Ratification Of The Paris Agreement Delayed

Michael Gove on a school visit

It’s now nine months since the COP21 climate treaty was agreed in Paris. At the time,I met the agreement with both celebration and condemnation: it marked an important global moment for collective action on climate change but lacked the ambition and detail on how even a 2ºC target could be met. Many observers recognised that the proof of its success would be in the national policy commitments made by governments and ministers in the months and years that followed.

Other Than That Everything's Perfect

Other Than That Everything’s Perfect

Importantly, the Paris agreement will not enter into force until 55 countries representing 55% of total global emissions have ratified it. As it stands, 26 states have completed this, totalling 39.06 % of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Notably, this includes China and the United States, who last week jointly announced their ratification of the Paris Agreement, marking a very important step in the treaty’s journey.

Sadly, the UK has dawdled on Paris ratification and has not yet made any announcement of when it intends to do so. Since December, the stock response of both the Prime Minister and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (and formerly the Department for Energy and Climate Change) has been that the government will do so ‘as soon as possible’.

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In Parliament today, I asked the Prime Minister if she will commit to ratifying the agreement before the follow up negotiations in November of this year. She sidestepped the question and refused to give a firm date. With 2016 set to be the hottest year on record, this casual approach is at odds with ever more serious warnings about the severity of the climate crisis.

At the national level, it has been a terrible year for climate and energy policy. With the ongoing reckless obsession with fracking, the failure to embrace energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority, and the delay in new subsidy announcements for offshore wind, it should come as no surprise that the Committee on Climate Change announced in June that the government lacks half the policies it needs to meet its 2030 emissions targets.

Indeed, it is clear that UK energy and infrastructure policy is going in completely the wrong direction – cutting support for renewables and efficiency, locking in high-carbon gas for decades to come, and squandering taxpayers’ money on new nuclear and runways.

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In a further sign of government neglect, yesterday, the new Minster for Climate Change, announced a probable delay in the publication of the vital Carbon Plan. The plan will detail how the UK will meet its targets under the Climate Change Act. This delay comes at a time when the UK’s attractiveness as a destination for investment in renewable energy has reached an all-time low. The responsibility for this lies solely with chaotic and unpredictable government policy. The dismal failure of the Treasury and the Energy Department to halt the potentially catastrophic Business Rate rises to schools, businesses and community organisations with solar panels on their rooftops is a further example of that.

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Without a global step change in ambition, global temperatures will likely rise by 3.7°C and beyond. The consequences of this kind of change are unimaginable – indeed, we do not know the full implications of breaching planetary boundaries in this way. As a nation with an historic responsibility for carbon emissions, as well as the skills, expertise and resources to help create the solutions, the UK must take responsibility.

Delaying the ratification of the Paris Agreement – never mind dodging the ongoing questions about how we meet our own carbon reduction targets – demonstrates a dangerous and reckless approach to the most important issue of our time.

With much of the real detail of the Paris agreement being discussed at the follow-up COP22 negotiations in Marrakech in November, it would send all the wrong signals for the UK to turn up without having ratified it.

(This is an excerpt from Caroline Lucas MP’s blog)

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Philip A. Wallach | December 11, 2015 2:30pm Domestic politics and the Paris climate change talks

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Hello, I’m Philip Wallach of the Governance Studies Program and Center for Effective Public Management here at Brookings. Several of my colleagues who have long experience studying climate negotiations have given big-picture looks at what the Paris climate talks are intended to accomplish, and what they’re likely to accomplish. What I want to do is give a comparatively parochial view by thinking in terms of U.S. domestic policymaking, which is my area of expertise. Looking across the Atlantic from the banks of the Potomac tends to make me somewhat more skeptical about the prospects for success, or at least to focus more on the challenges that will have to be overcome.

