Today's climate and energy headlines:
- 'A tectonic shift': Green Party makes historic gains in Swiss vote
- Renewable energy to expand by 50% in next five years – report
- South Africa to increase coal-fired energy, sparking climate outcry
- UK urges World Bank to channel more money into tackling climate crisis
- Daily Telegraph article on climate change mixes accurate and unsupported, inaccurate claims, misleads with false balance
- The Extinction Rebels have a noble cause. What they don’t need now is tactical stupidity
- A carbon tax is an effective and progressive solution for climate change. Why won’t Democrats embrace it?
- Negative emissions and international climate goals — learning from and about mitigation scenarios
- Climate change impacts the epidemic of dysentery: determining climate risk window, modelling and projection
AP reports that Switzerland’s Green Party has “made historic gains” in national elections. However, the anti-immigrant rightwing remains the largest party in parliament despite a slip in its support. It adds: “Definitive results confirmed a pre-vote forecast that rising concerns about climate change would trigger an electoral ‘green wave’. The results mark ‘a tectonic shift’, said Green Party president Regula Rytz, and the leftwing party called for the ‘urgent convening of a national climate summit’”. The Greens garnered 13.2% support, says AP, exceeding their pre-election projection and marking a six-point bump on their 2015 performance. The Green Liberals – an environmentalist party with libertarian socio-economic policies – also gained ground, AP adds, taking 7.8% of the vote compared with less than 5% in 2015. Before the vote, Reuters reported that the Green Liberal’s Juerg Grossen had told the SonntagsZeitung paper: “If the elections turn out as the current state of affairs suggests, we’ll have to discuss the ‘magic formula’…He was suggesting a shake-up of the cabinet whose seats have been divvied up among the SVP, SP, FDP and Christian People’s Party in nearly the same way since 1959.“ The Independent quotes Lukas Golder, co-director of the Gfs Bern research institute: “The spectacular gains for the Greens are a real surprise, particularly in the French-speaking part of the country…Swiss voters were concerned about climate issues and want parliament to act accordingly.”
Meanwhile, Canadians head to the polls today in a general election where climate policies have been a key talking point. AFP says Conservatives and Liberals are “neck-in-neck” in the polls. CNN says the race has been “toxic”: “Polls and Google search rates indicate healthcare is the top election issue for many Canadians although the climate crisis is not far behind…The two top contenders are Liberal leader and incumbent prime minister Justin Trudeau, and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. Through it all, they’ve been tangled in a virtual tie for the popular vote. Neither has a clear path to governing in Canada’s parliamentary system.” Climate Home News has published a “cheat sheet” on why this is Canada’s “climate election”. Also see Carbon Brief’s recent in-depth profile of Canada.
The Guardian reports on the latest annual International Energy Agency (IEA) renewables publication, which says that global supplies of renewable electricity are growing faster than expected and could expand by 50% in the next five years. This is “powered by a resurgence in solar energy”, notes the Guardian, adding: “The IEA found that solar, wind and hydropower projects are rolling out at their fastest rate in four years…By 2024 a new dawn for cheap solar power could see the world’s solar capacity grow by 600GW, almost double the installed total electricity capacity of Japan.” BusinessGreen says that “in total the world is expected to install 1,200GW of new renewable energy capacity in the next five years, equivalent to the total power capacity of the US”. It adds: “Following a slowdown in installation rates in recent years, an uptick in activity is expected as prices continue to fall and concerted government policy efforts in key markets such as China and India gain traction, the IEA said.” Reuters quotes Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, who says: “Renewables are already the world’s second largest source of electricity, but their deployment still needs to accelerate if we are to achieve long-term climate, air quality and energy access goals.“ Carbon Brief has published its own analysis of the IEA new numbers.
There is international coverage of the announcement by South Africa’s government that the country will increase its use of coal-fired energy. AFP says the decision has provoked “outrage from climate groups”. It adds: “Africa’s biggest polluter and most industrialised nation was facing rolling blackouts – in part due to ageing coal plants – as the government released its energy blueprint for the next decade. Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe unveiled the long-awaited Integrated Resource Plan, saying ‘coal will continue to play a significant role in electricity generation’. The 10-year plan includes increasing the country’s current 47,000 megawatts (MW) of energy by 1,500MW from coal, 2,500MW from hydro, 6,000MW from solar and 14,400MW from wind. Mantashe said coal would contribute 59% of the country’s energy, as ‘the country has the resource in abundance’ and coal-fired power plants ‘are going to be around for a long time’.” Reuters reports Mantashe saying that “the new plan supported a diversified energy mix and could be a catalyst for economic growth”. Meanwhile, Bloomberg says: “In South Africa, solar and wind are in, and coal is gradually on the way out. That’s the key takeaway from the latest Integrated Resource Plan, which maps out the energy mix for the next decade.” (See Carbon Brief’s detailed profile of South Africa.)
