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Daily Briefing

12.03.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

12.03.2019 | 9:23am
DAILY BRIEFING BP lobbied Trump administration to roll back key Obama era climate rules
BP lobbied Trump administration to roll back key Obama era climate rules

News.

BP lobbied Trump administration to roll back key Obama era climate rules

An investigation by Unearthed has revealed that the oil and gas major BP successfully lobbied the Trump administration to roll back key climate regulations preventing methane emissions, despite claiming publicly to support the Paris Agreement. Both directly and through influential trade associations, BP first opposed and then helped reverse rules that would have restricted the deliberate venting and flaring of methane on federal lands, and also that would have required more frequent equipment inspections to detect methane leaks. At least 1.7m tonnes of methane could be released into the atmosphere over the next seven years as a result of the rollbacks, says Unearthed, equivalent to 58m tonnes of CO2. In public, BP “has portrayed itself as an energy major at the forefront of a global campaign to reduce methane emissions from operations to combat climate change”, notes the Financial Times. While not responding directly to Unearthed, a BP spokesperson tells the FT that the company has “consistently advocated for regulation of methane emissions by one federal agency — the Environmental Protection Agency — rather than an inefficient patchwork of different federal or state agencies”. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that BP is set to launch a new “very low sulphur fuel oil” ahead of a ban on more polluting fuels for the shipping industry that comes into force next year.

In other US news, Reuters reports that the White House is proposing eliminating a tax credit worth up to $7,500 (~£5,700) on the purchase of new electric vehicles. In its proposed “budget for a better America”, the Office of Management and Budget says the move would save the US government $2.5bn over a decade. The 2020 budget also proposes a 31% cut for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), reports the Hill, a 13% cut for the National Science Foundation and a 2.3% cut for Nasa, reports the Washington Post. The budget aims to cut domestic spending by 5% overall, notes another piece in the Hill. In a statement, EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler says: “This common sense budget proposal would support the agency as it continues to work with states, tribes and local governments to protect human health and the environment.” The proposed budget is “highly unlikely to become law”, says Reuters, after it was “immediately panned by Democrats”

Unearthed Read Article
Radical proposal to artificially cool Earth's climate could be safe, new study claims

A new study “contradicts fears that using solar geoengineering to fight climate change could dangerously alter rainfall and storm patterns in some parts of the world”, reports the Guardian. The research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, finds that cooling the Earth enough to eliminate roughly half of warming, rather than all of it, generally would not make tropical cyclones more intense or worsen water availability, extreme temperatures or extreme rain. “The analogy is not perfect but solar geoengineering is a little like a drug which treats high blood pressure,” lead author Dr Peter Irvine, tells the Independent. “An overdose would be harmful, but a well-chosen dose could reduce your risks,” he adds. (Carbon Brief also covers the story and interviews Irvine on camera.) However, as co-author Dr David Keith explains to Axios: “This suggests solar geoengineering could have large and equally distributed benefits, but it doesn’t prove it. It’s an idealised model. There are still huge uncertainties. And also it’s clear that if misused, solar geoengineering could have huge damages.” Meanwhile, the Thomson Reuters Foundations reports that the United Nations Environment Assembly will this week consider whether to start assessing and setting rules on solar geoengineering as well as negative emissions technologies.

The Guardian Read Article
Spring Statement: Hammond set to step up climate action in response to school strikes

In another preview of the UK’s spring budget statement this week, BusinessGreen says chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to say he has “heard calls” from young people for the government to do more to tackle climate change. There has been a wave of environmental protests and school strikes across the country, with another, larger school strike planned for this Friday, with schoolchildren in 82 countries around the world expected to take part. New measures for the UK could include those to “reduce carbon emissions from new-build homes, enhance protections for biodiversity hotspots in Britain’s overseas territories and require airlines to offer carbon offsetting options for passengers”. Elsewhere, Reuters has an interview with Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl who sparked the protests, while the Guardian and Vox report on children intending to protest in the US.

