Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Boris Johnson pledges wind power will run every home in Britain by 2030
- California fires set bleak record as 4m acres destroyed
- Exxon carbon emissions and climate: Leaked plans reveal rising CO2 output
- Amazon near tipping point of switching from rainforest to savannah – study
- What China's plan for net-zero emissions by 2060 means for the climate
- Three scenarios for the future of climate change
- We can get to net-zero by unleashing the power of our pensions
- Differences in carbon emissions reduction between countries pursuing renewable electricity versus nuclear power
- Right-wing ideology reduces the effects of education on climate change beliefs in more developed countries
Several UK newspapers lead their frontpages with the news that prime minister Boris Johnson is to announce today a £160m boost for offshore wind power. In its frontpage story, the Times reports that Johnson is to pledge that offshore wind will produce enough electricity to “power every home” in a decade. According to the Times, at the Conservative Party conference today, he is expected to say: “You heard me right. Your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle — the whole lot of them will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands.” The Daily Mail, which also carries the news on its frontpage, reports that the investment in offshore wind is to “support” up to 60,000 jobs. On page 2 of the newspaper, an analysis by political correspondent Larisa Brown says: “As the windiest country in Europe, Britain is perfectly placed to generate renewable electricity.” BBC News reports that the boost to wind power will see the money invested into manufacturing in Teesside and Humber in northern England, as well as sites in Scotland and Wales, directly creating 2,000 jobs. The Guardian, which trails the news on its frontpage, says the wind power pledge is the first step in a 10-point “Build Back Greener” plan, according to Number 10. The rest of the plan is to be set out later in the year and includes new targets and investment into industries, innovation and infrastructure, the Guardian says. The “Build Back Greener” plan was first reported on by the Financial Times yesterday. (The newspaper carries an updated version of the story on its frontpage today.) The FT reports that Johnson is to pledge to raise offshore wind power capacity by 2030 from 30GW to 40GW. However, this is a repeat of a pre-election pledge from November 2019, the FT says (see Carbon Brief’s 2019 election tracker). The Daily Telegraph also carries the story on its front page. The story is also covered by Press Association, the i newspaper and the Evening Standard, among others. (Earlier this year, Carbon Brief explained why the UK is expected to be the world’s first country to see “negative-subsidy” wind power.)
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that the International Monetary Fund has told its member governments they can create millions of jobs and boost recovery prospects if they use higher public investment to respond to the severe economic challenge posed by Covid-19. (See Carbon Brief’s interactive tracker showing which government’s are using “green recovery” stimulus measures.)
Many US publications report that California’s wildfires have now burned more than 4m acres, a record for the most acres burned in a single year. The Guardian reports that the fires show “little sign of ending” after passing the “bleak milestone”. The Washington Post reports that the area burned equals an area larger than Connecticut and is more than twice the acreage burned in the state’s previous record-worst fire season in 2018. In addition, California has also seen its first “gigafire” – a single fire larger than 1m acres – since modern records began in the early 1930s. The large-scale fires are “due in part to human-caused warming and a drying climate”, the Washington Post says. The Los Angeles Times, Politico and CBS News also have the story. Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that an “unusually fierce” bushfire in New Zealand has sparked a “climate change debate” between farmers and conservationists. Earlier this year, Carbon Brief published an explainer detailing the links between climate change and wildfires.
Bloomberg reports on leaked documents showing that the oil major ExxonMobil had plans to increase annual CO2 emissions “by as much as the output of the entire nation of Greece”. The emissions estimates predate the Covid-19 pandemic, which has slashed global demand for oil, “making it unclear if Exxon will complete its plans for growth”, Bloomberg reports. It adds: “The internal documents show for the first time that Exxon has carefully assessed the direct emissions it expects from the seven-year investment plan adopted in 2018…A chart in the documents lists Exxon’s direct emissions for 2017 –122m metric tons of CO2 equivalent – as well as a projected figure for 2025 of 143m tons. The additional 21m tons is a net result of Exxon’s estimate for ramping up production, selling assets and undertaking efforts to reduce pollution by deploying renewable energy and burying CO2.” The story is also covered by MailOnline. Meanwhile, the FT reports that ExxonMil is to axe 1,600 jobs in Europe.
The Guardian reports on a new study finding much of the Amazon could be on the verge of switching from a rainforest to an open savannah with far fewer trees as a result of climate change. The Guardian reports that as much as 40% of the existing Amazon rainforest is now at a point where it could exist as a savannah instead of as rainforest, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications. The Independent also covers the study. Earlier this year, Carbon Brief published a guest post by Prof Peter Cox on this topic.
For the Guardian, Barbara Finamore, a senior director at the Natural Resources Defense Council and author of “Will China Save the Planet?”, explores what China’s recent surprise pledge to reach “carbon neutrality” by 2060 means for the rest of the world. She says: “Can we trust these ambitious promises? I think so. China has a track record of underpromising and overdelivering on its climate commitments. It’s highly unlikely that Xi would have made the announcement himself in such a major international forum unless it was supported by strong evidence that the target is achievable.” Elsewhere in the Guardian, author Chris Goodall outlines a nine-point plan for the UK to achieve net zero emissions. In addition, environment editor Damian Carrington looks back on the newspaper’s progress since it pledged to increase its coverage of climate change one year ago.
For the New Yorker, staff writer and author Elizabeth Kolbert examines three scenarios for what the world might look like under climate change by 2050. Kolbert writes: “If all these scenarios appear to be either too unrealistic or too unpleasant, I invite readers to write their own. Here’s the one stipulation: it must involve drastic change. At this point, there’s simply no possible future that averts dislocation.” The writing is an excerpt drawn from the afterword of an upcoming book called: “The Fragile Earth: Writing from The New Yorker on Climate Change.”
For the Times Red Box, UK pensions minister Guy Opperman says that workers’ pensions can be at the “forefront of seizing sustainable opportunities by financing the green-tech and green-energy revolution we need”. He says: “I want to see our British pension funds investing in new technologies such as wind, solar, and hydrogen. These innovative technologies can turbo-charge the way we travel, help us achieve net zero, and provide the long-term return that savers need…That is why we are introducing the Pensions Schemes Bill — a new bill that aims to make your pension safer, better and greener. Safer, by cracking down on unscrupulous pension bosses. Better, by making your pension more accessible to you. And greener, by investing in a more sustainable and ethical way.”
A new study of 123 countries finds that “large-scale national nuclear attachments do not tend to associate with significantly lower carbon emissions while renewables do”. The research uses multiple regression analyses on global datasets of national carbon emissions and renewable and nuclear electricity production across 123 countries over 25 years. The authors add: “We also find a negative association between the scales of national nuclear and renewables attachments. This suggests nuclear and renewables attachments tend to crowd each other out.”
Right-wing ideology can reduce the positive effects of education on climate change understanding in economically developed countries, a study finds. The research, which draws on data from 64 countries, also finds that education has a broadly positive effect on climate change understanding in low- and middle-income countries. The authors say: “The effects of education on people’s climate change beliefs vary as a function of political ideology: for those on the political left, education is related to pro-climate change beliefs, whereas for those on the political right, these effects are weak or negative.”
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