on climate was as large, or even larger, than the impact of natural fluctuations in the Atlantic and Pacific ocean – even during a strong El Niño event. Climate change and ocean variability each made the record rainfall totals 50-75% more likely, the researchers say, and doubled the chances of such a warm month. Random variability in weather also contributed to the severe conditions.

Do you still feel that Climate Change isn’t happening? Is Yes, then I am sure you believe that Santa Claus exist too!

Source: Carbon Brief, Climate Prediction

Reduction in consumption of meat might be a good idea!

I know that the post image might tempt people to eat some meat right now. But as I have written few posts before about how the meat industry is kind of more responsible for the pollution around the world. Documentaries like ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘Food Inc’ are worth watching for some reason. Deforestation is done also because of meat industry. According to some assumption, the demand for meat is going to be higher in the future. If this happens, the 2 degree target is well of the table.

If you read this article on Carbon Brief, there is strong evidence that reduce in meat might really reduce the pollution. I really have reduced my consumption of meat since Jan 2015. I intended to completely quit it but I will be honest, I can’t quit it 100%. Ever since I have started eating more veggies, my cooking skills have improved as I can try to cook different types of vegetables ( going off the topic now).

 

These two images taken from the article shows how the current consumption is happening around the globe. If you do not wish to quite it, no need as long as you reduce a little.

Read the article for more details.

 

Source: Carbon Brief.

What’s in your climate agreement? – Konrad Luders

On December 12th 2015 the governments of 196 nations have finally decided to work together against climate change, a problem known to exist for more than four decades… starting in 2020! But can this be it? Have our governments really just managed to conserve a habitable planet for humans? Or is it too early to pad ourselves on the back just yet?
While it should be acknowledged that this is a big step forward, compared to previous agreements, the deal holds next to no legally binding regulations and the countries mainly responsible for the current state of the environment managed to avoid legal responsibility. Leveling off of emissions will not happen until the second half of this century. Even insurances that are mentioned in the agreement will not cover the main risks of climate change; rising sea levels, vanishing drinking water and droughts. Leaving small countries vulnerable. Only time will tell if this agreement is truly a success. I sure hope it will be, but sadly I’m pessimistic.
But what can we do in the meantime? We don’t have to wait for governments to start acting, do we? We all have the power to make changes every day, no matter how incremental they might seem.
Every time we step inside a car, we can ask ourselves if there are other means of transportation we could be using instead. Maybe we can spend the next vacation exploring the country we already live in, instead of flying half way across the globe.
The livestock sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. So, every time we are about to buy or order meat we can stop and think about a vegetarian alternative instead. This does not mean we cannot eat meat anymore. We can eat as much or as little meat as we feel comfortable with. But, if we just stop and consider the consequences every single time, I’m sure more often than not we are going to choose the vegetarian meal instead.
About 1/4 of all food purchased ends up in the trash. That’s not only a waste of resources, but also a waste of money. Between eating leftovers and small scale biogas plants, there are plenty of ways to re-use food waste.
We can look for sustainable alternatives to big banks who keep investing in fossil fuels and move our money to those investing in sustainable small and large scale projects instead. Or, if we’re too attached to our bank, because the IBAN we have is just soooo perfect, we can at least voice our desire for more sustainable investments to our bank. There are energy providers out there who re-invest their profit in the establishment of more sustainable energy sources instead of paying big bonuses to their managers. They deserve more customers.
And finally, remember to ask yourself: “Do I really need another t-shirt?”
Learning about all of these alternatives is not only the right thing to do, it can be a lot of fun and very satisfying as well!!
Change the world! I know you can!

This post is written by Konrad Luders.

EuroEnviro2016  |  Vice Project Coordinator
Website: euroenviro.org

Chasing Ice – Documentary review

Stalking people around the world on Facebook, I stumbled upon a link which talked about some nice documentaries ( I knew stalking was always a great idea). When I opened the linked, one documentary – Chasing Ice was mentioned as one film ‘must be seen’.

It seemed like a good idea to see it since we all might have read the news that Paris Summit pledges are not enough. I must say, I am really happy I saw this documentary. First off, what an amazing majestic beauty of Ice. It looked so good. Just like ‘featured Image’ of this post. It kind of saddened by seeing how rapidly they are melting away. I read about it in newspaper but seeing a proper documentary made on it had a strong effect on me. It is horrific to see the Ice melting away like this.

James Balog goes across the Arctic as he deploys time-lapse cameras designed for one single purpose: to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers. He put some 25 cameras in Greenland, Iceland,Montana & some in Alaska. The concept of ‘ancient air trapped as bubbles in the ice’ was amazing!