BusinessGreen Read Article
IEA sees US leading global oil supply growth to 2024

The US will drive global oil supply growth over the next five years, says Reuters, reporting the International Energy Agency (IEA) five-year outlook for oil. US oil output will grow by another 4m barrels per day over that period, the IEA says, meaning the US “is increasingly leading the expansion in global oil supplies, with significant growth also seen among other non-OPEC producers, including Brazil, Norway and new producer Guyana”. By the end of 2024, the US “will overtake Russia and close in on Saudi Arabia, bringing greater diversity of supply”, it adds. The largest increases are expected to come from crude oil from shale formations, notably the Permian Basin region of Texas and New Mexico, notes Axios. Another Axios piece looks at how new technologies are “disrupting the power of Opec”, the oil producers’ cartel. Oil prices rose yesterday on the back of output cuts by Opec, reports Reuters. At the same time, officials in the Trump administration are divided over legislation that would allow the US government to sue Opec nations for attempting to control oil prices, says a third Axios article.

Reuters Read Article
Fracking could cut Britain's gas imports to zero by early 2030s

Fracking Britain’s shale gas reserves could cut the country’s imports of gas to zero by the early 2030s, according to a statement by industry group UK Onshore Oil and Gas reported by Reuters. In its latest forecasts for the county’s shale gas potential, the group says installing 100 fracking pad sites, each with 40 lateral wells, could produce the equivalent to the gas use of 35m homes (the UK currently has around 27m households). The UK currently imports more than half of its gas, notes Reuters. This comes primarily via pipelines from continental Europe and Norway, with smaller amounts arriving in shipments of liquefied natural gas from Qatar and – in very limited amounts – from Russia and the United States. (Carbon Brief has previously looked at what fracking in the UK could mean for the climate.)

Reuters Read Article
Changing rainfall patterns could threaten major crops worldwide in just 20 years, study warns

Climate change is likely to alter rainfall patterns in some of the world’s most important food crop growing areas over the next 20 years, a new study says, reports Press Association. The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy Of Sciences, suggests that by 2040, up to 14% of land dedicated to wheat, maize, rice and soy will be permanently drier than in 1986-2005, while 31% will be wetter. The rapid speed of the change means that many farmers are going to have to act quickly to adapt, the authors warn, according to Press Association.

Press Association via MailOnline Read Article

Comment.

The Future of Energy

In a special series, the Financial Times explores “the future of energy”. The articles cover technological advances in wind turbines and solar panelsoff-grid power for African cities, the potential impact of e-scooters and how Sweden is attempting to tackle the air pollution caused by burning household waste for energy. The series also tackles how major oil companies are trying to carve out a role for greener biofuels and are looking to Artificial Intelligence to boost margins, as well as looking at how nuclear backers are shifting towards “smaller, cheaper” reactors. Finally, the FT’s energy commentator Nick Butler discusses the hope offered by long-distance high-voltage grids that can link continents.

Financial Times Read Article

Science.

Emergence of robust precipitation changes across crop production areas in the 21st century

Any amount of future climate change could alter rainfall patterns in the world’s major crop-growing regions, research finds. Using modelling, the research team investigated how regional rainfall is likely to change in parts of the world important for crop cultivation under different levels of warming. The research finds that patterns of increased precipitation in high latitudes, including areas in North America and Europe, could emerge as early as the 2020s, or have already emerged. Patterns of decreased precipitation in areas such as the Mediterranean, western Mexico, Chile, South Africa, and Australia could emerge by midcentury, the researchers add.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Read Article
Air temperature optima of vegetation productivity across global biomes

A study maps the optimum temperature for maximum plant productivity (or growth) across the globe. The researchers say that tropical forests, in particular, are already at their optimum growing temperature and are likely to fall below optimum productivity “under all scenarios of future climate”. This suggests that there could be “a limited safe operating space for these ecosystems under future warming”.

Nature Ecology & Evolution Read Article
Robust abatement pathways to tolerable climate futures require immediate global action

A study uses a Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy (DICE) model to “distangle” the potential impact of policies for climate change action from “uncertainties” in the Earth’s natural system. “Despite wide-ranging [Earth system] uncertainties, the growth rate of global abatement (a societal choice) is the primary driver of long-term warming,” the authors say. “It is not a question of whether we can limit warming but whether we choose to do so.”

Nature Climate Change Read Article

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