Global natural gas demand set to decline slightly in 2022 as Russia’s war disrupts markets and economies: Report

Credit: Petr Kratochvil/Public Domain

The world’s demand for natural gas is set to decline slightly in 2022 as a result of higher prices and market disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest quarterly update.

The expected small contraction in global gas demand compares with the IEA’s earlier forecast of 1% growth in the previous quarterly update published in January. The downward revision to the forecast amounts to 50 billion cubic meters, the equivalent of about half of last year’s US liquefied natural gas exports. Global natural gas consumption grew by 4.5% in 2021.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has added further pressure and uncertainty to an already tight natural gas market, especially in Europe. While there are no on importing Russian natural gas to the European Union at this point, the war has pushed EU governments to seek to reduce their dependence on Russian fossil fuel imports as quickly as possible. The IEA published a 10-Point Plan on 3 March outlining a suite of measures to reduce the volume of Russian gas imports into Europe by over a third within a year while remaining consistent with the EU’s climate ambitions.

Spot gas prices have soared to record highs as Europe’s push for more diversified natural gas supply has intensified demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes, with some being diverted away from Asia. Average spot LNG prices in Asia during the 2021-22 heating season were more than four times their five-year average. In Europe, spot LNG prices were five times their five-year average, in spite of a mild winter. The prices were also boosted by Russia’s moves, even before its invasion of Ukraine, to drastically reduce short-term gas sales to Europe, which had left European storage levels 17% below their five-year average at the start of the European heating season.

“Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine is above all a humanitarian disaster, but it has also triggered a major energy supply and security crisis,” said Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA Director for Energy Markets and Security. “While stiffer competition for LNG supplies is inevitable as Europe reduces its reliance on Russian gas, the best and most lasting solution to today’s energy challenges would be to accelerate energy efficiency improvements across our economies and accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels towards low-carbon sources of , including domestically produced low-carbon gases.”

Russia is Europe’s largest natural gas supplier, meeting 33% of the region’s demand in 2021, up from 25% in 2009. The flows of transiting through Ukraine have continued so far since the invasion, despite Ukraine itself experiencing supply disruptions and damage to its gas infrastructure.

Natural gas consumption this year is expected to fall by close to 6% in Europe. In Asia, it is expected to grow by 3% in 2022, a marked slowdown from growth of 7% in 2021. Regions such as the Americas, Africa and the Middle East are expected to be affected less directly by gas market volatility, as they principally rely on domestic gas production. But they are nonetheless being affected by the wider economic impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine including rising , weaker purchasing power and lower investment due to dented business confidence.

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Lots of low-cost ways to halt global warming

The unit costs of solar energy have dropped 85% in a decade.

Not only do we have the tools to slash emissions and curb global warming by 2030, but half of available carbon-cutting options are cost-free or very cheap, UN climate experts say.

There is no silver bullet, but a mosaic of actions—from ramping up solar and wind technology, to economy-wide energy efficiencies—were identified by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as low hanging fruit.

The IPCC said humanity has less than three years to halt the rise of planet-warming , and less than a decade to slash them by 43 percent from 2019 levels to give us a shot at capping at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But current policies support continued fossil fuel use and are taking the world in the wrong direction, the IPCC said, in a flagship report on how to avoid catastrophic warming, published on Monday.

Despite the tight timeline, the IPCC said the existing carbon-cutting potential across sectors “is sufficient to reduce to half of the current level or less”.

While this requires taking action across a wide range of options, the report said that measures that are low-cost “make up more than half of this potential and are available for all sectors”.

“The market benefits of some options exceed their costs,” it added.

Wind and solar

In 2019, were 59 billion tonnes, or gigatonnes, of CO2 or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.

The range of options identified would enable a reduction in emissions of 31 to 44 gigatonnes by 2030.

There are four key areas where the total potential for carbon reduction is highest between now and the end of the decade—solar and , reductions in deforestation, and restoration of forests and other ecosystems.