That’s because our country’s policy-amaking process has historically not led us to take international leadership on the climate issue. Why not? Well, many people might summarize the issue as: Republicans. The Republican Party denies the reality of global climate change, which means it is going to obstruct any costly efforts to mitigate it through emissions reduction. That’s obviously a big obstacle, but I’d say it’s often overstated.

Republicans have supported in the past and could support in the future plenty of policies that would line up with their other priorities and would productively get at global climate change, maybe all the way up to a carbon tax if it could be included as part of a pro-growth tax reform package. The GOP doesn’t necessarily need to have a moment of truth in which they decisively repudiate all of the dubious assertions about the non-existence of anthropogenic global climate change to become productive players. Yes, as long as Jim Inhofe, the cantankerous senior Senator from Oklahoma remains the Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, it is hard to see Republicans executing a turn, but there are already murmurs of a new direction at various levels of the party.

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More generally, I’d say America’s problem is: Congress. Remember, even when Democrats controlled both chambers and the White House back in 2009 and 2010, they couldn’t find their way to putting in place an overarching climate policy, and it’s hard to make the case that Republican obstructionism was the crucial barrier. Back in 1997, the Senate voted 95-0 for a resolution disavowing any intention to ratify the Kyoto Protocol if it would impose significant and binding costs on the U.S. So Congress as a body has neither provided well-targeted climate legislation nor has it shown much willingness to concede any American sovereignty to an enforceable international climate treaty. And Congress has control over a number of constitutional levers that are hard to imagine working around: the power of the purse, the Senate’s ratification of treaties, and of course the power to craft new legislation.

Considering the magnitude of the Congress problem, it is actually remarkable how much the Obama administration has been able to do to address greenhouse gas emissions. The main way they’ve done that is by teaching an old law a new trick: with the blessing, or at least the acquiescence, of the Supreme Court, the Environmental Protection Agency has interpreted the Clean Air Act to support far-reaching regulation of carbon emissions from automobiles (now a done deal); trucks and airplanes (now in progress); and power plants. That last one, in the form of the Clean Power Plan, is the centerpiece of American climate policy headed to Paris.

Using the Clean Air Act—and therefore proceeding without any new congressional help—the EPA will superintend a system of state-by-state emission reduction plans. That plan will have teeth from 2022-2030, but its formal finalization this past October was followed by a bevy of lawsuits, not to mention angry political rhetoric from governors around the state. Some of the legal and political complaints are facile, but many of them have some real merit, and so they are going to hang over the Clean Power Plan like a dark cloud for at least the next couple of years—as will the possibility that the 2016 election will produce a Republican President determined to reverse the EPA’s progress one way or another.

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The Obama administration has by and large put those concerns out of mind, proceeding under the assumption that the Clean Power Plan will stick (or perhaps, in the alternative, that they should get as much leverage out of it as possible before it gets knocked out). It is the single largest component in the country’s promises in Paris, and negotiators convey unshakable confidence in America’s willingness and ability to follow through on it. All this while various Republican legislators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have addressed foreign leaders with the message that Congress is not on board with the Obama administration’s plans.

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What are the implications of having U.S. political leaders courting open conflict even as the country ostensibly makes a decades-long commitment? This American conflict is shaping the whole architecture of the Paris agreement, because the core of the negotiated structure must be able to function without U.S. Senate approval unlikely to be forthcoming. But President Obama has said that he thinks some parts of the agreement will need to be binding—and it isn’t yet clear how he will square that with circumventing the Senate.

Senator Inhofe, for one, is not going to go quietly; he issued a declaration stating that “The U.S. Senate will not be ignored. If the president wishes to sign the American people up to a legally binding agreement, the deal must go through the Senate. There is no way around it.” On the key issue of providing direct financial support for developing countries’ investments in renewable energy, it is hard to see how Congress could be cut out of the process. Somehow, America will have to find its way to a climate policy that has at least minimal bipartisan support that allows it to weather changes in the political winds.

