Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Big rise in atmospheric CO2 expected in 2019
- 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record – and more evidence of a ‘new normal’, scientist group reports
- 35,000 children protest in Brussels over climate change
- Record-breaking heatwave triggers power cuts on Australia's stressed grid
- Europe should be more ambitious on climate change - EU's Malmstrom
- US off track to reach climate goals as oil and gas production expand
- Study links climate change and war refugees
- European airline emissions grow despite targets
- British taxpayers face £24bn bill for tax relief to oil and gas firms
- After the COP: Where next for climate action?
- Dynamics of geologic CO2 storage and plume motion revealed by seismic coda waves
Met Office researchers say they expect to record one of the biggest annual rises in atmospheric concentrations of CO2 in 2019, reports BBC News: “Every year, the Earth’s natural carbon sinks such as forests soak up large amounts of CO2 produced by human activities. But in years when the tropical Pacific region is warmer like this year, trees and plants grow less and absorb smaller amounts of the gas. As a result, scientists say 2019 will see a much bigger CO2 rise than 2018.” The Guardian quotes Prof Richard Betts at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre: “Looking at the monthly figures, it’s as if you can see the planet ‘breathing’ as the levels of CO2 fall and rise with the seasonal cycle of plant growth and decay in the northern hemisphere…The graph is a thing of beauty, but also a stark reminder of human impact on [the] climate. Each year’s CO2 is higher than the last, and this will keep happening until humans stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere.” The Independent says scientists describe the prediction as “worrying and compelling”. The Evening Standard is among the other publications carrying the news.
A number of publications report the findings of the Berkeley Earth group of scientists who say that 2018 is likely to have been the fourth warmest year on record. The Washington Post quotes Carbon Brief’s Zeke Hausfather, who is also a member of the Berkeley Earth researcher team: “2018 is consistent with the long term warming trend. It’s significantly warmer than any of the years before 2015. There’s still this big bump up after 2014, and 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 are all in a class of their own.” Even though the on-going US government shutdown has prevented NASA and NOAA from publishing their own data, the findings confirm those from other research groups. Last week, Carbon Brief published a detailed “state of the climate” review of 2018 by Zeke Hausfather. The Associated Press, Axios and the Hill are among the other publications reporting the Berkeley Earth findings.
Thousands of Belgian schoolchildren skipped their classes yesterday to “flood Brussels in an unprecedented protest against global warming and pollution” reports Ireland’s RTE. It adds that the children have vowed to miss school once a week “until the government takes action”. BBC Newsround carries a video of the protests in Brussels, adding: “The protest is inspired by 16-year-old Swedish student Greta, who performs a school strike every Friday to protest in front of the Swedish parliament.” The Guardian has an article about Greta Thunberg who has travelled from her home in Sweden by train to attend the Davos summit in Switzerland. She says the rapid growth of her movement is “incredible”. The Guardian adds: “In the UK, only a small number of students have so far begun strikes, including 13-year-old Holly Gillibrand in Fort William. But plans are now being made for a big strike on 15 February. Thunberg predicts there will be protests in many locations.” Meanwhile, Axios carries the comments made by UN secretary general António Guterres at Davos who said climate change is the “defining issue of our time” and warned that humanity is “losing the race” against reversing climate change. DeSmog UK carries a comment piece by Christian Aid’s Dr Katherine Kramer under the headline: “Davos is wrong – giving corporations more power cannot solve the planetary crisis.”
There is continuing coverage of the record-breaking heatwave in Australia, with Reuters reporting that the “blistering heat triggered power outages on Australia’s strained grid on Friday as demand for air-conditioning soared and coal-fired generators struggled to meet the surge in consumption”. It adds: “The record-breaking heatwave over the past week sent power prices soaring across southeastern Australia…Transmission links from the states of Tasmania, New South Wales and South Australia were transferring power to Victoria at full capacity…Victoria energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said it was clear Australia’s summers were getting longer, hotter and more extreme because of climate change.” MailOnline says: “Australia’s summer heatwave has set new records as temperatures of 49.5C were recorded in the south of the country.”
Reporting from Davos, Reuters says that Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union trade commissioner, has called for more ambition on issues such as climate change as a way to unite the bloc around a single vision. “We need a great debate on the future of Europe,” she said in a wide-ranging speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos on the state of the continent and the rise of populism. Meanwhile, Climate Home News reports that Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez has told business leaders in Davos that neoliberalism was at an end and his country was ready to lead a progressive global ecological transition. “The ecological transition, which has started to be known in many forums as the Green New Deal, should not instil fear,” he said, adding: “[Spain is] in a privileged position to lead this change. We know what to do, and we are going to do it.” Separately, EurActiv has a feature about “energy sobriety”, which it says is a “disruptive notion catching on in France”.