Of those, solar and wind are also among the cheapest options available thanks to the steep drop in the unit costs of these technologies—down 85 and 55 percent respectively between 2010 and 2019, according to the report.

This “demonstrates that with the right policy incentives and economic frameworks, can be financed at scale and relatively quickly,” said Michael Wilkins, head of the Centre For Climate Finance And Investment at Imperial College Business School.

More investment in solar could see an emissions reduction of between two and seven gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030. Wind energy could save between 2.1 and 5.6 gigatonnes.

Most of that potential, according to the report, would have essentially negative lifetime costs because they are cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives.

The reduction of methane emissions in the production of fossil energies is also mostly low cost.

Other energy generation options have a lower overall potential, with a higher cost, such as and hydroelectricity.

Increasing wind power could a chunk off emissions at no cost.

Food and forests

Protecting and restoring natural habitats is the second most significant area for reducing CO2 emissions.

Forests are crucial for absorbing CO2 generated by human activities, and the IPCC found that limiting deforestation and the destruction of grasslands could reduce net emissions between three and almost eight gigatonnes, largely at a low cost.

Restoring these types of ecosystems would save one to five gigatonnes. But action in this category would be at the more expensive end of the range considered by the IPCC.

Shifting to “sustainable” diets and reducing waste food could save more than two gigatonnes, the IPCC said, but it did not give a cost estimate because of wide global variability and a lack of data.

‘Fair balance’

The transport sector is notable for the fact that no single option has a particularly large potential to reduce emissions.

But almost all of the potential measures—switching to public transport and bicycles, fuel efficiency in road vehicles, shipping and aviation—are associated with negative costs.

In the , reduction in and efficiencies in things like lighting are seen as the lowest cost options, albeit with limited potential.

The construction of new highly energy efficient buildings have the greatest potential (between less than one and more than two gigatonnes), although costs are towards the higher end.

In industry, meanwhile, most of the options—beyond improving energy efficiency and cutting other greenhouse gas emissions—are associated with .

But the sector still has significant potential for reducing emissions, in particular the switch to less carbon-intensive sources.

“The costs of climate protection are economically absolutely feasible when examined on a global scale and over generations,” said Elmar Kriegler, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who was one of the IPCC authors.

But, he said, costs vary significantly from region to region, with developing countries facing a relatively higher price tag to move away from fossil fuels.

“That is why a fair balance is crucial, not only within individual countries but also internationally. Because one thing is clear: The benefits of climate protection clearly exceed its costs,” he added.

© 2022 AFP

Lots of low- and no-cost ways to halt global warming (2022, April 6)
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Global team of scientists determine ‘fingerprint’ for how much heat, drought is too much for forests

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Taken in 1993, this photo shows the mortality of historical forests of Atlas Cedar in Morocco. Credit: Csaba Mátyás, professor emeritus, University of Sopron, Hungary

How hot is too hot, and how dry is too dry, for the Earth’s forests? A new study from an international team of researchers found the answers—by looking at decades of dying trees.

Just published in the journal Nature Communications, the study compiles the first global database of precisely georeferenced die-off events, at 675 locations dating back to 1970. The study, which encompasses all forested continents, then compares that information to existing to determine the heat and drought that caused these documented tree mortality episodes.

“In this study, we’re letting the Earth’s forests do the talking,” said William Hammond, a University of Florida plant ecophysiologist who led the study. “We collected data from previous studies documenting where and when trees died, and then analyzed what the climate was during mortality events, compared to long-term conditions.”

After performing the on the observed forest mortality data, Hammond noted, a pattern emerged.

“What we found was that at the global scale, there was this consistently hotter, drier pattern—what we call a ‘hotter-drought fingerprint’ – that can show us how unusually hot or dry it has to get for forests to be at risk of death,” said Hammond, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS agronomy department.

The fingerprint, he says, shows that forest mortality events consistently occurred when the typically hottest and driest months of the year got even warmer and drier.