Of course, this isn’t a uniquely American problem. Australia and Canada have had high-profile reversals of climate commitments when conservative governments came to power. Last weekend the New York Times had a story about how even Denmark, a world leader in renewable energy, is reeling in its green spending somewhat as a new conservative government takes power.

(Taken from a talk given by Phillip Wallach 2015

The Paris climate change summit is one small step for humankind

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Is the Paris agreement a breakthrough in the struggle to limit the risks of climate change, as weary negotiators claim? Or is it just another way station on the road to calamity, as critics insist. At this stage it is neither. It is far more than the world could have reasonably expected a year or two ago. But it is also far less than the world needs.As it stands, it will at best slow the pace at which the world reaches a possible disaster. Whether it averts disaster depends partly on how the climate system works, on which much uncertainty remains.

But it also depends on what happens in the near future. Is the agreement the beginning of revolutions in policy, as well as the energy system? Or is it yet another piece of paper that promises far more than it delivers? The answer depends on what happens now.

The achievements of the negotiators, ably chaired by the French government, are far from nothing. They showed that it is possible to get the world’s countries to agree to action in response to a shared danger, even one that seems both remote and uncertain to many of those now living.

These agreed that all countries must participate in the effort. They agreed that the rich should help the poor meet their decarbonisation objectives. They also agreed on the goal of keeping global temperature rises well below 2C and even to “pursue efforts” to keep them below 1.5C

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Yet these are, on the face of it, largely hollow achievements. The provision of needed finance is an aspiration, not a bankable commitment. No limits are to be imposed on emissions from aviation or shipping.

No mechanism is to be established for setting a global carbon price. Countries are above all committed only to communicate and maintain plans — described, in slippery language, as “nationally determined contributions”.

No sanctions will fall on any country that fails to live up to these intentions. Worse, the intentions themselves, even if implemented (on which much doubt must be expressed) fall far short of what is needed to deliver the 2C goal, let alone a lower one. Average global temperatures have risen by nearly 1C since the industrial revolution and limiting warming to 1.5C would require another revolution.

So why should an agreement that is not only toothless, but falls far short of what is needed to reduce the risks to manageable proportions, be taken seriously? One answer is that it forces each country into a process of peer review.

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Every country will need to resubmit their plans every five years. Moreover, the reporting and monitoring system is to be more transparent and comprehensive than ever before. In particular, emerging and developing countries that now dominate emissions (China, above all) will be part of that system. In the end, it was decided, monitored aspirations would be more effective than any binding commitments that could (or, more probably, could not) be achieved.

Above all, with everybody committed to producing a plan (because everybody agrees the challenge is important), it will be far more difficult for any country to argue that failure to meet its promises does not matter.

(An FT Extract 2015)

May 22, 2013

Climate talks chef Marc Veyrat fined for razing forest

Inequality

A French chef hired to work at the Paris climate change talks has been fined for razing 7,000 sq metres (75,000 sq feet) of protected forest near his restaurant.

Marc Veyrat illegally destroyed the trees near the La Maison des Bois (House of the Trees) in the Alps.

The court in Annecy also heard Mr Veyrat ordered a large portion of protected wetlands to be dried up.

He was one of five chefs picked to cook for world leaders at the Paris talks.

He was ordered by the court to pay a fine of €100,000 (£73,000; $108,000) and to restore the wetlands within three months.

Mr Veyrat, who has twice obtained three Michelin stars, told the court he acted with the best of intentions, as he built an educational centre for children.

He also built a botanical garden, beehives and greenhouses at the site, near the town of Manigod in the Haute-Savoie region.

After the hearing, Mr Veyrat apologised, saying: ” I am not above the law. Anyone can make a mistake, even me.”

At the end of the talks in Paris, countries agreed to a firm goal of keeping temperature rises well below 2C, and will strive for 1.5C.

But one study claims that deforestation is the second-largest man-made contributor of C02 into the atmosphere, which is seen as a major contributory factor to temperature rises.