This documentary only lasts for 1 hour so please do not be lazy. Grab your healthy less fat popcorn and watch this brilliant documentary!

Ever heard of: Naomi klein

In this post of ‘Ever heard of’ I am going to talk about Naomi Klein a Canadian author & filmmaker known for her political analyses. Her latest book ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs Climate Change’ became a bestseller. It sheds some light to the connections between the rapid growth model of the free market economy and its significant negative impact on the climate. I have to be honest, I haven’t read this book yet but there is an hour long video where she talks about her book and about environment.

 

If you can not read the book or watch this video, you can check the documentary.

She is also supporting the ‘divestment’ movement since 2013. There is a lot to know about her. Not only she could be a perfect role model for women but for men too. In Klein we trust!

3D-Underwater framing

In resource economics we talk quite a lot of renewable resources and their stock size, and to make it more feasible professors introduce to students this topic by the stock of fish  in the sea and the trees in forest.
Today I would like to do the same to you and show you this project, that somehow unites the two arguments:

“Farming the Sea: why eating kelp is good for you and for the environment”

This superduper-well made Video about a project that has the potential of a big future shows how kelp farming that is linked with a multi-stage breeding of oysters and fish stock can revolutionize the use of the oceans resources. But the main plant here is kelp, some sort of large seaweeds that grow in so called “underwater forest”. What makes kelp so special is the fact that it is full of nutrients, it soaks up excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the ocean and can be used as vegetable, fertilizer and biofuel.

If you have 5 minutes of time, lean back and enjoy this eyeopening video.

 

India looking forward to bank on Solar power

In India, Solar power has become the catchword for many states in recent times. Internationally, the price of solar power components has been declining at 15% year over year, and states are leveraging this trend. India’s commitments on increasing its non-fossil fuel component of power generation to 40% by 2030 are substantial. Even though coal usage has been increasing too but India is confident to use more solar power. In Gujrat (one of the states in India) they have been using Solar power a bit for a while. The project was the brainchild of Narendra Modi. As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi spurred companies to build more than 900MW of solar plant across the state in just a couple of years. Now, as prime minister, the question is whether he can repeat the feat across India, which receives more sunlight than any other country in the G20. India’s booming cities are another huge challenge, with many struggling with blackouts, particularly when temperatures soar and air conditioning is ramped up. Again, Modi’s 13-year tenure in Gujarat is providing the solar template. In September, it was announced that rooftop solar power projects in the state capital, Gandhinagar, will be replicated in Punjab and Delhi, where a storm at the end of May plunged its fragile grid into rolling blackouts for a week.

Delhi is ever more power-hungry, but with little open land and 300-plus days of sunshine a year, rooftop solar is an attractive solution. India’s pledge document talks about increasing nuclear power from 5 GW to 63 GW by 2032 and doubling wind capacity to 60 GW by 2022. But the most ambitious is the plan to increase solar capacity from 4 GW to 100 GW in the next seven years. With the liability issue bogging down nuclear, much of the heavy lifting may have to be done by solar and, to some extent, wind.

Solar power has become the catchword for many states in recent times. Internationally, the price of solar power components has been declining at 15% year over year, and states are leveraging this trend to get good deals. Recently, Madhya Pradesh was able to beat down the price it will have to pay for power from a solar project to Rs 5.05 a unit.
The pledge document says: “A scheme for development of 25 solar parks, ultra mega solar power projects, canal top solar projects and 1,00,000 solar pumps for farmers is at different stages of implementation.” The 100 GW expansion planned nationwide would need acquisition of nearly 5 lakh acres of land – at least three times the size of Mumbai.

I really hope India start using more non fossil fuels and less charcoal.

Source: The guardian, TOI

Paris Summit 2015 – Each country’s pledge

Carbon Brief has been following each country’s pledge towards the Paris 2015 summit. Here on this post you will find more details on how each country pledged in the upcoming summit. While for some countries, the pledges seem a big task however it will be interesting to see if they manage to achieve the target.

For instance, Mexico – the first developing country to come forward – includes a section on adaptation, while the EU is silent on the topic. Switzerland’s pledge of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions looks high compared to the EU’s “at least 40%”, until you realise they plan to use international carbon credits where the EU will make all reductions on home soil.

These pledges are also known as “intended nationally determined contributions”, or INDCs. You can find more details of each country’s INPC on UNFCCC. If the INDCs fall short – as they are widely expected to do – there is no official mechanism in place to ratchet them up before Paris. This is where they will be incorporated into the agreement, and likely take on some element of legal force.

I have my skepticism too but let’s wait for this event to happen!

Source: Carbon Brief