“Our hotter-drought fingerprint revealed that global forest mortality is linked to intensified climate extremes,” Hammond said. “Using climate model data, we estimated how frequent these previously lethal climate conditions would become under further warming, compared to pre-industrial era climate—22% more frequent at plus 2 degrees Celsius (plus 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), to 140% more frequently at plus 4 degrees Celsius (plus 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit).”

Those higher temperatures would more than double how often forests around the world see tree-killing droughts, he adds.

“Plants do a phenomenal job of capturing and sequestering carbon,” Hammond said. “But death of the plants not only prevents their performing this critical carbon-capturing role, plants also start releasing carbon as they decay.”

Hammond says that relying, in part, upon trees and other plants to capture and sequester carbon, as some proposed climate solutions suggest, makes it is critical to understand how hot is ‘too hot,’ and how dry is ‘too dry.’ “Otherwise mortality events, like those included in our database, may wipe out planned carbon gains.”

One of the study’s co-authors, Cuauhtémoc Sáenz-Romero of Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo in Mexico, offered an example of how recent climate patterns affected a Mexican temperate forest.

“In recent years, the dry and warm March to May season is even more dry than usual, but also warmer than ever,” he said. “This combination is inducing a lot of stress on the trees before the arrival of the next June-to-October rainy season. For example, in 2021, more than 8,000 mature trees were killed by bark beetles in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Central Mexico. The effect of the La Niña Pacific Ocean stream resulted in drier, warmer conditions; a deadly combination that favored pest outbreaks.”

Hammond has also developed an interactive application on the website of the International Tree Mortality Network to host the database online and to allow others to submit additional observations of forest mortality to the database.

The organization, founded and coordinated by co-author Henrik Hartmann from the Max Planck Institute in Germany, among others, is a between scientists on every forested continent and aims to coordinate international research efforts on forest die-off events. Hammond is the network’s data management group leader.

“We’re hoping that this paper will create a bit of urgency around the need to understand the role of warming on forest mortality,” Hammond said. “Also, we expect that our open-access database will enable additional studies, including other climate fingerprints from local to regional scales. Current modeling and remote-sensing research communities need ground-truthed datasets to validate their predictions of important processes like forest . One of the really important elements to this study was bringing all this data together for the first time, so that we can ask a question like this at the planetary scale.”



Using maps or aerial images, scientists assign to them real-world coordinates.


Information confirmed or validated by direct observation and measurement. In the case of machine learning, it refers to checking results for accuracy.

More information:
Global field observations of tree die-off reveal hotter-drought fingerprint for Earth’s forests, Nature Communications (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-29289-2

Global team of scientists determine ‘fingerprint’ for how much heat, drought is too much for forests (2022, April 5)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Global carbon dioxide emissions rebounded to their highest level in history in 2021

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose by 6% in 2021 to 36.3 billion tons, their highest ever level, as the world economy rebounded strongly from the COVID-19 crisis and relied heavily on coal to power that growth, according to new IEA analysis released today.

The increase in global CO2 emissions of over 2 billion tons was the largest in history in absolute terms, more than offsetting the previous year’s pandemic-induced decline, the IEA analysis shows. The recovery of energy demand in 2021 was compounded by adverse weather and energy market conditions—notably the spikes in —which led to more coal being burned despite registering its largest ever growth.

The global CO2 emissions and energy demand numbers are based on the IEA’s detailed region-by-region and fuel-by-fuel analysis, drawing on the latest official national data and publicly available energy, economic and weather data. Combined with the estimates that the IEA published last month and estimates of nitrous oxide and flaring-related CO2 emissions, the new analysis shows that overall greenhouse gas emissions from energy rose to their highest ever level in 2021.

The numbers make clear that the global economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis has not been the sustainable recovery that IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol called for during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020. The world must now ensure that the global rebound in emissions in 2021 was a one-off—and that an accelerated energy transition contributes to global energy security and lower energy prices for consumers.