(Taken from the BBC website)

Other Than That Everything's Perfect

Other Than That Everything’s Perfect

The Syrian Tragedy Versus Oil & Petroleum

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The Syrian oil industry took off in 1968, when the Karatchok oil field began production after a pipeline connecting it to the Homs refinery was completed, although Syria did not begin exporting oil until the mid-1980s. Although Syria is not a major oil exporter by Middle Eastern standards, according to the International Monetary Fund, oil sales for 2010 were projected to generate $3.2 billion for the Syrian government and account for 25.1% of the state’s revenue. 

Before the civil war the two main pillars of the economy were agriculture and oil, but since the civil war? Syria is heavily dependent upon the revenue it gets from its oil which is a pity. Particularly given the fact that ISIS now controls a third of Syrian territory, and as a consequence most of its oil and gas production. 

The Syrian government used to have business links to Anglo-Dutch Shell, the French oil and gas company Total, and the British oil and petroleum company Gulf Sands Petroleum. It also did oil and petroleum business with the American and Egyptian co-owned company Improved Petroleum Recovery (IPR).

Alas, President Assad’s brutal mistreatment of his people has put paid to these links for the time being.

Though not  to his business ties with Russia’s Stroytransgas and Soyuzneftegaz. 

In fact in July 2014 Tass, the Russian news agency reported that Stroytransgas had signed a $264 million deal with a Syrian state company for the first stage of a $2 billion project to irrigate farmland in the country’s north-east. The first stage of the project to comprise the construction of a pumping station near the country’s border with Turkey and Iraq. All this whilst President Assad battles ISIS and sundry other opposition groups for control of the country. impressive. 

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Now you may have noticed that although the focus of this post appears to be oil and petroleum production, the only images so far are of the same dead body. But I digress, so let the blog post continue! The Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Wealth and Russian energy company Soyuzneftegaz signed an deal on oil and gas offshore exploration in the Syrian capital of Damascus on December 25, 2013. So, Soyuzneftegaz became the first foreign and Russian company which was granted the right for oil exploration, development and production at Block-2 in Syrian territorial waters.

The company believes that oil exploration in Block-2 will take no less than five years, Shafranik said in an interview with British news agency Reuters. Upon results of oil exploration the company will make a conclusion whether commercial oil production is expedient there.

“If there is no possibility of normalising the situation throughout the country at once, the situation should be stabilised gradually in regions where it is possible to conclude an agreement,” Reuters quoted Shafranik as saying.And once the situation in ‘patches’ of Syria has been achieved?

“Then humanitarian aid should be provided, and then we should move on to energy projects, removing obstacles to them including any sanctions slowing down the country’s economic recovery,” he added. Shafranik also dwelt on plans to build an oil pipeline between Iraq and Syria. Shafranik sounds all heart to me (for a businessman) for once he’s accessed the oil he & his company are prepared to contemplate salving the wounds of Syria’s remaining populace. 

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Don’t you get the impression that although France, the United Kingdom, Egypt & America have lost out on oil and petroleum profits, as a consequence of the Syrian conflict, the Russians as ever, are sitting pretty? That state of affairs must really grate with the Americans, the French and the British. Particularly when one considers the situation in the Ukraine, with Russia’s Gazprom supplying over half of the Ukraine’s gas and 30% of Europe’s gas each year.There’s Chevron, Shell and Exxon Mobil all set to go shale gas exploring (that’s fracking to me and you) in Western Ukraine, when Russia invades the Crimea thereby throwing a spanner in the works. And now it would seem that Russia intends to further consolidate its presence in Syria.

Last week the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth cited Western diplomatic sources saying that Russia was on the verge of deploying “thousands” of troops to Syria to establish an airbase from which the Russian air force would fly combat sorties against Isil.

