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Daily Briefing

17.01.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING 2018 was the hottest year ever recorded for the planet’s oceans
2018 was the hottest year ever recorded for the planet’s oceans

News.

2018 was the hottest year ever recorded for the planet's oceans

Last year was the hottest for the planet’s oceans since records began, according to a new paper out in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. The previous record was set just the year before, in 2017, and the top five years of ocean heat have come in the last five years. Warmer oceans can lead to “sea level rise, more intense storms with heavier rainfall, coral bleaching and melting polar ice”, CNN notes. A piece in the Guardian, written by one of the collaborators of the study, elaborates on why these records are important: “Oceans absorb more than 90% of the heat that results from greenhouse gases, so if you want to measure global warming you really have to measure ocean warming,” says Dr John Abraham. The piece describes the ocean temperatures as the most “convincing” indicator of climate change, a view that is echoed in the study, which says that: “increases in ocean heat are incontrovertible proof that the Earth is warming”. National GeographicMailOnline, the Hill and Metro also cover the research.

Global tensions holding back climate change fight, says WEF

Rising tension between the world’s major powers “makes it harder to mobilise collective action to tackle climate change”, according to new report from the World Economic Forum, covered in the Guardian. The annual global risks report, released ahead of next week’s World Economic Forum in Switzerland, found that environmental issues topped the list of concerns in a poll of around 1,000 experts and decision-makers, following a year of extreme weather events. The report says: “Global risks are intensifying, but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking. Instead, divisions are hardening.” BusinessGreenCity AMand Reuters also have the story.

The Guardian Read Article
Global warming is helping to wipe out coffee in the wild

Among the world’s 124 coffee species, 60% are at risk of extinction in the wild, according to new research covered by the New York Times. The study, undertaken by experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, found that climate change and deforestation are to blame. The New York Times explain why the findings are so important: “It matters because those wild varieties could be crucial for coffee’s survival in the era of global warming. In those plants could lie the genes that scientists need to develop new varieties that can grow on a hotter, drier planet.” BBC News, the GuardianPress Association, the IndependentMailOnline and the Hill also carry the story.

New York Times Read Article
World's permafrost soils are warming with global climate

The world’s permafrost soils are warming at the same rate as the climate, with temperature increases found in all regions with permafrost soils, according to new research in the journal Nature Communications. The temperature of the frozen ground at a depth of more than 10m in both polar regions has risen by 0.3C between 2007-2016, Sky News reports. Siberia was the most severely hit region, with temperatures found to have increased by nearly 1C. The study is “intensifying concerns about accelerated releases of heat-trapping methane and carbon dioxide as microbes decompose the thawing organic soils”, InsideClimate News writes. MailOnline also has the story.

Sky News Read Article
250,000 deaths a year from climate change is a 'conservative estimate,' research says

Rising global temperatures could lead to many more deaths than the 250,000 a year predicted by the World Health Organisation just five years ago, according to a “grim analysis” in the New England Journal of Medicine, covered by CNN. Sir Andrew Haines, former director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and one of the co-authors, said that he believes 250,000 deaths is a “conservative estimate.” Haines adds: “We think the impact is more difficult to quantify because there is also population displacement and a range of additional factors like food production and crop yield, and the increase in heat that will limit labor productivity from farmers in tropical regions that wasn’t taken into account among other factors.”

Global commission calls for a food revolution to solve world’s climate and nutrition problems

An “ambitious” report on the global food system from a commission convened by medical journal the Lancet calls for a radical change in food production, InsideClimate News reports. In order to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the world needs a “comprehensive shift” in its diet, including a shift towards plant-based foods, the authors say. Their “planetary health diet” requires red meat consumption to halve across the world, and fall by 80% in developed countries. In a commentary accompanying the report, the Lancet editors say: “The dominant diets that the world has been producing and eating for the past 50 years are no longer nutritionally optimal, are a major contributor to climate change, and are accelerating erosion of natural biodiversity.” The New York Times, the Independent, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph also have the story.

