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Daily Briefing

13.08.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Australia to redirect A$500m in foreign aid to new Pacific projects
Australia to redirect A$500m in foreign aid to new Pacific projects

News.

Australia to redirect A$500m in foreign aid to new Pacific projects

The Australian government is to announce a new A$500m (£280m) package of climate change support for renewable energy and disaster relief in the Pacific, the Sydney Morning Herald reports, adding that the money is “redirect[ed]” from existing foreign aid. The pledge is due to take place at the Pacific Islands Forum on Wednesday, the paper says, where Australian prime minister Scott Morrison will promise his country will be a “champion” of the environment. The Australian says the climate support announcement is a response to “mounting anger over Australia’s domestic emissions policies”. It adds that the A$500m will be in the form of grants, not loans, but will be “drawn from elsewhere in the aid programme”. ABC News also says Morrison is “seeking to head off criticisms of Australia’s climate change policies by promising hundreds of millions of dollars”. Reuters runs the story with a headline saying Australia has been “under fire for coal”. It also notes that Australia has been criticised by Pacific leaders for counting past emission reductions towards its future climate target. The Guardian reports Pacific leaders saying they need more than money from Australia. Another Reuters story reports the leaders issuing a “rebuke” to Australia’s climate finance pledge, saying the country should also do more to reduce its carbon emissions. It quotes Tuvalu prime minister Enele Sopoaga saying: “No matter how much cash you put on the table, it does not give you the excuse not to do the right thing, that is to cut down on emissions and not open coal mines.“ Separately, the Guardian reports the results of a Freedom of Information investigation showing a coal mine in Queensland was allowed to “nearly double” its greenhouse gas emissions “without penalty” under an Australian government policy “that promised to put a limit on industrial pollution”.

The Sydney Morning Herald Read Article
US significantly weakens endangered species act

The Trump administration has announced “far-reaching revisions” to the 1973 Endangered Species Act, the New York Times reports, in a move it says would be “significantly weakening the nation’s bedrock conservation law and making it harder to protect wildlife from the multiple threats posed by climate change”. Changes would include allowing regulators to conduct economic assessments when deciding if a species warrants protection, the paper adds. It says: “Crucially, the changes would also make it more difficult for regulators to factor in the effects of climate change on wildlife when making those decisions because those threats tend to be decades away, not immediate.” The New York Times says the changes “appear very likely to clear the way for new mining, oil and gas drilling”. Republicans and industry groups “celebrated the revisions”, says NPR. A draft of the rule changes was proposed last summer, notes Vox, with the final version expected to be published this week and entering force 30 days later. The attorneys general of California and Massachusetts have announced their intention to sue the Trump administration over the changes, reports Nature. The changes are also covered by the Washington PostCBS News, the GuardianBBC NewsPoliticoInsideClimate News, the Independent and others.

The New York Times Read Article
Report due ‘this week’ on power cuts

The UK’s National Grid will report initial conclusions on the cause of last Friday’s blackouts this week, the Times reports, citing a personal LinkedIn post by the company’s chief executive John Pettigrew. The post “appeared to suggest that other companies should share responsibility for the extent of the disruption”, the Times says. The Financial Times also reports on Pettigrew’s post, saying the investigation into the blackout will look at how power supplies are prioritised in the event of shortages. The paper adds: “National Grid did not believe there was any link between the outages and the greater use of renewables, Mr Pettigrew said, but this would be one of the questions looked at by probes into the incident.” The Guardian says the blackouts were triggered after the frequency on the national grid dipped following two power plant outages. It reports on its front page that there had been “three blackout near-misses” in the past three months, when the frequency had also dropped. In a piece quoting several firms that provide frequency response services, the paper also quotes a spokesperson for National Grid saying these events were “independent” and that there was “no trend of prediction of more frequency excursions”, with frequency on the system having “regularly fluctuated between agreed limits” over the past four years. BusinessGreen also has continued coverage of last week’s power cuts. Wired reports that “batteries stopped the UK’s power cut being a total disaster”.