Those details appear to be backed by satellite images of a Russian base under construction near Latakia, according to anonymous intelligence officials quoted by several American newspapers. Moscow increasingly justifies its support for the Assad regime by pointing to the rise of violent jihadists in Syria. That’s right, just like the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron, Vladimir Putin is mightily concerned about the rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. So much so that he has ‘put boots on the ground’ to protect the well-being of President Basher Al-Assad and the Syrian people, naturally.

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And whilst I’m at it, for the sake of decency I should include the Syrian casualty stats; 191,369,000 Syrians are estimated by the UN to have died up to and including August 2014, at least 5,000 of those deaths will have been children. Those who have so far drowned in the Mediterranean? They number 2,600 but the talk amongst nations is not truly about these casualties and it should be.

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Instead, the conversation is all about the oil and petroleum centred, geopolitical manoeuvrings of the self-same nations (America, the United Kingdom, France) who are supposed to be enthusiastically embracing sustainable energy and the impending Paris World Climate Summit. Cold war politics are firmly back on the menu, and next to that nothing, not the Syrian people, not even the eventual fate of the world counts.

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People Who Live Near Fracking Sites Suffer Higher Rates of Heart Conditions and Neurological Illnesses, Says Research

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People who live in fracking zones appear to suffer a higher rate of heart conditions and neurological illnesses, according to new research.

Although the US study was unable to determine a specific reason, it suggests there may be a link between drilling and ill health, scientists said.

Residents in high-density areas of fracking made 27 per cent more hospital visits for treatment for heart conditions than those from locations where no fracking took place, according to a new study of drilling in Pennsylvania between 2007 and 2011.

“This study captured the collective response of residents to hydraulic fracturing in zip codes within counties with higher well densities,” said Reynold Panettieri, professor of medicine at Penn University.

“At this point, we suspect that residents are exposed to many toxicants, noise and social stressors due to hydraulic fracturing near their homes and this may add to the increased number of hospitalisations.”

The findings revealed that cardiology and neurological in-patient prevalence rates were significantly higher in areas closer to active wells. Hospitalisations for skin conditions, cancer and urological problems also increased with proximity to wells.

Prof Panettieri cautioned that the study did not prove that fracking actually caused the health problems and said more research was needed to determine exactly what effect any pollution associated with the technique may be contributing to heart conditions or neurological illnesses.

But the significant increase in hospital visits observed relatively quickly after fracking began in an area “suggests that healthcare costs of hydraulic fracturing must be factored into the economic benefits of unconventional gas and drilling”, said the report, which is published in the journal PLOS One and also involved Columbia University in New York.

The highly controversial technique of fracking, that releases oil or gas from shale by blasting a mixture of water, chemicals and sand into rock, is yet to be employed in the UK on a commercial scale. It is widespread in the US, however, where it has frequently been linked to groundwater and air pollution.

Yet a series of reports in the UK have concluded that the problems arising from fracking in the US are down to weak regulations and poor techniques. Advocates say that any fracking in the UK would be done safely, meaning residents will be shielded from the difficulties experienced by locals in the US.

But opponents of fracking – including the Scottish and Welsh Governments – argue that still far too little is known about the effects of the technique, and say more research needs to be done before it is deployed in the UK.

This latest report will be seen as further evidence that more research needs to be conducted before fracking is allowed in the UK – even though it does not get to the bottom of the causes of the health problems.

 

Tokyo Heat Wave Lasted Eight Days, Doubling All-Time Record; 55 Confirmed Dead in Japan

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A heat wave that has already killed dozens and sickened thousands in Japan reached another torrid milestone Friday as the nation’s capital, Tokyo, suffered an unprecedented eighth consecutive day of extreme heat.

Tokyo reached 37.7 degrees Celsius (99.9 degrees Fahrenheit) Friday, marking its eighth straight day of highs at or above Japan’s “extreme heat” threshold of 35 C (95 F). An analysis of Japan Meteorological Agency data, conducted by The Weather Channel, confirmed that the previous record was just four consecutive days sent on five different occasions between 1978 and 2013. Records began in central Tokyo in June 1875.

