This Country is Facing Layers of Climate Hell, Stoking Unrest — Situation Seen Worsening (3)

–Sri Lanka is facing a special kind of multilayered climate hell
–On April 3 people took to the streets; protests took place even after state of emergency imposed; tear gas and water cannon used

Sri Lanka police imposed 36-hour curfew to quell unrest


–Protests spread to LA, where the president’s son apparently owns a Tesla
–Is this a cautionary tale for other nations unprepared for a worsening climate crisis and unwilling to deal with climate injustice?
— Nation garners help from China, India — which may ease energy crisis in a few days’ time (see tanker-tracking snip in notes below)
-Wealthy part of country carries on as if economic crisis isn’t happening: person familiar

News, commentary by Mathew Carr

April 1-4, 2022 —

Layer One

Surging energy prices. This first layer Sri Lanka shares with the rest of the world.

The Russia-Ukraine war came about partly because of disagreement over the energy transition – would Europe increase demand for Russia’s gas as part of its transition, or not?

Following Russia’s invasion, natural gas and crude prices have surged globally.

This has hurt the Sri Lanka economy, already damaged because the pandemic shrunk the volume of tourists. There’s also been mismanagement of the economy by the non-transparent government that’s led to a plunging value of the Sri Lanka Rupee and surging inflation, according to the Economist magazine and other sources.

Unrest Seen Worsening

Large crowds attempt to storm President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s private residence

Layer Two

A drought, probably stoked by climate change, means the country has less hydropower, which has increased the demand for fossil fuels.

It’s also hurt food supplies, and worsened levels of poverty.

London School of Economics, last month:

As per data from Sri Lanka’s Department of Census and Statistics, over 90% of farmers in the country have less than 2 ha of cultivable land. This fact has important implications for national food security and poverty levels.

As the majority of the food requirement of the population is met by smallholder-production, keeping output at adequate levels in this sector is crucial. Equally, the smallholders need the income from their output to remain out of poverty.

At the same time, Sri Lanka has been experiencing an increase in extreme weather events, in the form of droughts and floods, in recent decades.

Against this background LSE’s recent research shows that while government action has been somewhat supportive of agriculturists, the success of policy interventions has been hampered by the effects of a changing climate.

In our farm household survey, it was revealed that there is substantial climate variability over the course of the crop cultivation period and farmers have been experiencing continuous unprecedent adverse weather conditions (drought and floods) over the recent decadesAll the respondents had observed an increase in temperatures which they believed have resulted in a negative impact on their agricultural output.

The Rajapaksa family has governed Sri Lanka for almost two decades and it’s not under political pressure, with speculation over the weekend there will be changes in the makeup government.

BBC: The governor of Sri Lanka’s central bank says he has submitted his resignation as the country faces its worst economic crisis in decades.

Ajith Nivard Cabraal’s announcement came after all of the country’s cabinet ministers resigned.

#LKA = Lanka. I asked Mahinda Rajapaksa on Twitter to comment and will let you know if I get a response

Hit by climate change, the nation, like others, is simultaneously grappling with its climate strategy …seeking to boost use of renewable power to curb emissions.

Sri Lanka sees power-sector emissions rising, even after extra effort under the Paris climate deal that is conditional on outside finance. The nation has a low per-capita emissions of around 1 metric ton of CO2 equivalent, a quarter of the global average.

NDC= nationally determined contributrions to the Paris climate deal. MT = metric tons

Layer Three

Electricity Rationing — 13 Hours Per Day! … but Only if You are Poor?

Sri Lanka is entering the third month of rolling blackouts, yet wealthier areas don’t seem to be suffering the same rationing, according to my sources. This failure to deal with climate injustice has stoked the unrest.

“We’ve got people lining up for gas and fuel. Electricity bills shot up by 500%,” said one person familiar with the situation.

And the selective rationing is despite the fact wealthy people are much more likely to have their own generators to deal with power outages.

Thursday, Police in Sri Lanka lifted an overnight curfew in the country’s capital after arresting dozens of people and quelling unrest that saw large crowds attempt to storm President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s private residence amid anger over a worsening economic crisis, Aljazeera reported.

At least 54 people were detained in Colombo’s Mirihana district in the early hours of Friday, the police said, branding the protesters as “organised extremists” trying to “create anarchy in the country”, it said.


Anti-government protests were held in London last October, as voters seek justice for victims of devasting blasts in the nation’s capital Colombo in 2019, which killed 269 people, according to Wikipedia.

Photo: Anuruddha Lokuhapuarachchi

This from NDTV about the current situation in the country:

As Sri Lankans faint in day-long queues for fuel and swelter through stifling evening blackouts by candlelight, anger is mounting over the worst economic crisis in living memory.

A critical lack of foreign currency has left the island nation unable to pay for vital imports, leading to dire shortages in everything from life-saving medicines to cement.

Long lines for fuel that start forming before dawn are forums for public grievances, where neighbours complain bitterly about government mismanagement and fret over how to feed their families as food prices skyrocket.

Layer Four

Responses to rationing creates behavior that further damages the climate.

My sources say people are sitting in their cars, idling to keep cool in the air conditioning, and charge their phones. This boosts particulate pollution and heat-trapping gases, further damaging the climate. The behaviors also worsen the fuel shortage and cost the poorest most.

“Sitting on the side of a road with a stinky kid straight after football with no place to shower”, said one person. They can’t get into their house because the gate is powered by electricity. “Food in the fridge is spoilt.”

The final words are from a Colombo-based lawyer, who didn’t want to be named:

The country’s capital Colombo is expecting high temperates of 32 Celsius for the next week, including storms every day, according to the weather forecast.

(Adds curfew done, outside comments, Tweet, London protests, tanker tracker, earlier added state of emergency; more to come)


Snip of ships moving around Sri Lanka April 2 – see the orange arrows for tankers

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