Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth
- Paris deal: a year after Trump announced US exit, a coalition fights to fill the gap
- ‘Cheap’ power at nuclear plant blown away by wind
- Margaret Atwood: women will bear brunt of dystopian climate future
- Oil industry fears toll of Trump steel, aluminium tariffs
- EPA Takes a Major Step to Roll Back Clean Car Rules
- Climate change is making the Arab world more miserable
- Should Climate Scientists Fly?
- When facts are not enough
The Guardian is among a number of publications reporting the findings of a new Science paper which has examined the full impact of 40 foods, “from farm to fork, on land use, climate change emissions, freshwater use and water pollution (eutrophication) and air pollution (acidification)”. The paper concludes that avoiding meat and dairy products is, the Guardian reports, the “single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet”, adding: “The new analysis shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.” The MailOnline notes that “without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75%, the size of US, China, EU and Australia combined”. It adds: “The [scientists] found that even the very lowest impact meat and dairy products still cause more environmental harm than the least sustainable plant-based products. For example, low-impact beef producers use 36 times more land and create 6 times more emissions than peas.” InsideClimate News notes some of the nuances: “One bowl of rice can have six times the climate impact of another. Beer from a bottle can result in more greenhouse gas emissions than beer from a keg. One cup of coffee’s carbon footprint may be 15 times bigger than another’s.” Meanwhile, the Washington Post carries an op-ed by Eric Toensmeier, a lecturer at Yale University and a senior researcher with the climate change-focused nonprofit Project Drawdown. He says one way to reduce the impact of beef farming is “silvopasture”, a system of combining trees, livestock and grazing: “Though little known to the public, silvopasture is currently practiced on an estimated 15% of the world’s grazing land. Yet scarcely a word about the method is found in key climate change documents and agreements.” The Belfast Telegraph reports on a separate study by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Chatham House, which argues that efforts to reduce human consumption of animal-sourced foods because of global warming should not prevent women and children in developing countries from eating it due to the “demonstrable nutritional benefits” of providing children, particularly in countries in Africa and South East Asia, with livestock-derived foods, such as meat, milk and eggs, in the first 1,000 days of life.
A year ago today, Donald Trump announced that he intended to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change. The Guardian looks back over the past 12 months to see how an alliance of “American cities, states and green groups” have sort to fill the “gaping void left by Trump’s decision”. It says: “This coalition has experienced a bruising 12 months during which successes at a local level have been regularly overshadowed by an administration intent on tearing down any edifice of climate policy: “Pittsburgh is one of 405 municipalities representing 70m Americans that are signed on to the Climate Mayors initiative, which has blossomed in the past year. More than 80 US cities – some, like San Diego, run by Republicans – have committed to 100% renewable energy. A broader group of several thousand businesses – including Amazon, Levi Strauss & Co and Google – cities and states have pledged to follow the Paris goals via the We Are Still In coalition, spearheaded by the billionaire former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and the California governor, Jerry Brown…Still, the antipathy of the Trump administration towards climate action is taking its toll…the US is in danger of stalling [its emissions reductions] – by 2025, the US is set to achieve only half of the reductions it pledged in Paris, according to a new analysis.” Climate Home News says that the “architects of the Paris Agreement say the US has harmed attempts to fight global warming”. It points towards reaction posted on a new website called Profiles of Paris, which launched yesterday. It contains dozens of articles by a range of people who helped to secure the Paris deal, including Leonardo DiCaprio, the Pope, Ban Ki-moon and Jennifer Morgan. Meanwhile, Todd Stern, who led the US negotiating team in the run up to the Paris deal, has written an op-ed for CNN explaining how “Trump has weakened America diplomatically and economically”. He says: “In the President’s fantasy, the Paris pact was an unfair deal that left partner countries laughing at us. But in fact, the agreement was so significantly shaped by the United States – and with such attention to fixing the problems that led to US rejection of the earlier Kyoto Protocol – that Dave Banks, a former Trump adviser in the White House, recently called it ‘a good Republican agreement…everything the Bush administration wanted.'”
