Equilibrium & Sustainability

Equilibrium/Sustainability — Pakistan health crisis exacerbated by floods

FILE – Women carry belongings salvaged from their flooded home after monsoon rains, in the Qambar Shahdadkot district of Sindh Province, of Pakistan, Sept. 6, 2022. Earth’s warming weather and rising seas are getting worse and doing so faster than before, the World Meteorological Organization warned Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in a somber note as world leaders started gathering for international climate negotiations in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan, File)

Even before a series of devastating monsoons left Pakistan under water last summer, the country was battling an onslaught of both infectious and noncommunicable diseases, a new study has found.  

The top five leading causes of premature mortality in 2019 — three years before the floods — were neonatal disorders, ischemic heart disease, stroke, diarrheal diseases and lower respiratory infections, according to the study, published on Wednesday in The Lancet Global Health.  

At the same time, child and maternal malnutrition, air pollution, high systolic blood pressure, dietary risks and tobacco consumption were the leading risk factors for disability and death, the researchers determined.  

“Pakistan’s baseline before being hit by extreme flooding was already at some of the lowest levels around the globe,” lead author Ali Mokdad, a professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said in a statement

Pakistan’s health challenges have grown worse amid natural disasters like 2022’s summer’s floods, which have affected more than 33 million people — half of them children, many of whom are suffering from malnutrition, the authors stressed.

The research also explored how Pakistan is experiencing a reduction in maternal and child mortality, high fertility rates and ongoing gender disparity issues.  

Infectious diseases — including tuberculosis, hepatitis, typhoid and paratyphoid — are also affecting the population unequally, according to the report.  

“The country urgently needs a single national nutrition policy,” co-author Zainab Samad, chair of the Department of Medicine at Pakistan’s Aga Khan University, said in a statement.  

Samad said such action is especially necessary “as climate change and the increased severity of drought, flood, and pestilence threatens food security.”

Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. We’re Saul Elbein and Sharon UdasinSubscribe here.

Today we’ll see how New Jersey’s ambitious offshore wind plans are colliding with its weak transmission game. Then: Why China’s reopening means record demand for oil, followed by the best — and worst — states for water efficiency in the U.S. 


Danish energy giant takes control of NJ wind project

Energy company Ørsted will take complete control of a New Jersey offshore wind project, the company announced on Wednesday. 

  • The purchase is part of a more significant worldwide press by the Danish energy giant, which is investing billions in offshore wind projects worldwide. 
  • It also points to a larger fault line in U.S. energy politics: the question of how to get power onshore. 

Pulling out, digging in: Ørsted is buying out the Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), a Newark-based energy company that co-invested with Ørsted in the project in 2020.

  • The company will buy up the final 25 percent stake in the Ocean Wind 1 development. It currently controls 75 percent. 
  • The project is 15 miles off the Atlantic coastline and will be fully online by 2025. 

Global expansion: Ørsted is spending big on offshore wind energy development worldwide. 

One massive build-out announced on Monday would supply half of Sweden’s energy needs, clean energy site Recharge News reported. 

  • In 2021, Ørsted announced plans to spend $57 billion in a global bid to become a leading green energy provider, according to Bloomberg
  • The company wants to become for renewables what Exxon and Chevron have been to fossil fuels. 

Reason for the sale: As early as last fall, PSEG was considering a shift to a more conservative corner of the offshore wind business, N.J. Spotlight News reported.

  • The company considered leaving the high-risk, high-reward world of offshore wind installation.
  • Instead, it would invest in the more stable and regulated sector of building the transmission systems needed to disperse that power onshore.

POWER SURGE HITS A ROADBLOCK

The ramp-up in offshore wind power generation risks being bottlenecked by a lack of transmission infrastructure to bring it to nearby cities, Bloomberg Law reported. 

Ørsted’s Ocean Wind 1 and 2 projects will collectively provide about 2,200 megawatts of power — enough for a million households. 

Dashed hopes: Last October, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities rejected proposals from PSEG and others to build a “backbone transmission system,” Spotlight News reported.

  • PSEG was one of 13 companies to submit bids for a new transmission system to connect the burgeoning offshore wind farms to the New Jersey grid. 
  • Instead, the board focused most of its investment on onshore transmission.

Shortly after this announcement, PSEG began considering the sellout it announced on Wednesday. 

Pilot project: But in October, the board backed a new piece of infrastructure to serve as the eventual plug-in point for power coming in from offshore. 

  • The new substation at the Larrabee power plant in Central Jersey will provide a single destination for offshore wind. 
  • According to a state report, the substation and associated grid improvements will cost the state $1.07 billion, or $1.03 per month per customer.


Musk back in court over notorious tweet 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is in court over charges that he deceived investors to artificially inflate Tesla’s share price. 

“Millions of dollars were lost when his lies were exposed,” plaintiffs’ attorney Nicholas Porritt said in opening statements on Wednesday, according to Reuters. 

Fraud or mistake? The controversy centers on a notorious 2018 tweet, which Musk attorney Alex Spiro characterized as an innocent mistake, Reuters reported. 

“In a rush, [Musk] used the wrong words,” Spiro said. 