The Guardian reports that the US could become a net energy exporter by next year as oil and gas production expands, according to new projections from the US Energy Information Administration. The newspaper adds: “America is becoming increasingly reliant on natural gas – a fossil fuel that contributes to climate change but less so than coal. Solar power will grow rapidly too. Both will replace nuclear and coal power plants that are more expensive. But the rapid shift toward natural gas and a slow-down in weaning off coal will put the US far behind the global climate change goals scientists say are necessary to avoid the worst impacts of rising temperatures. EIA data projects that by 2050, CO2 levels from energy use will decline only about 2.5%, starting at 5,147m metric tons in 2017 and ending at 5,019 in 2050.” Meanwhile, Axios has an “exclusive” that a “bipartisan handful of House members are introducing carbon tax legislation after first floating it late last year…Florida Democrat Ted Deutch unveiled the bill with a few other Democrats and one Republican. The bill would impose an initial $15-per-ton carbon ‘fee’ on fossil fuel producers, processors and importers that rises $10 annually.” Separately, the Hill reports that a GOP lawmaker [Brian Fitzpatrick] says he would likely back a Democratic-drafted resolution to show support for the Paris climate change agreement.
There is continuing coverage of a new study which says it had “found the strongest link yet between climate change, conflict and migration”. E&E News says: “The report released by authors at the University of East Anglia looked at asylum applications for 157 countries between 2006 and 2015. It found that in certain years and certain contexts, warming-related drought sparked conflicts that sent refugees abroad. The study found the clearest climate fingerprint on the violent conflicts that erupted in western Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa between 2011 and 2015 and that resulted in migration. Climate change had a hand in the Arab Spring uprising in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria between 2010 and 2012. Outward migration after those conflicts is indirectly linked to climate change, according to the report.” Reuters quotes Alex Randall, programme manager for the Climate and Migration Coalition, which was not involved in the new study. Randall says the researchers’ findings “were important in establishing the causal chain” between climate change as a driver of war which then forces people to flee and become refugees. He adds that “such analysis – while tracking only a small part of movement linked to climate change around the world – could be useful to inform aid policies in at-risk regions”. Meanwhile, National Geographic carries a story under the headline: “Climate change creates a new migration crisis for Bangladesh.”
The FT reports that, according to the EU’s environment and aviation safety agencies, European airlines have continued to increased their carbon emissions despite an industry target to cut them to half their 2005 levels by the middle of the century: “The European Aviation Environmental Report…found that net CO2 emissions from aviation had increased by 3% to 136m tonnes between 2014 and 2017. The industry has set targets to cap net emissions from 2020 and to reduce by half by 2050 from 2005 levels.” EurActiv also reports on the findings, adding: “Although the amount of noise pollution generated by individual flights is going down, thanks to advances in technology, the sheer number of planes in the air means that the number of people impacted by the phenomenon has increased 14% since 2014 alone.”
The Guardian reports that, according to the UK public spending watchdog, British taxpayers face a £24bn bill for tax relief awarded to oil and gas companies removing hundreds of North Sea wells, rigs and pipelines. The newspaper adds: “The National Audit Office (NAO) said the figure would climb if companies collapse and are unable to pay for cleaning up their operations, leaving the government to pick up the tab. The industry has contributed more than £300bn in tax revenues to the Treasury since the 1960s. North Sea production peaked in the mid-1980s and the late 1990s, and has been declining ever since…About half of the figure comes from decommissioning reducing companies’ taxable profits, with the rest from tax reliefs based on the large sums of tax paid historically. Those reliefs allow companies to offset decommissioning costs against revenue, cutting the amount of tax they pay on their profits. The vast majority of the costs will land over the next 20 years, with a small amount falling as late as the 2060s.” The Financial Times and Reuters also carry the story.
EurActiv has published a series of articles looking back at COP24 in Poland last December and asking: “Now that the dust has settled, did negotiators achieve their objectives? And where does the international effort go from here?” One feature looks at this week’s “post-COP24 stock-take” held in Brussels which hailed the “Katowice rulebook” as EU climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete’s “baby”, who, following COP24’s failure to find agreement on Article 6 on carbon markets, “announced he intends to host a major international carbon markets conference in Brussels in the spring, much in the same vein as the now regular Ministerials on Climate Action (MoCA)”. Last month, Carbon Brief published a detailed summary of the key outcomes agreed at COP24.
Sequestering CO2 in geological formations could help reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. However, this requires accurate monitoring of the sequestered CO2 for safe long-term storage. Imaging CO2 underground is a challenging problem for existing seismic monitoring methods. This study presents an approach for CO2 monitoring based on “seismic coda waves” and applies it in a pilot experiment. They find that coda waves can effectively monitor the CO2 sequestered underground, and suggest using seismic data in long-term monitoring of sequestered CO2.
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