Today's climate and energy headlines:
- BP agrees to activists' calls for wider climate disclosure
- Carbon emissions down nearly two-fifths since 1990
- Gigantic cavity in Antarctica glacier is a product of rapid melting, study finds
- Fate of UK’s nuclear plants in doubt over ageing infrastructure
- Tory peer Lord Deben in row over £600,000 green payments
- Owl breeding fears at Misson Springs shale gas site
- Pay for Green New Deal now or spend even more later
- ‘The devastation of human life is in view’: what a burning world tells us about climate change
- Using the big freeze to deny climate change... stupidity or cynicism?
- Assessment of climate change impacts on buildings, structures and infrastructure in the Russian regions on permafrost
- What causes deforestation in Indonesia?
There is widespread coverage of the decision by oil-and-gas giant BP to disclose how its spending and strategies align with the Paris Agreement’s climate goals. Axios writes: “Friday’s move is the latest sign of how some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers are responding to pressure from advocates — including some large investors — on global warming. It comes two months after Royal Dutch Shell, after consultation with the same investor network called Climate Action 100+, agreed to set short-term carbon emissions goals for its products.” The Financial Times says “BP has agreed to disclose how its spending plans, emissions policies and broader business strategy align with the Paris climate agreement”, adding: “Hermes EOS, Legal & General Investment Management, Aviva Investors and M&G Investments are among institutions planning to file a shareholder resolution at BP’s annual general meeting in May, demanding more transparency. Ahead of this formal filing, BP’s board of directors agreed this week to support the proposal after several months of discussions with investors — an acknowledgment that energy majors need to take a more proactive and open approach in the climate debate.” Climate Home News and CNN are among the other outlets carrying the news.
Press Association reports Carbon Brief’s latest analysis which shows that cleaner power and the falling demand for energy across homes and industry have driven cuts in UK carbon emissions of nearly two-fifths since 1990. PA adds: “Declining emissions are largely down to a switch to a cleaner electricity mix, based on gas and renewables instead of coal, as well as falling demand for energy across homes, businesses and industry. Carbon Brief found that with a growing population and without the changes that have driven down pollution, emissions would have grown from 1990 and been twice as high as they were in 2017. The pollution from electricity generation and use would have been nearly four times higher than it is, the assessment estimates.” The analysis has also been reported on BBC Radio 5, which today has launched a year-long series of coverage about climate change called “Cool Planet”.
A cavity “about two-thirds the area of Manhattan and nearly 1,000 feet tall” has been discovered by Nasa scientists in the Thwaites Glacier on Antarctica’s western coast, which scientists have long considered one of the most unstable on the continent. “The hulking chamber is large enough to have contained about 14 billion tons of ice — most of which the researchers say melted in three years,” says the New York Times, adding: “The Thwaites Glacier, which is about the size of Florida, holds enough ice that if it all melted, it would raise the world’s oceans by over two feet, a change that would threaten many coastal cities. Climate scientists tend to watch this glacier closely, usually alongside the nearby Pine Island Glacier, which is also flowing rapidly into the Amundsen Sea.” The Independent says Thwaites is “thought to be responsible for around 4% of global sea level rises, but the new results gathered by the researchers suggest this is an underestimate”. Meanwhile, Kyodo News in Japan claims to have obtained a draft of the IPCC’s special report on oceans and the cryosphere, which is due to be finalised and published this autumn.
The Guardian reports that the UK’s nuclear power stations “recorded a 12% decline in their contributions to the country’s energy system over the past month, as outages raised concerns over how long the ageing plants will be able to keep operating”. It adds: “A temporary closure of two of the country’s eight nuclear plants resulted in a double-digit drop in nuclear generation in January, compared to the same period last year. Prospects for new nuclear projects have commanded headlines and government attention in recent weeks, with Hitachi and Toshiba scrapping their plans for major new plants. But the fate of the existing plants, which usually provide about a fifth of the UK’s electricity supplies, has been pulled into focus by outages due to safety checks and engineering works running over schedule. Nuclear outages also push up carbon emissions because any capacity shortfall will typically be replaced by fossil fuel power stations.”
Meanwhile, the Times reports that a company called C-Capture founded by a chemistry professor at the University of Leeds has “secured investment from both BP and Drax to develop its novel technology for capturing carbon emissions”.