InsideClimate News Read Article
Nigel Lawson steps down as chairman of climate science denying Global Warming Policy Foundation

Nigel Lawson, the founder of the UK-based climate sceptic lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), has announced that he is stepping down as the group’s chairman, DeSmog UK reports. Lawson, who served as chancellor of the exchequer under Margaret Thatcher’s government, established the GWPF in 2009 and will remain affiliated as its honorary president. During the announcement of his resignation, Lawson seeks to claim that the GWPF has become “a prominent force in the climate policy debate” and that it was now “stronger than ever”. In 2016, Lawson made a series of inaccurate claims about climate change on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, which led to an Ofcom ruling.

DeSmog UK Read Article
Four former Fed chairs call for US carbon tax

Four former chairs of the US Federal Reserve have joined with 27 Nobel economists to to issue an “unprecedented call” for a carbon tax in the US, the Financial Times reports. In a op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, they propose an emissions tax that would be used to pay lump-sum cash rebates to US citizens, saying that “immediate” action is needed to address the risks of climate change. Janet Yellen, one of the former chairs of the Federal Reserve, says that the plan “shows broad agreement among economists and experienced policymakers that carbon dividends are the most cost-effective, equitable and politically viable climate solution”, describing it as a “major tipping point in US climate policy”. Axios also covers the statement.

Financial Times Read Article
German coal-mining states might get more support for coal exit

Germany’s coal-mining states might get more compensation than initially expected for the country’s planned transition away from coal, according to participants in a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Reuters writes. A government-appointed committee is considering “how to phase out brown coal mining and coal-fired power plants without leaving affected regions structurally weak and with thousands of job losses”, the article explains. Clean Energy Wirealso has the story.

Reuters Read Article

Commnent.

The Guardian view on warming oceans: a rising toll

“The extraordinary diversity of life in the oceans is under immense and growing threat”, says an editorial in the Guardian, responding to the new finding that the last five years were the hottest on record for the earth’s oceans. The editorial explains: “Global warming has heated the oceans by the equivalent of one atomic explosion per second for the last century and a half; in recent years the pace has accelerated to between three and six atomic bombs per second.” The editorial concludes: “We know that the human consequences if we fail [to cut emissions] will be catastrophic. And yet, because we have still to explore the oceans more fully, we may never realise quite how much we have lost.”

Editorial, The Guardian Read Article

Comment.

How to win public support for a global carbon tax

“Imposing a cost on carbon is the most economically efficient way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions,” yet public support is an “obstacle” to this, argue three experts on climate policy and climate economics, in the journal Nature. However, “opposition can dissipate once the benefits become clear”, they say, citing the carbon tax in British Columbia, which won support “once residents received rebates on income tax and greenhouse-gas emissions fell”. They go on to discuss the results of their recent research on the topic, which included a survey of 4,997 citizens in 5 countries. Their results suggest that the most feasible design for a carbon-pricing scheme is: “A global system of harmonised carbon taxes, in which countries retain control over the revenues. But one global tax might be accepted if the funds are distributed to all countries, rather than a few.”

Stefano Carattini, Steffen Kallbekken and Anton Orlo, Nature Read Article

Science.

Permafrost is warming at a global scale

Permafrost soils across the world warmed at an average of 0.29C over the last decade, a new study finds. Using a global dataset of permafrost temperature time series from the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost, the researchers evaluated temperature change between 2007 and 2016. Areas of “continuous” permafrost warmed by 0.39C over that period, the authors say, while “discontinuous” permafrost warmed by 0.2C. They also note that permafrost in high mountain ranges warmed by 0.19C and in Antarctica by 0.37C.

Nature Communications Read Article
The climate spiral demonstrates the power of sharing creative ideas

A new paper discusses how a spiral animation of global temperature changes over time, created by UK climate scientist Prof Ed Hawkins, “went viral” in 2016. The animation was viewed by millions of people online and by more than a billion people when it was used in the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics. The paper explains the “idea, design and communication aspects that led to the successes of this animated graphic are discussed, highlighting the benefits to scientists of engaging actively online and openly sharing their creative ideas”.

Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society Read Article

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