The electricity generated by the Wylfa nuclear plant could be about a fifth cheaper than Hinkley Point’s but is “likely to be much more expensive than power from the latest offshore wind farms”, reports the Times. Emily Gosden, the paper’s energy editor, continues: “It is understood that a figure of close to £75 per megawatt-hour is under discussion as the “strike price” that Hitachi, the Japanese conglomerate developing the Anglesey plant, would be guaranteed by the government for the electricity it produces…Critics of nuclear power are likely to draw unfavourable comparisons with offshore wind. Two projects in UK waters were awarded guarantees prices of £57.50 per MWh last year. Some onshore wind and solar projects are being built without any subsidy.” Carbon Brief recently published a Q&A on what is meant by the term “subsidy free”.
Margaret Atwood, the celebrated Canadian author of dystopian novels, such as The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake, is to tell an audience in London this weekend that climate change will bring a future reminiscent of one of her “speculative fictions”, with women bearing the brunt of brutal repression, hunger and war. “This isn’t climate change – it’s everything change,” she will say British Library. “Women will be directly and adversely affected by climate change.” Speaking before the event, she said: “[Climate change] will also mean social unrest, which can lead to wars and civil wars and then brutal repressions and totalitarianisms. Women do badly in wars – worse than in peacetime.”
The Hill says that oil and gas industry representatives in the US are expressing worries about new tariffs the Trump administration is imposing on steel and aluminium imports. The American Petroleum Institute (API) says it is “deeply discouraged” by the new tariffs on Mexico, Canada and the European Union, saying that the US is moving in “the wrong direction”. “The implementation of new tariffs will disrupt the US oil and natural gas industry’s complex supply chain, compromising ongoing and future US energy projects, which could weaken our national security,” said API president Jack Gerard, who is now asking for exemptions.
The New York Times reports that the Trump administration has taken a “major step toward dramatically weakening an Obama-era rule designed to cut pollution from vehicle tailpipes, setting the stage for a legal clash with California that could potentially split the nation’s auto market in two”. It adds: “The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday submitted its proposal to roll back climate change rules that required automakers to nearly double the fuel economy of passenger vehicles to an average of more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025. The rules, which would have significantly lowered the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, were opposed by automakers who said they were overly burdensome.”
A news feature in the Economist notes that “apathy towards climate change is common across the Middle East and north Africa, even as the problems associated with it get worse”, adding: “Longer droughts, hotter heatwaves and more frequent dust storms will occur from Rabat to Tehran, according to Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. Already-long dry seasons are growing longer and drier, withering crops. Heat spikes are a growing problem too, with countries regularly notching lethal summer temperatures. Stretch such trends out a few years and they seem frightening—a few decades and they seem apocalyptic.” But the weekly is downbeat about the region’s prospects of tackling the problems: “States in the Middle East and north Africa can do little on their own to mitigate climate change. Inevitably, though, they will need to adapt. So far depressingly little has been done.”
Dr Myhre, who is a paleoceanographer at the University of Washington and prominent science communicator in the US, argues that our “culture wants to know”: “Are we crisis actors pantomiming alarmism, whilst we profiteer and jet around the globe to our fancy meetings? Or are we noble ascetics who have purified and aligned our carbon footprint with our rhetoric? This dynamic—of finger-pointing, grandstanding, condemning and shaming—is an ongoing toxic hamster wheel, which further erodes and discredits the public trust in the good-faith actions of climate and earth scientists.” But, in balance, she says that it’s more important that climate scientists “speak truth to power, despite how this might change our public or professional standing”. She concludes: “Climate action is one of the most fundamental social justice movements of our time. No more and no less, our choices now to act as brave stewards of planetary life, despite political realities and institutional denialism, will change the trajectory of the planet forever. It is worth it.”
Prof Hayhoe, who is the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, writes in Science that “when it comes to climate change, science-y sounding objections are a mere smokescreen to hide the real reasons, which have much more to do with identity and ideology than data and facts”. She explains how she has approached trying to communicate climate science to resistant audiences: “As uncomfortable as this is for a scientist in today’s world, the most effective thing I’ve done is to let people know that I am a Christian. Why? Because it’s essential to connect the impacts of a changing climate directly to what’s already meaningful in one’s life, and for many people, faith is central to who they are.” (Carbon Brief interviewed Hayhoe last November on this topic and much more.)