Coal accounted for over 40% of the overall growth in global CO2 emissions in 2021, reaching an all-time high of 15.3 billion tons. CO2 emissions from natural gas rebounded well above their 2019 levels to 7.5 billion tons. At 10.7 billion tons, CO2 emissions from oil remained significantly below pre-pandemic levels because of the limited recovery in global transport activity in 2021, mainly in the aviation sector.

Despite the rebound in coal use, renewable energy sources and provided a higher share of global electricity generation than coal in 2021. Renewables-based generation reached an all-time high, exceeding 8 000 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2021, a record 500 TWh above its 2020 level. Output from wind and solar PV increased by 270 TWh and 170 TWh, respectively, while hydro generation declined due to the impacts of drought, notably in the United States and Brazil.

The use of coal for electricity generation in 2021 was intensified by record high natural gas prices. The costs of operating existing coal power plants across the United States and many European power systems were considerably lower than those of gas power plants for the majority of 2021. Gas-to-coal switching pushed up global CO2 emissions from electricity generation by well over 100 million tons, notably in the United States and Europe where competition between gas and coal power plants is tightest.

The rebound of global CO2 emissions above pre-pandemic levels has largely been driven by China, where they increased by 750 million tons between 2019 and 2021. China was the only major economy to experience economic growth in both 2020 and 2021. The emissions increases in those two years in China more than offset the aggregate decline in the rest of the world over the same period. In 2021 alone, China’s CO2 emissions rose above 11.9 billion tons, accounting for 33% of the global total.

China’s rise in emissions resulted largely from a sharp increase in electricity demand that leaned heavily on coal power. With rapid GDP growth and additional electrification of energy services, electricity demand in China grew by 10% in 2021, faster than economic growth at 8.4%. This increase in demand of almost 700 TWh was the largest ever experienced in China. With demand growth outstripping the increase in supply from low emissions sources, coal was used to meet more than half of the rise in electricity demand. This was despite the country also seeing its largest ever increase in renewable power output in 2021.

CO2 emissions in India rebounded strongly in 2021 to rise above 2019 levels, driven by growth in coal use for electricity generation. Coal-fired generation reached an all-time high in India, jumping 13% above its 2020 level. This was partly because the growth of renewables slowed to one-third of the average rate seen over the previous five years.

Global economic output in advanced economies recovered to pre-pandemic levels in 2021, but CO2 emissions rebounded less sharply, signaling a more permanent trajectory of structural decline. CO2 emissions in the United States in 2021 were 4% below their 2019 level. In the European Union, they were 2.4% lower. In Japan, emissions dropped by 3.7% in 2020 and rebounded by less than 1% in 2021.

On a per capita basis, CO2 emissions in advanced economies have fallen to 8.2 tons on average and are now below the average of 8.4 tons in China, although wide differences remain among advanced economies.

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Global powers urged to go further after UN climate deal

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‘We cannot force sovereign nations to do what they do not wish to do,’ said Johnson.

UN climate change summit host Boris Johnson, on Sunday hailed a last-ditch agreement to tackle global warming but said he was disappointed it did not go further on tackling use of high-polluting coal.

Nearly 200 countries on Saturday pledged to speed up the fight against rising temperatures, after two weeks of non-stop negotiations.

British Prime Minister Johnson called the 11th-hour deal “truly historic” and said it signalled “the beginning of the end for “.

But he said his “delight at this progress” was “tinged with disappointment” because of a failure to secure agreement of all countries to keep coal in the ground.India and China weakened the language of the final text, forcing tears and an exasperated apology from Britain’s COP26 president, Alok Sharma.

He later said the Asian giants needed to explain themselves to those countries facing an existential threat from rising seas, drought and wildfires.

An upbeat Johnson on Sunday told a news conference that most countries were willing to have “a high level of ambition”.

But without naming India and China, he said: “That wasn’t true of everybody. Sadly that’s the nature of diplomacy…

“We cannot force sovereign nations to do what they do not wish to do. It’s ultimately their decision to make and they must stand by it.”