The Times Read Article
Arctic sea-ice loss ‘has minimal influence on cold winter weather’

Reduced levels of sea ice in the Arctic have only a “minimal influence” on winter temperatures in Asia and North America, according to new research covered by Press Association. A possible connection between Arctic warming and cold extremes has “long been studied by scientists”, it says. It quotes one of the study authors saying: ““The correlation between reduced sea-ice and cold winters does not mean one is causing the other.” In January, Carbon Brief reviewed the evidence for and against a link between Arctic warming and cold winters in mid-latitude regions of North America, Europe and Asia. Separately, the Guardian reports on the “unprecedented blazes” that continue to burn across the Arctic region “for [a] third month”. It says the cloud of soot and smoke from the fires is “bigger than EU”. Meanwhile InsideClimate News reports that global warming is “changing the winds off Antarctica, driving ice melt”, according to a new study, which was also picked up by National Geographic.

Press Association via Belfast Telegraph Read Article

Comment.

The Republican climate closet

New York Times contributor Justin Gillis asks “When will believers in global warming come out?” in a piece that says Republicans have done “some curious things” given the party is “stocked with people who deny the seriousness of the climate crisis”. He gives examples including the extension of tax credits for wind and solar, which passed through a Republican-controlled Congress. Gillis explains the situation by writing: “Lots of Republicans know in their hearts that this problem is real. I hereby posit the existence of something you might call the Republican climate closet.” He continues: “Certainly, some Republicans seem to believe that scientists are engaged in a worldwide conspiracy to cook the books on climate change. But they’re not all that crazy. And you can see this in the way that bits and pieces of sensible climate policy keep sneaking through Congress.” Gillis argues that some Republicans are starting to “inch their way out of the closet”, citing the examples of senator John Barrasso of Wyoming and pollster Frank Luntz. He concludes: “For those Republicans still cowering in the closet, I have a question: If we really decided to commit the nation in all its might to solving this problem, do you not believe that American ingenuity and American industry could get the job done?”

Justin Gillis, The New York Times Read Article
How to tackle Scotland's 'climate emergency'

BBC Scotland environment correspondent Kevin Keane introduces “a season of special news coverage across all our platforms on climate change”. The programming follows Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon declaring a “climate emergency”, Keane says, in a piece offering ways to tackle the problem. This might include continuing to raise public awareness, he says – as well as cutting emissions. Keane notes that the largest share of emissions in Scotland comes from transport, a quarter from farming and land use, a fifth from business and industry, with the remainder from homes and electricity generation.

Kevin Keane, BBC News Read Article
Weatherman Bill Giles says climate change is good for UK as it'll boost tourism

The Mirror’s showbiz editor Mark Jefferies describes how former weatherman Bill Giles “controversially claims warmer temperatures that come with extreme weather will become ‘backbone of our post-Brexit economy’”. He quotes Giles saying: “Climate change is on our side, and now is the time to start planning for it.” The piece is accompanied by a short comment from Prof Paul Ekins of University College London who writes: “I think Bill Giles is very out of date on the science…Hotter temperatures lead to extreme climate volatility with more rain and floods in Britain.”

Mark Jefferies, The Mirror Read Article

Science.

West Antarctic ice loss influenced by internal climate variability and anthropogenic forcing

The winds that play a major role in driving rapid melting across the West Antarctic ice sheet have been influenced by human-caused climate change, a new study says. The research combines satellite observations and climate model simulations to understand how winds over the ocean near West Antarctica have changed since the 1920s in response to rising greenhouse gas concentrations. “We suggest that increased greenhouse gas forcing caused shelf-break winds to transition from mean easterlies in t

Nature Geoscience Read Article
The climate mitigation opportunity behind global power transmission and distribution

Global losses from poor power infrastructure and transmission currently total the equivalent of 1bn tonnes of CO2e a year, a study finds. The research combines life cycle assessments of power generation with analysis of potential emissions from compensatory generation required for transmission and distribution losses in 142 countries. The authors say: “Our global average estimates for potential emissions reductions that may be achieved by improvements in technical losses and aggregate losses are 411 and 544m metric tonnes of CO2e per year, respectively.”

Nature Climate Change Read Article

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