The Times reports that Lord Deben, the Conservative peer who chairs the Committee on Climate Change, is “under pressure to resign…after his private company Sancroft was paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by green businesses”. The Times says a Mail on Sunday story published on its frontpage yesterday “alleged that Sancroft’s clients have included several companies and campaign groups that have benefited from policies pushed by the CCC”. Lord Deben’s solicitor told the Sunday paper that the “allegations of conflict of interest and other improprieties are wholly false and misconceived”, adding that “at all times, [he has] made disclosures in accordance with the advice he has been given by the House of Lords and CCC”. An editorial in the Mail on Sunday calls for Lord Deben to “resign” and Dominic Lawson, the son of climate sceptic Lord Lawson, writing in the Daily Mail today says: “By all means listen to what the Green preachers say. But, above all, watch what they do.”
BBC News reports that Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust says wildlife, including owls, could be affected at a nature reserve after exploratory drilling linked to fracking by IGas began nearby at Misson Springs in Nottinghamshire. IGas says it takes its “environmental responsibility extremely seriously”. In other related news, BBC News reports that the UK government has agreed to give Lancashire Police a £4.3m grant to help cover the cost of policing the ongoing Preston New Road fracking protests. MailOnline reports the latest war of words between “Britain’s richest man” Sir Jim Ratcliffe, owner of Ineos, and Dame Vivienne Westwood over her opposition to his fracking ventures. DeSmog UK carries a comment piece by Katja Garson, a UK Youth Climate Coalition campaigner, who argues that “young Brits are ready to fight for a fracking ban”.
Prof Robert Hockett, a law and finance professor at Cornell Law School who advises the Democrat congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, writes in the FT that her plan for a “green new deal” would be “larger than any other American government undertaking since Franklin D Roosevelt’s original New Deal and the US mobilisation for the second world war”. He adds: “Supporters of Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s plans understand that spending will be absorbed without causing inflation if we ramp up production and installation of everything from solar panels and batteries to new plants and ‘smart’ power grids. Not since the US moved to a wartime economy in 1942 has America seen such productive enhancement. And the comparison is apt. When you are fighting for your very survival, you do not pinch pennies. That would be false economy. In this case it would also be suicide.” Separately, the Guardian has a feature under the headline: “Climate change 2020: can the Democrats make it an election issue?”
The Guardian has published an extract of the new book, “The Uninhabitable Earth”, by New York magazine writer David Wallace-Wells, who saw his 2017 article on climate change go viral online. He writes: “I am like every other American who has spent their life fatally complacent, and wilfully deluded, about climate change, which is not just the biggest threat human life on the planet has ever faced, but a threat of an entirely different category and scale. That is, the scale of human life itself.” The Guardian also carries a lengthy interview with Wallace-Wells in today’s edition, in which he states: “I’m an enormous admirer of [Greta] Thunberg and I am in awe of how much energy and attention Extinction Rebellion has generated in such a short time. I think their imperative to tell the truth is very important and powerful.”
The high-profile climate scientist responds in the Observer to Donald Trump’s latest tweets seeking to dismiss climate change: “[They] are an example of what I have referred to as ‘the weaponisation of ignorance’. The ignorance in this case isn’t Trump’s. He appears to know better. It’s the electorate’s. Only with an ill-informed citizenry could you plausibly dismiss the consensus of the world’s scientists based upon a single cold spell. Trump and, more to the point, the fossil fuel interests whose bidding he is doing have weaponised the public’s poor understanding of science.” Prof Mann links to Carbon Brief’s new detailed Q&Aon how the warming Arctic is linked to the polar vortex and other weather extremes in the mid-latitudes. Andy Revkin also discusses this issue in a National Geographic feature, as does Jonathan Watts in the Guardian under the headline: “Is deep freeze the latest sign climate change is accelerating?” (In a separate article for the Guardian, Watts co-authors a piece with Lisa Cox, entitled: “Australia’s extreme heat is sign of things to come, scientists warn.”) In the Sunday Times, the columnist Rod Liddle writes: “Climate change is real, Mr Trump. But, yep, those leftie scientists are out to get you.”
Climate change could threaten 20% of infrastructure in Russian regions containing permafrost, costing the country up to $84bn, a new study estimates. The research uses climate modelling to look at the impact of climate change on Russian infrastructure under “RCP8.5” – a scenario where future emissions are high. “The paper discusses the variability in climate-change projections and the ability of Russia’s administrative regions containing permafrost to cope with projected climate-change impacts,” the authors say.
Two-fifths of deforestation in Indonesia was driven by destruction for large-scale palm oil and timber plantations from 2010-16, a study finds. The study uses high-resolution imagery from Google Earth to explore the main drivers of deforestation in Indonesia. Small-scale agriculture and small-scale plantations also contributed one-fifth of nationwide forest loss and were the dominant drivers of loss outside the major islands of Indonesia, the study says.
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