Inclusion of coal in the final text from the COP26 talks was ‘ long overdue but very welcome’, says E3G thnk tank’s Chris Littlecott.

‘Long overdue’

Johnson said “Glasgow Pact” had managed to “turn the dial down” to warming of “around two degrees” Celsius—still failing to meet a 2015 Paris Agreement pledge to limit warming to 1.5-2.0C.

“But for all our disagreement, the world is undeniably heading in the right direction,” he said, insisting the goal of limiting heating to 1.5C was “still alive”.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, though, sounded the alarm bell.

“Climate catastrophe is still knocking on the door,” he warned, as Pope Francis urged “all those who have political and economic responsibilities to act immediately with courage and farsightedness”.

Joeri Rogelj, director of research at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, said the world was “looking in the right direction”.

But he added: “We need to start moving and global emissions need to decline, immediately, rapidly, and extremely urgently.”

Pope Francis called for ‘courage and farsightedness’

The agreement in Glasgow was the first time after 25 previous conferences that the words “” and “coal”—the main culprits of global warming—have made it into the final text.

“This is long overdue but very welcome,” said Chris Littlecott, fossil fuel transition specialist at the think tank E3G.

Their inclusion “confirms that coal is on the to the great trash compactor of history”.

He said the world now has a decade “to accelerate coal’s demise and expand efforts to oil and gas too”.

Recognising coal and oil by name in the text was a painful process, with India and China managing at the last moment to further soften the wording to “phase down” instead of “phase out”.

Beijing’s shift came after it announced on Wednesday a surprise deal with the United States, the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China.

President Joe Biden, who at the start of the summit lashed out at his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for his absence in Glasgow, is due to hold a video conference with him on Monday.

Map showing climate action announced by 37 countries and the European Union following the COP26 climate summit, according to Climate Action Tracker.

‘Untold suffering’

Beijing needs to deliver on promises made in Glasgow “with action—by putting an expiry date on domestic coal, said Byford Tsang of environmental group E3G.

“How countries establish new cooperation to deliver more short-term action over the next 12 months will be the real test of success at Glasgow,” the group said, highlighting other COP26 promises on reducing methane emissions, deforestation and the financing of the fossil fuel industry.

If countries, particularly the major emitters, stick to their incremental, “business-as-usual” policies, they will “condemn current and future generations to a world of untold suffering and harm”, warned the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The poorest countries, those least responsible for global warming but which are bearing its brunt, fought in Glasgow to obtain specific funding for “loss and damage”.

But they reluctantly gave in, agreeing to further dialogue so as not to jeopardise the broader fight against .

“We always knew that Glasgow was not the finish line,” said US envoy John Kerry on Saturday evening.

Some environmental activists have branded COP26 a failure.

French Environment Minister Barbara Pompili said that while COP26 was “far from having saved the planet, it put it on the right track”.

Pompili told RTL radio that while the final declaration was “not the most ambitious in the world” it represented a “compromise” that had at one point looked elusive.

“We have a deal, we have the Glasgow Pact and I can tell you that until last night that was not a given.”

© 2021 AFP

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Global consensus needed to develop climate risk disclosures for companies

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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow ends today, the United States and other G7 countries need to continue to consider adoption of a global framework for mandatory climate risk disclosure by companies.

But making disclosures mandatory globally is challenging when there are two different corporate governance systems practiced in the world’s economies, said Paul Griffin, professor in the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis, and lead author of an article published today in Nature Energy.

“Most fundamentally, the borderless nature of carbon emissions and financial capital requires that any mandatory climate risk discourse framework will also have to be global to be effective,” Griffin said in the article.

The article, “Challenges for a climate risk mandate,” is co-authored by Amy Myers Jaffe of the Climate Policy Lab, Tufts University.

