Today's climate and energy headlines:
- The Arctic just set a grim new record for low levels of sea ice
- Judge Orders Exxon to Turn Over Tillerson's 'Wayne Tracker' Climate Emails
- House panel to challenge climate science
- China blames climate change for record sea levels
- Battling Climate Change in the Time of Trump
- In hot water: Coal takes a plunge
- Nonrainfall water origins and formation mechanisms
- An Exceptional Summer during the South Pole Race of 1911-1912
- The Paris Agreement – Protecting the Human Right to Health?
The Washington Post is among the many publications reporting the new data released yesterday by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) showing record lows in sea ice extent at both ends of the planet. Most publications choose to focus on the Arctic, which reached the smallest winter maximum extent recorded since satellite observations began in 1979. “The Arctic’s sea ice maximum extent has dropped by an average of 2.8 percent per decade since 1979,” said the NSIDC. The Guardian highlights the impact of this winter’s “heatwaves” in the Arctic. InsideClimate News quotes Walter Meier, a research scientist specialising in sea ice at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. On the “massive storms” that have struck the Arctic, helping to break up the ice, he says: “In the past, these were more like once-a-decade storms. Now we’ve seen at least four of them in the last year and a half or so.” The MailOnline describes the wintertime lows at both poles as a “climate crisis”. Associated Press raises a new area of research: “A relatively new idea – that still divides meteorologists – links the shriveling ice cap at the North Pole to a weaker polar vortex and weak and ambling jet stream, which can mean more extreme weather for a good part of the rest of the world.” The New York Times, Climate Central, Reuters, Time and the Hill also carry the story. Carbon Brief has an in-depth article on the record lows, too.
Exxon officials have been ordered by a New York judge to explain how the company overlooked a shadow email account used by its former chief executive Rex Tillerson while the company was under subpoena by the New York attorney general’s office. Judge Barry Ostrager ordered Exxon to provide sworn affidavits describing the company’s process for identifying and turning over documents. He also demanded an explanation of what documents may have been lost and how that happened. Ostrager also gave the company until March 31 to surrender documents associated with Tillerson, now serving as secretary of state, and five other members of Exxon’s management committee.
Republicans on the House Science Committee are planning a hearing next Wednesday to challenge mainstream climate science conclusions. The committee, chaired by Rep Lamar Smith, has dubbed its hearing “Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method.” The hearing will feature three sceptical voices – Judith Curry, John Christy and Roger Pielke Jr – and just one “mainstream” climate scientist, Michael Mann.
Chinese coastal sea levels hit record highs in 2016, driven by climate change as well as El Nino and La Nina events, the country’s sea administration said. According to an annual report published on Wednesday by China’s State Oceanic Administration, average coastal sea levels in 2016 were up 38mm compared to the previous year, and saw record-breaking highs in the months of April, September, November and December. “Against the background of global climate change, China’s coastal air and sea temperatures have soared, coastal air pressure has fallen and sea levels have also soared,” it said.
Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign last year, has written a long article on what he thinks Trump’s influence on climate action will be: “Make no mistake, though, the Trump administration presents an existential threat to the entire planet…[But the] shift toward clean energy is a global one. Countries around the world—including both developed and emerging economies—see that their future prosperity hinges on nonpolluting energy. Thanks to the leadership of President Obama, more than 130 countries have now officially joined the Paris Agreement—a historic pact to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and build resilience to the destructive effects of climate change.18 These countries are not liable to reverse course in the wake of the U.S. election.”
Using the latest edition of the Coal Boom and Bust report published yesterday, ECIU’s Richard Black says it adds further evidence which shows a “massive contraction of ambition” in India and China for building coal plants: “Simply put, achieving the goals of the Paris climate agreement would be impossible if coal-burning was set to expand across the world – or even just in Asia. The maths of carbon budgets simply wouldn’t allow it. But a rapid turnaround in coal’s fortunes, if it’s maintained, moves the Paris targets from the “forget about it’ bucket to the ‘tough but achievable’…Today’s report shows unequivocally that coal is the first casualty of the changing economics of energy and climate change.” Meanwhile, in the South China Morning Post, Philippines energy minister Alfonso Cusi explains why his country is still “promoting critical coal-fired plants”.
Climate change may be causing a decline in fog and dew in the Namib Desert, reducing a critical source of water for plants and animals. The researchers examined the extent and origin of “non-rainfall” water sources, which are important in dryland ecosystems where rainfall is sparse. They found that climate change could be diminishing the desert’s “fog zone” – the coastal region that receives fog originating from the ocean. The results “are of great significance,” the researchers say, as the importance of non-rainfall water sources will likely increase “because rainfall is predicted to decline in many dryland ecosystems”.
The race for the South Pole during the summer of 1911-1912 was marked by exceptionally high temperatures and pressures for the teams led by Roald Amundsen and Captain Scott, a new study says. Researchers examined the weather conditions during 1911-1912 using observations collected during the expeditions as well as modern reconstructed datasets. The results show that air pressures were very high during the southern hemisphere summer, and the explorers would have experienced temperatures that peaked above -16C on the polar plateau in December 1911, which is extremely warm for the region.
While the Paris is “a small step forward”, it “cannot be said to represent a just response which protects the right to health of present and future generations,” a new study finds. The paper explains how human health this is threatened by climate change, particularly from a perspective of climate justice. The author then illustrates that focusing on health can reveal the inadequacies of the Paris Agreement and multilateral climate change governance more widely.
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