Today's climate and energy headlines:
- A third of Himalayan ice cap doomed, finds report
- Oceans to turn brighter blue due to global warming
- British chips shrink by an inch as climate change slashes potato yields
- UK carbon emissions down 38% since 1990
- The Guardian view on fracking: the end can’t come soon enough
- Townsville floods: Why is Queensland experiencing an 'unprecedented monsoonal burst?'
- Public support for carbon dioxide removal strategies: the role of tampering with nature perceptions
- Enhanced land–sea warming contrast elevates aerosol pollution in a warmer world
Many publications cover a report finding that one-third the glacier ice in the Hindu Kush and Himalayan mountain ranges is “doomed” to melt by 2100. The report finds that if the world succeeds in limiting global warming to 1.5C – the aspirational target of the Paris Agreement – 36% of the glaciers found in the Hindu Kush and Himalaya range will disappear, the Guardian says. If emissions are not curbed, two-thirds of the ice could vanish. The New York Times reports that the glaciers affected currently supply water to around a quarter of the world’s population. The five-year assessment includes input from more than 350 researchers and policymakers from 22 countries, it adds. Reuters adds that the loss of glacier ice will disrupt “river flows vital for growing crops from China to India”. “Changes in river flows could also harm hydropower production and cause more erosion and landslides in the mountains,” Reuters says. “This is the climate crisis you haven’t heard of,” Philippus Wester of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), who led the report, tells BBC News and others. However, a scientist not involved in the report tells the Independent that “more research is needed” to understand how glacier loss will affect “distant crops”. “While glacier meltwater propagates downstream, it mixes with water from other sources such as direct rainfall, wetlands, and groundwater, up to a point where the impact of glacier melting may become negligible,” Wouter Buytaert, from Imperial College London, tells the Independent. National Geographic, Scientific American, MailOnline, the Daily Telegraph and the Irish Times also cover the report.
There is widespread coverage of new research finding climate change could cause parts of the ocean to appear a brighter blue or more vivid green. The Daily Telegraph reports that rising ocean temperatures will alter the distribution of microscopic organisms known as phytoplankton. “As a result, swathes of the subtropics and temperate regions such as the North Atlantic are likely to turn a more brilliant blue due to a diminution of the creatures,” the Daily Telegraph says. Meanwhile, colder waters near the north and south poles could turn a brighter shade of green, it adds. BBC News reports: “The more phytoplankton in the water, the less blue the seas will appear, and the more likely they will be to have a greenish colour.” However, the changes won’t be visible to the human eye, study lead author Dr Stephanie Dutkiewicz from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) tells BBC News: “What we find is that the colour will change, probably not so much that you will see by eye, but certainly sensors will be able to pick up that there’s a change.” The study notes that ocean colour changes could give “an earlier indication of changes to phytoplankton than estimates of the amount of chlorophyll present, a measure currently used to monitor phytoplankton levels”, the Guardian reports. The Washington Post, the Evening Standard and MailOnline also cover the study.
Several publications cover research by campaign group The Climate Coalition which finds that the 2018 summer heatwave caused UK chips to shrink by an inch. The Independent reports that the heatwave “robbed them of much-needed water over the summer months”. The Press Association reports that the heatwave also saw potato yields drop by 20% when compared with the previous growing season, according to the new analysis. The Guardian reports that the 2018 heatwave was made 30 times more likely by climate change, according to previous analysis from the Met Office. The University of Leeds scientists Kate Sambrook and Prof Piers Forster also contributed climate analysis to the report, the Guardian says. “They found that high temperature extremes in summer and intense winter downpours have become more common in recent decades, with 2013-2014 the wettest winter on record for the UK.” MailOnline, Metro, the Sunand BusinessGreen also cover the news.
There is continued coverage of Carbon Brief analysis looking at the reasons why the UK’s CO2 emissions have fallen 38% since 1990. BusinessGreen reports how the analysis “suggests UK carbon emissions reached their peak in 1973 and have been falling ever since, thanks largely to cleaner energy generating technologies and declining energy demand across business, industry, and households”. Engineering and Technology and Edie also cover the analysis.
“Fracking was always a bad idea, because of climate change,” reads an editorial in the Guardian, following the news that Sir Jim Ratcliffe, chairman of petrochemicals firm Ineos, has criticised the government’s restrictions on fracking and warned the country could be heading towards an “energy crisis”. The editorial continues: “The idea that the UK’s energy security is threatened is similarly unfounded. Unlike eastern European countries that rely on gas from Russia, our imported gas comes mostly from Norway. The government’s most recent assessment concluded that supplies are resilient.” Carbon Brief has published a detailed explainer of how UK fracking could impact the climate.
The Sydney Morning Herald explains the role of climate change in the unprecedented flooding in Townsville, an industrial city in northern Queensland. (The New York Times reports that the city has received the equivalent of its annual rainfall in just seven days.) “Peer-reviewed research is showing that in north-east Queensland, rainfall events are dumping more rain, particularly in storms,” the Sydney Morning Herald says. “One possible plus from the extended wet spell over northern coastal Queensland is that the risk of another coral bleaching event may have receded. The rainfall and cloudiness will cool sea-surface temperatures that had been pointing to a third big bleaching event in just four years for parts of the Great Barrier Reef.” Meanwhile, the Guardian carries an opinion article from Richard Flanagan with the headline: “Tasmania is burning. The climate disaster future has arrived while those in power laugh at us.”
Pubic acceptance for carbon dioxide removal (CDR), also known as “negative emissions” techniques, is in part dependent on perception of how much CDR “tampers with nature’, a new study suggests. Surveying around 1,000 adults in the US, researchers found that support for bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air capture (DAC) was lower than support for afforestation and reforestation (AR), as BECCS and DAC were perceived to tamper with nature more. In addition, the results provide evidence that “describing the risks and benefits of each CDR strategy dampens support”, the researchers note. They conclude: “policymakers and science communicators need to be mindful of how CDR strategies are described to the public.”
The contrast between how quickly the Earth’s land surface and oceans warm up in response to rising greenhouse gas emissions could lead to an increase in air pollution, a new study says. Using a climate model, the researchers find that as the land warms faster than the seas, it causes “continental reductions in lower-tropospheric humidity that drive decreases in low clouds – particularly large scale (stratus) clouds”. This then leads to a reduction in rainfall over land, washing fewer particles of air pollution out of the air. The findings “add confidence that a warmer world will be associated with enhanced aerosol pollution”, the authors conclude, “unless anthropogenic emission reductions occur”.
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