The Guardian’s economics editor reports that the UK government has signalled that the size of its contribution to the World Bank’s concessional loan facility for the world’s least-developed countries will depend on reforms allowing more money to tackle climate change, improving gender equality and ensuring vulnerable countries can pay their debts. Speaking in Washington, the international development secretary Alok Sharma said: “The World Bank must prioritise fighting climate change, investing in quality infrastructure, improving the rights of women and girls and giving a lifeline to people living in conflict zones.”
Climate Feedback, which is a “worldwide network of scientists sorting fact from fiction in climate change media coverage”, has published a coruscating assessment of a recent Daily Telegraph article about climate science by the paper’s science editor Sarah Knapton. It asked six scientist to analyse the article and estimate its overall scientific credibility. They jointly conclude that it ranks “very low” and they use terms such as “cherry-picking”, “flawed reasoning”, “inaccurate”, “
There is continuing reaction to the Extinction Rebellion protests, particularly their widely unpopular action on Thursday at Canning Tube station. Observer columnist Catherine Bennett says: “You could argue, after multiple major protests, and any number of arrests, that this is a good moment for a strategic review. To build on its achievements and extract change, XR must find a way, as Occupy and other mobilisations have not, of sustaining participation, whether mass or niche. That seems less, not more, likely to happen if some of its affinity groups appear, and not only in Canning Town, to regard fellow citizens as incidental to their higher purpose.” Bryony Gordon in the Daily Telegraph writes: “Extinction Rebellion’s aims are noble and important. It would be a great tragedy if, thanks to the naivety the group is currently displaying, they were to make themselves extinct.” Tim Newark in the Daily Express follows a now-familiar line in the right-leaning press: “Launching us back to the Dark Ages does no one any good. And while we’re doing that, what about the really big developing economies like China and India that are causing far more carbon emissions than us?” Libby Purves in the Times argues that “XR needs to nourish hope: applauding, encouraging, choosing its targets with cool intelligence. Not disrupting worried commuters or preaching-to-the-choir in the Broadcasting House piazza.” Geraint Davies MP says in the Independent that “the government’s new environment bill is proof that Extinction Rebellion are right to protest”. He adds: “The Queen’s speech committed the UK to protecting and improving the environment with targets “amongst the most ambitious in the world”. The bill has failed to deliver: in 244 pages, there is not a single target set.” Meanwhile, New York magazine has a transcript of David Wallace-Wells talking about: “Is annoying people the right way to combat climate change?”
An editorial in the Washington Post looks at a new bulletin from the International Monetary Fund which, the paper says, “reiterates what economists have long understood: Enacting a carbon tax is ‘the single most powerful and efficient tool’ because pricing mechanisms ‘make it costlier to emit greenhouse gases and allow businesses and individuals to choose how to conserve energy or switch to greener sources through a range of opportunities’”. It adds: “If governments recycled the revenue back to low-income and vulnerable people, and cut economically inefficient taxes — such as income taxes — a $50-per-ton carbon tax would feel to the economy more like $20 per ton. The plan would help low-income households and place a higher burden on the upper-income bracket. There could also be money for essential research and development to aid the energy transition. So is this the plan that the Democratic presidential candidates have embraced? If only.” Jeremy Warner in the Daily Telegraph also looks at the same IMF bulletin: “I’d be surprised if any of this gets an airing in the Budget on Nov 6, but sooner or later, carbon taxes are coming, driving transformational change that frankly is likely to be much bigger in its real life impact than the obsession of the moment – Brexit.”
A new review paper assesses the available scenario evidence to understand the roles of negative emissions techniques (NETs) in achieving 1.5C and 2C, and “for the first time, link[s] this to a systematic review of findings in the underlying literature”. In line with previous research, the researchers find that “keeping warming below 1.5C requires a rapid large-scale deployment of NETs, while for 2C, we can still limit NET deployment substantially by ratcheting up near-term mitigation ambition”. The most recent evidence stresses “the importance of future socio-economic conditions in determining the flexibility of NET deployment and suggests opportunities for hedging technology risks by adopting portfolios of NETs”, the study notes.
The risk of outbreaks of the acute infectious disease dysentery is likely to see “an upward trend in the future” under a warmer climate, a new study suggests. Using Binyang County in China – a subtropical monsoon climate region where epidemics are typical – as a case study, the researchers identify key “climate risk windows” for dysentery transmission. These risk windows include “minimum temperatures of 24-26C, precipitation amounts of 160–380mm, and relative humidities of 69%–85%”. Using a collection of climate models, the study shows “that May to August were high-incidence periods, and the occurrence of dysentery exhibited an upward trend in the future”.
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