Two basic systems

U.S. shareholders, for example, have strong shareholder rights with a high level of disclosure required by firms. Other economies, such as in Asia and the European Union, traditionally operate in a blockholder system, whereby blockholders exert governance through direct intervention in a firm’s operations. No single corporate governance model exists that has wide-scale acceptance, Griffin said.

Meanwhile, throughout the world this past summer have created a new sense of urgency to achieve a net-zero , researchers suggest in the article. Asset managers and large asset owners have made efforts to force energy firms to align with global climate goals; investors are demanding climate-friendly environmental, social and governance stocks; President Biden has issued an executive order calling for mandatory climate risk disclosures by firms; and Congress has passed legislation calling for the same.

Regulators should work at a global level, Griffin said, to fashion a that addresses climate risk and climate risk disclosure in a manner that strengthens shareholder rights to press for disclosure, but aligns with the longer term perspective of a blockholder system.

“Rapid convergence of systems into a hybrid global model is essential, given the pressing need for a timely transition to net-zero business principles and to hold global temperatures to a 1.5-degree C rise compared with pre-industrial levels,” he said.

More information:
Paul Griffin et al, Challenges for a climate risk disclosure mandate, Nature Energy (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41560-021-00929-z

Global consensus needed to develop climate risk disclosures for companies (2021, November 12)
retrieved 13 November 2021

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Hexbyte Glen Cove A sequence change in a single protein allowed a tomato virus to become a global crop pandemic

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Tomato plants (cv. Moneymaker) (upper panel) and leaves (lower panel) homozygous to the tm-2 or Tm-22 allele infected with ToMV and ToMVMP-ToBRFV. Credit: Hagit Hak and Ziv Spiegelman

In the last years, a new viral tomato disease has emerged, threatening tomato production worldwide. This is caused by the Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV), a member of a devastating group of plant viruses called tobamoviruses. ToBRFV overcomes all known tobamovirus resistance in tomato, including the one conferred by Tm-22, a resistance gene responsible for the stable resistance to these viruses for more than 60 years. In a study recently published in the Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions (MPMI), journal, Dr. Ziv Spiegelman and Dr. Hagit Hak explored the molecular mechanism by which this emerging virus was able to successfully break this resistance and become a devastating global crop pandemic.

“Tm-22 encodes a plant immune receptor protein, which recognizes a viral-encoded protein named movement protein, triggering an against a wide range of tobamoviruses. ToBRFV is the first virus that was able to overcome the durable Tm-22 ,” said Spiegelman. “We found that the ToBRFV movement protein harbored sequence changes that allow it to evade Tm-22. We confirmed this by introducing this new sequence to another virus (the tomato mosaic virus) that normally cannot infect plants harboring Tm-22, which resulted in a virulent virus.”

Furthermore, they came up with an interesting observation from an evolutionary point of view. “Viral movement proteins allow the virus to spread from cell to cell and infect the entire plant. We found that the elements that enabled the movement protein to avoid Tm-22 recognition likely resulted in reduced viral movement. This suggests that the virus pays a penalty for evading host resistance, which is a reduced cell-to-cell transport. This finding may explain the high durability of Tm-22 resistance, which had remained unbroken for over half a century,” stated Spiegelman.

More information:
Hagit Hak et al, The Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus Movement Protein Overcomes Tm-22 Resistance in Tomato While Attenuating Viral Transport, Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions (2021). DOI: 10.1094/MPMI-01-21-0023-R

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Global warming found to be culprit for flood risk in Peruvian Andes, other glacial lakes thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Global warming found to be culprit for flood risk in Peruvian Andes, other glacial lakes

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Historical photographs (first three views) and satellite images show how Lake Palcacocha has grown as the glacier has receded. The lake is now about 34 times its volume in 1970. Credit: Stuart-Smith et al./Nature Geoscience

As the planet warms, glaciers are retreating and causing changes in the world’s mountain water systems. For the first time, scientists at the University of Oxford and the University of Washington have directly linked human-induced climate change to the risk of flooding from a glacial lake known as one of the world’s greatest flood risks.