  • “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured,” Musk had tweeted in 2018. 
  • The federal judge presiding over the trial has called this statement reckless and “false,” The Verge reported. 

Prior consequences: Musk and Tesla ultimately each paid $20 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to settle the fraud allegations. 

The SEC also required him to step down as Tesla’s chairman. 

Battle lines: Tesla investor Glen Littleton is suing the company on behalf of investors who bought Tesla stock following Musk’s 2018 announcement, The Wall Street Journal reported.  

Tesla’s stock jumped following Musk’s  post — only to fall again as it became clear that it was false. 

IEA expects surging oil demand after China reopens

Global oil demand could surge to record highs this year as China lifts pandemic-era closures and reopens its economy, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Wednesday.  

‘Wild cards’ for oil: The energy watchdog forecasted that global oil demand would rise by 1.9 million barrels per day in 2023, climbing to a record 101.7 million barrels per day.  

  • Nearly half of that gain is expected to come from China, the IEA found in its January report
  • Acknowledging that “the shape and speed of [China’s] reopening remains uncertain,” the report described both China and Russia as “wild cards.” 

Redirecting oil: Much of last year’s oil surplus ended up in emerging markets, as mild weather — combined with weak industrial activity — decreased demand for the resource in Europe, the IEA observed. 

  • Oil demand among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries plunged by 900,000 barrels per day in the last quarter of 2022.  
  • Demand in non-OECD nations was 500,000 barrels per day higher, according to the report. 

‘Welcome relief’ on the way: Demand last year was also restrained by China’s coronavirus-related lockdowns, as well as blizzards that hindered travel in both the U.S. and Canada, the IEA found. 

“Fresh supplies from new plants in the Middle East and from China will provide welcome relief,” the report stated. 

Divided on China: A separate report from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) released Tuesday was far more cautious on China, as we reported. 

  • While China’s relaxation of its zero-COVID-19 policies could help bolster global economic growth, such steps could also “overstretch” the country’s health system, according to OPEC. 
  • But the IEA report remained optimistic regarding China, noting that diesel from Beijing “is already arriving in Europe after Beijing raised export quotas late last year.” 

To read the rest of the story, please click here.

The best and worst states for water efficiency

California, Texas and Arizona scored the highest on a new ranking of nationwide water efficiency policies, while Mississippi, Alaska and the Dakotas landed in the lowest spots, a new report has found. 

‘Little-to-no progress’: States on average earned only 23 points out of a total possible 89 on a 2022 State Rankings Scorecard released by the Alliance for Water Efficiency, a stakeholder-based nonprofit in Chicago. 

While some states showed improvement since the previous scorecard — from 2017 — the analysis observed “little-to-no meaningful progress” overall. 

Which states did best? The top-scoring state — the state with the most advanced policies on water efficiency, conservation, sustainability and accessibility — was California, according to the scorecard. 

Trailing California were Texas, Arizona, Georgia, Washington, New York, Nevada, New Hampshire, Colorado and Minnesota. 

And the worst? Among the worst performing states were Mississippi, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oklahoma and Nebraska. 

“Most states continue to put the onus on local water agencies, businesses, and the public to pay for and implement water efficiency and sustainable water services,” the report stated. 

What else did the survey find? Among the key observations was California’s uniqueness as the only state that requires water utilities to plan for climate change. 

  • Connecticut was the only state that reported using its own funds to support customer water bill assistance. 
  • Eighteen states use their own revenues to fund water efficiency and conservation.  
  • Sixteen states provide funding for water reuse. 
  • Thirteen states require rate structures that encourage water efficiency. 
     
  • Nineteen states mandate coordination between local land use and water planning agencies. 

Focus on the Colorado River: The scorecard identified numerous paths for improvement among the seven Colorado River Basin states, which have been enduring prolonged drought fueled by climate change. 

These states — which averaged 37 out of 89 on the scorecard — could benefit from adopting plumbing efficiency standards, limiting water loss and financing water reuse, the report found. 

To see more of the scorecard’s findings, please click here for the full story.

Water Wednesday

Denver’s once-in-a-generation snowfall, the Bureau of Reclamation tries to kill a deal over the Rio Grande and water shortages continue in Jackson, Miss. 

Winter storm brings largest January snow total to Denver in three decades 

  • A Colorado snowstorm has brought the Denver metro area its biggest snowstorm for the month of January in 31 years — accumulating more than 8 inches by morning, CBS News reported. Most area schools shut down for the day, while snowy roads led to multiple car crashes throughout the region, according to CBS.   

Federal officials try to halt Texas-N.M. Rio Grande deal 

  • Federal officials are trying to blow up a deal before the Supreme Court that would divide custody over the dwindling Rio Grande between Texas and New Mexico, The Wall Street Journal reported. The deal would see the two states take complete control of the river — wresting authority from the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

Jackson, Miss., water system still faulty

  • The beleaguered water system of Jackson, Miss. is still riding on the ragged edge of failure after last summer’s protracted water crisis — with four boil-water advisories in the city as of Tuesday, NBC reported. “Whenever people hear somebody’s giving out water, the lines are still huge and long,” organizer Autumn Brown told NBC. 

Please visit The Hill’s Sustainability section for more and check out other newsletters here. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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