Today's climate and energy headlines:
- BP in talks with electric carmakers on service station chargers
- Isis and climate change top world fears
- British Gas price hike sparks fresh row over impact of policy costs
- Earth Overshoot Day: From this day on we're using an unsustainable amount of the Earth's resources
- India coal growth has slowed significantly since 2015
- Choices to be made
- The Guardian view on British Gas: the cap fits
- Glacial weathering, sulfide oxidation, and global carbon cycle feedbacks
BP is in talks with electric vehicle makers on partnering to offer battery re-charging docks at its global network of fuel service stations. The move seeks to benefit from the move away from diesel and petrol cars, the firm’s chief executive Bob Dudley told Reuters on Tuesday. “We have discussions going on with a lot of the EV manufacturers to have a tie-up with our retail network for charging,” Dudley said in an interview. He also said BP does not plan to “dive in too deeply” to increase the firm’s interests in renewable energy production such as solar and wind, although BP will make small percentage stakes in companies or partner with them. BP yesterday unveiled better than expected second-quarter profits, Financial Times reports, with Dudley saying he wanted to drive down costs to the point that it can make money with crude prices below $40 per barrel. BP has now “swung back into the black” with a $553m profit, the Timesreports, compared to a $2.2bn loss a year ago when it booked multi-billion dollar charges related to the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
Islamic State and climate change are the top two security concerns for people around the world, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. However the perception of threat is sharply divided by geography and politics. Climate change was the top concern in 13 countries, mostly in Latin America and Africa, and the second in a series of more developed countries, while Isis was named the top global threat in 18 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the US. Climate change (61%) was only a single percentage point behind Isis (62%) in the poll, with fear of cyber attacks coming in third (51%). The New York Timesand CNN also covered the research.
British Gas’s announcement this week that it would increase its electricity prices by 12.5%, but the government has challenged its claim rising policy and transmission costs are to blame for price rise. British Gas laid much of the blame on rising policy costs including subsidies for renewables, social levies, and the smart meter rollout. However the Government responded that its policy costs make up a relatively small proportion of household energy bills and cannot explain the price rises. Meanwhile Jonathan Marshall, an energy analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, stressed that in the long term clean energy policies will deliver cost savings for consumers.”Instead of pointing the finger at policy costs – which have been shown to cut overall bills by reducing waste – British Gas should be looking to the long term and backing low-cost renewables and smart, flexible technology which have been reported time and time again as offering billions of pounds of benefits to UK homes and businesses,” he said. Analysis from the Committee on Climate Change, covered by Carbon Briefin March, found that climate policy has actually helped cut bills by reducing demand. The Telegraph also covers the story, on its front page, saying in its headline that “‘Green tax’ now costs every British household £149 a year, British Gas says as it blames government meddling for price hike”. However a graphic within the article instead shows “green levies” are half that, at £73. “Ministers have said they have not ruled out imposing an energy price cap, although the measure appeared to have been abandoned after the Tories disastrous performance in the General Election,” the Telegraph adds.
Today marks Earth Overshoot Day – the day by which the human race will have used more of Earth’s natural resources than the planet can renew in the whole year, the Telegraph reports. Over the course of a year we use 170% of the world’s natural output. “Currently, carbon emissions make up 60 per cent of humanity’s Ecological Footprint,” the article adds. “If carbon emissions were cut in half, the date of Earth Overshoot Day would be pushed back by 89 days, or about three months.” The Global Footprint Network, which makes the calculation, has also produced a calculator that allows people to track what impact their own actions have on the world’s natural resources.
India has been witnessing a dramatic slowdown in consumption since 2015, according to a new analysis by Energydesk of official data. “Over the past two years the country’s coal use has increased by an average of just 2.2%, a sharp fall from the previous 10 years when annual growth average was over 6%.” However the analysis warns it is too early to say whether this trend could mark a turning point in India’s energy mix, although it argues there are indications it could be the start of a longer decline. However the article also points to Carbon Brief coverage of the hundreds of new coal power plants being planned in India which could single handedly jeopardise global climate change targets.
Climate change impacts will soon mean individuals need to make choices to survive, according to ad editorial carried in Nature Climate Change which urges for research funding and observing platforms in order to provide reliable data on emissions. “Mitigation commitments will hopefully also translate into funding to support these efforts.” The editorial points to its cover page article which investigates the choices being made by residents on four low-lying islands of the Philippines. “These residents have chosen to remain and adapt despite a relocation plan being developed by the authorities. This is a choice that will hopefully be available to, but not needed by, others as the impacts of climate change continue to spread.”
Privately owned utilities are profiteering at the public’s expense, according to a Guardian editorial which urges ministers to intervene to “fix a broken market”. The Guardian also addresses Centrica’s claims that the rising costs of policies such as subsidies to support wind farms and solar projects are to blame for the price increase alongside the network charges it pays. “This is a disingenuous defence which verges on the deceitful.” Pointing to Carbon Brief analysis in March, it notes that the government’s own advisers on climate change have said household energy bills are lower today than they were in 2008 only thanks to reductions in demand. In contrast, an editorial in the Telegraph argues against price caps. “It is not the job of ministers or officials to determine the right price for a commodity but rather to encourage competition and allow people to make their own decisions.” The Telegraph blames the price rises on the “move away from carbon-based energy sources and the expansion of renewables and nuclear power”, as well as the roll-out of smart meters and the failure of fracking for shale gas to get off the ground. Meanwhile an article by the Independent‘s chief business commentator James Moore quotes a tweet from former Labour leader Ed Milliband, who originally conceived the idea of an energy price freeze that was fiercely criticised by the Conservatives before they put a similar policy in their manifesto as a price cap. “[Business secretary] Greg Clark where is your energy price cap promised at the election? Behind the back of sofa/dumped/slipped your mind?”
Chemical weathering provides a major carbon cycle constraint that helps steer the evolution of the Earth’s climate over geologic time. Until recently, the relationship between chemical weathering and glaciation was largely unknown. New research suggests that glaciers increase the weathering of sulfide and carbonate minerals, enhancing sulfide oxidation and serving as a source of additional CO2 to the atmosphere. The authors suggest that this weathering can change atmospheric CO2 concentrations by up to 25 parts per million over a 10,000 year period. They argue that these CO2 releases can act as a negative feedback to glaciation, reducing the risk of runaway glaciation and a snowball Earth in our geologic past.
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