The study examined the case of Lake Palcacocha in the Peruvian Andes, which could cause flooding with devastating consequences for 120,000 residents in the city of Huaraz. The paper, published Feb. 4 in Nature Geoscience, provides new evidence for an ongoing legal case that hinges on the link between greenhouse gas emissions and particular impacts.

“The scientific challenge was to provide the clearest and cleanest assessment of the physical linkages between change and the changing flood hazard,” said co-author Gerard Roe, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences.

In 2016, Roe and colleagues developed a method to determine whether an individual glacier’s retreat can be linked to human-induced climate change. The retreat of mountain glaciers has several consequences, including creating basins in the space left by the retreating glacier. Precipitation and meltwater collects in these basins to form . Recent work has shown a rapid worldwide growth in the number and size of high-elevation glacial lakes.

“We believe our study is the first to assess the full set of linkages between anthropogenic climate change and the changing glacial lake outburst flood hazard,” Roe said. “The methods used in our study can certainly be applied to other glacial lakes around the world.”

Huaraz is a Peruvian city of about 120,000 residents that lies 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) above sea level, in view of Palcaraju Glacier and other peaks in the Cordillera Blanca mountains. Credit: Uwebart/Wikimedia

The new study first calculated the role of human emissions in the observed temperature increase since the start of the industrial era around Palcaraju Glacier. It finds that is responsible for 95% of the observed 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) warming in this region since 1880.

The authors then used the UW-developed technique to assess the relationship between these warming temperatures and the observed long-term retreat of the glacier that has caused Lake Palcacocha to expand. Results show it is virtually certain, with greater than 99% probability, that human-induced climate change has caused Palcaraju Glacier’s retreat.

Lead author Rupert Stuart-Smith, a doctoral student at Oxford, then used two methods to assess the hazard of glacial lake outburst flooding, in which an avalanche, landslide or rockfall induces a tsunami wave that overtops the lake’s banks, to pinpoint how Lake Palcacocha’s growth affects the flood risk faced by the city of Huaraz below.

“We found that human influence on climate—through —is responsible for virtually all of the warming that has been observed in the region,” said Stuart-Smith, who spent the summer of 2019 at the UW. “The study shows that warming has caused the retreat of the Palcaraju Glacier, which in turn has greatly increased the flood risk.”

The study provides new evidence for an ongoing case in the German courts in which Saúl Luciano Lliuya, a farmer from Huaraz, has sued RWE, Germany’s largest electricity producer, for its role in creating global warming. The suit seeks reimbursement for current and future flood-risk reduction measures.

Lake Palcacocha last burst its banks in 1941, killing at least 1,800 people in the city of Huaraz. Known as one of the world’s most dangerous lakes, its water level has risen in recent years with the shrinking of Palcaraju Glacier, which lies directly to the north. Credit: Georg Kaser/Wikimedia

“Crucially, our findings establish a direct link between emissions and the need to implement protective measures now, as well as any damages caused by flooding in the future,” Stuart-Smith said.

This is not the first time Huaraz has been threatened by climate change. In 1941, an outburst flood from Lake Palcacocha, resulting from an ice and rock slide, killed at least 1,800 people. The study also found this to be influenced by human-induced climate change—making it one of the earliest identified fatal impacts of climate change.

The lake’s recent growth strains decades of engineering efforts since the 1970s to contain the ‘s water.

“Around the world, the retreat of mountain glaciers is one of the clearest indicators of climate change,” Roe said. “Outburst floods threaten communities in many mountainous regions, but this risk is particularly severe in Huaraz, as well as elsewhere in the Andes and in countries like Nepal and Bhutan, where vulnerable populations live in the path of the potential floodwaters.”

An interactive map is available at

More information:
Increased outburst flood hazard from Lake Palcacocha due to human-induced glacier retreat, Nature Geoscience (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41561-021-00686-4 ,

Global warming found to be culprit for flood risk in Peruvian Andes, other glacial lakes (2021, February 4)
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