Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Academics back UK schools' climate change strikes
- Ed Markey says Republicans ‘mock flatulence to deflect from facts’ on climate change
- Another looming climate disaster: dam collapses
- The press needs to ask hard questions on the green new deal
- How to cut US emissions faster? Do what these countries are doing
- Climate change journalism: time to adapt
- Source apportionment of circum-Arctic atmospheric black carbon from isotopes and modelling
- Direct measurements of ice-shelf flexure caused by surface meltwater ponding and drainage
- Global disease outbreaks associated with the 2015–2016 El Niño event
More than 200 academics have signed a letter supporting this week’s school climate strikes, the Guardian reports. Thousands of young people are expected to take to the streets across the UK this Friday in more than 50 confirmed events, the Guardian adds, while, globally, up to 70,000 schoolchildren each week are taking part in 270 towns and cities. In a letter published in the Guardian, the academics said they “stand in solidarity with the children going on school climate strike” as well as with “all those taking a stand for the future of the planet”. The letter continues: “As many of us and other fellow academics have indicated previously in this newspaper…the scientific evidence of climate change is clear…It is with these tragic and desperate events in mind that we offer our full support to the students – some of whom may well aspire to be the academics of the future – who bravely plan to strike on 15 February to demand that the UK government takes climate action.”
BBC News, meanwhile, has a video interview with Greta Thunburg, the Swedish teen who initiated the climate strikes. The Daily Telegraph says participants believe Friday’s strike will be the first time schoolchildren in the UK have protested for more action on combating climate change. It asks parents, teachers and children to submit their thoughts on the strike. The Guardian also runs a piece from the upcoming edition of Guardian Weekly, which will focus on Thunburg and the climate strikes. A comment piece in DeSmog UK argues the children going on strike are “making the media’s climate science deniers look desperately out of touch”.
Republicans’ mocking response to the green new deal introduced by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey is nothing new, Markey has said in comments reported in the Boston Globe. The green new deal says: “We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.“ The line became a punch bag for everyone from Fox News to President Donald Trump, says the Boston Globe, who “erroneously claimed during a rally Monday that, under the green new deal, ‘you’re not allowed to own cows anymore’. Republicans believe blasting the plan will be a winning strategy going into the 2020 elections, reports Buzzfeed News. ”[T]he green new deal clarifies the Republican position,” Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former communications director for Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential bid, tells BuzzFeed News. “It’s much easier to say I care about climate change, but oppose the Green New Deal.” Axios runs a piece looking at the green new deal’s first fight in the senate, while Salon argues that Ocasio-Cortez is not deterred by the attacks from Republicans. A piece in the Wall Street Journal says some Democrats are concerned a senate debate on the green new deal “could expose a rift in the party”. Carbon Brief has recently updated its explainer on the green new deal.
Major dams in California are five times more likely to flood this century than the previous one due to global warming, according to a new study reported by Buzzfeed News. This can possibly lead to “overtopping and catastrophic failures that threaten costly repairs and evacuations”, meaning Californians “can expect more disasters like the Oroville Dam”, it adds, whose overflow channel failed in 2017 after days of flooding.
“It’s one thing for a back-bencher such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to roll out a pie-in-the sky green new deal with no explanation of its cost, feasibility or consequences,” writes Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post. “[I]t is quite another for candidates running for president to sign on to something about which they cannot possibly answer basic questions.” Maybe the press should start pressing Democratic candidates to answer questions about it, she adds, giving a list of questions that need to be answered, including its cost and the technology it needs. Also writing in the Washington Post, Henry Olsen argues “World War G” would be a more accurate name for the deal, “because the plan commits the US to an endless, unwinnable global quagmire”. A third Washington Post article on the deal says: “If you are going to make fun, as I have, then you are eventually going to be asked what your plan is to combat the insane risks humanity is taking with the world’s climate.” New York Times opinion columnist Gail Collins calls the deal “super idealistic”, adding: “The sponsors…added, among other things, the creation of ‘economic security for all people of the United States’ and ‘repairing historic oppression’ of 12 different groups, ranging from ‘indigenous peoples’ to women to ‘depopulated rural communities’. All good thoughts, but maybe too much of an agenda for one press release.” A second New York Times article by David Leonhardt says the green new deal “is not a good piece of policy”, but that he is “glad it exists because climate change and the stagnation of mass living standards are both defining challenges for this country”. A Wall Street Journal article argues the economics of the deal are “unrealistic”. “Saving planet, creating jobs are noble ideas – but by combining them, Democratic plan exacts too high a cost,” it says.
The US is “reducing its greenhouse gas emissions far too slowly” to help avert the worst effects of global warming, begins an interactive feature in the New York Times. “But what would happen if the country adopted seven of the most ambitious climate policies already in place around the world?” The “scrolly” takes the reader through these various policies, from efficiency targets for industries in China to British Columbia’s carbon tax. A second New York Timesmultimedia article looks at how glacial melting in Switzerland will have an impact on hydropower.
Climate change has long been a “particularly knotty challenge for journalists,” writes Dr James Painter, a research associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, in a “review essay” looking at recent scholarship on whether the current state of environmental or climate journalism is “up to the enormity of the task”. “The need for a new climate could hardly be more urgent,” he concludes. “The challenge for journalism is unprecedented too.”
A new study estimates where black carbon (soot) in the atmosphere over the Arctic originates. The researchers collected black carbon concentration data from three sites in the Arctic over three years and combined them with two existing records. The sources of black carbon were dominated by emissions from fossil fuel combustion in the winter, the authors say, and by biomass burning in the summer. Using an atmospheric transport model, the researchers estimate that 38% of the human-caused and natural black carbon originated in Europe (including western Russia), 36% from Asia and 3% from North America – with the remaining 23% coming from global open biomass burning.
The filling and draining of meltwater ponds on ice shelves can cause them to flex for several weeks, raising the risk of fracture, a new study finds. Researchers collected field data from the McMurdo ice shelf in Antarctica, measuring how it reacted to the filling and draining of four meltponds on its surface. The findings show it caused “pronounced and immediate ice-shelf flexure over multiple-week timescales”, the researchers say, deflecting by as much as one metre at the centre of the lakes. This occurs because the weight of the water in the ponds pushes down on the floating ice, the authors explain, causing it to sink further into the sea. Around the edge of the lake, the ice flexes upwards to compensate.
The strong El Niño event in 2015-16 contributed to infectious disease incidence around the world, a new study says. The climate phenomenon is associated with affecting disease dynamics through shifts in rainfall, temperature and vegetation. Analysing disease patterns during the event, the researchers found that “plague in Colorado and New Mexico as well as cholera in Tanzania were significantly associated with above normal rainfall…while dengue in Brazil and southeast Asia were significantly associated with above normal land surface temperature”. Ongoing monitoring of such climate-disease links could help “provide sufficient lead-time for outbreak prevention and potentially reduce the burden and spread of ecologically coupled diseases”, the authors conclude.
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