The torrid late-morning reading also marked central Tokyo’s highest reported temperature since August 2013. The city’s all-time record high remains 39.5 C (103.1 F) set July 20, 2004.

The toll from Japan’s ongoing heat wave accelerated last week, boosting the year’s official tally to 55 heat-related deaths and sending more than 11,000 to the hospital according to new government figures released Tuesday.

According to Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency, 25 people died from heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses nationwide during the week of July 27 through Aug. 2. It was by far the deadliest week so far this year in Japan, nearly equaling the death toll of 30 in the preceding three months combined.

Public broadcaster NHK said another 5 heat deaths were confirmed Wednesday in Japan, in addition to 7 unconfirmed heat deaths.

The toll seems likely to rise even further as more deaths are officially attributed to the heat. NHK, citing local authorities, said heat-related illnesses are suspected of causing 68 deaths in Tokyo alone between July 11 and Aug. 4. The official national count of 55 only includes two deaths in Tokyo through Aug. 2.

The number of people sent to hospitals for heat-related illnesses also skyrocketed, reaching 11,637 when excluding the 25 deaths. This was more than double the figure for the same period in 2014. Since April 27, more than 35,000 people have been hospitalized due to hot weather in Japan. Of those, 855 have required at least three weeks of hospitalization due to the severity of their illness.

The heat has spared no region of the country. Heat-related deaths have been reported in 29 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, and each of the 47 prefectures has reported at least 100 heat-related illnesses.

The greatest concentration, however, has been in the nation’s urbanized areas – in part due to weather and in part simply due to larger populations. The Greater Tokyo area accounts for 19 of the 55 heat deaths this year, with Saitama prefecture suffering the highest death toll (nine) of any single prefecture. Tokyo proper leads the casualty count with 3,037 people affected by the heat, including two deaths.

Japan’s aging population is particularly vulnerable to the heat. Just over 49 percent of this year’s illnesses have involved people at least 65 years old. Children account for about 15 percent of the total, with adults ages 18 to 65 constituting the rest of the total.

The heat has expanded in recent days. According to data from the Japan Meteorological Agency, 223 of the nation’s 928 temperature observation sites recorded a high of at least 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday (Aug. 1), and more than two-thirds of the observation network hit at least 30 C (86 F).

Aided by abundant sunshine and a dearth of thunderstorm activity, more than 81 percent of JMA’s observation network hit the 30 C mark Tuesday, the highest figure since Aug. 22, 2012. The heat spread even further Wednesday, when 822 out of 928 sites reached 30 C, a level not matched since Aug. 6, 2010.

The heat even spread to the normally cool shores of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main Islands. The city of Nemuro reached an all-time record high of 33.6 C (92.5 F) Wednesday, topping the previous record of 33.0 C (91.4 F) set Aug. 6, 1960. Records in Nemuro date all the way back to 1879, making this an especially significant record climatologically.

Arguably the epicenter of the heat has been in the northern suburbs of Tokyo, which are among the hottest regions of the country owing to their low elevation, long distance from the coast and southerly latitude – a rare combination in Japan.

The city of Tatebayashi in Gunma prefecture recorded its 13th consecutive day of temperatures 35 C or higher on Wednesday, reaching 39.8 C (103.6 F). That’s the highest temperature recorded anywhere in Japan this year, according to JMA, and ties for the 25th-highest daily high temperature ever recorded in Japanese history.

In Japan, a day with temperatures reaching or exceeding 35 C (95 F) is known as a mōshobi, written as 猛暑日 and meaning “extremely hot day.” It’s likely no coincidence that the first character of that term is also the first character of Japan’s highest category of typhoon – mōretsu, written as 猛烈 and meaning “violent.”

The latter term was applied to Super Typhoon Soudelor when it peaked in intensity Monday. The typhoon impacted Japan’s southernmost islands on Friday, but was too far south to bring any heat relief to the mainland.