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Daily Briefing

27.09.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Britain’s Prince Harry says ‘race against time’ on climate change
Britain’s Prince Harry says ‘race against time’ on climate change

News.

Britain's Prince Harry says 'race against time' on climate change
Reuters Read Article

Prince Harry has warned that the world faces “a race against time” to tackle climate change, reports Reuters. Speaking yesterday in Botswana as part of a Royal tour of southern African, Harry said: “This last week led by Greta [Thunberg] – you know the world’s children are striking…I think there’s an emergency…It’s a race against time and one in which we are losing, everyone knows it.” CNN describes the comments as “a full-throated defence of climate action by young people around the world”. While the Daily Telegraph says Harry “has signalled his support for Greta Thunberg and her school climate strikers”. The Duke of Sussex also “strongly criticised climate change deniers”, reports the Press Association, saying: “There is no excuse for not knowing, that I think the most troubling part of it is – I don’t believe there is anybody in this world that can deny science, undeniable science and facts.“ He added: “Science and facts that have been around the last 30, nearly 40 years, and it’s only getting stronger and stronger…Genuinely I don’t understand how anyone in this world, whoever we are, you, us, children, leaders, whoever it is, no-one can deny science, otherwise we live in a very, very troubling world.” The Guardian also has the story. Elsewhere, the Daily Telegraph reports from the royal naming ceremony of the new polar research ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough. Speaking to the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme ahead of the ceremony, Sir David said people were starting to open their eyes to climate change. “The penny took a long time to drop, but it is starting to now,” he said, adding that young people have been the driving force behind the movement. BBC News has a video of the launch by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Greta Thunberg leads Montreal climate strike amid aviation emissions talks
Reuters Read Article

Teenage activist Greta Thunberg is “spearheading a climate change strike [today] in Montreal where UN aviation leaders are gathering to debate plane emission targets”, reports Reuters. Thunberg is in Canada to support the protest, which is taking place less than a month before a federal election where the environment is voters’ top issue, says Reuters. Both Liberal prime minister Justin Trudeau and Green party leader Elizabeth May will also be joining in the march. The protest comes as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is debating ways to reduce the sector’s impact on the environment at its triennial assembly, notes Reuters, which runs until next Friday in Montreal. Tens of thousands of students gathered for marches across New Zealand today to kick off a second global school strike for climate action, says another Reuters piece. More than 40 towns around the country were holding marches with 260 businesses involved, says the Guardian. And the Guardian also reports that Italian education minister, Lorenzo Fioramonti, says schoolchildren are “justified” in missing school to support the strikes. He said on Facebook the climate strike was “essential” for students’ future, which was “threatened by environmental devastation and an unsustainable economic growth model”. Meanwhile, analysis by Media Matters for America shows that US media coverage of last Friday’s global strikes “was more extensive and thorough than the reporting on the first global climate strike in March”.

Caltech gets a windfall for climate research: $750m
The New York Times Read Article

The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is set to receive a $750m donation towards climate and environmental research, the New York Times reports. The donation – the second-largest donation ever to an American university – is from Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the billionaire owners of what the Los Angeles Times describes as “one of the nation’s great farm empires”. (Forbes points out that the Resnick’s business – the “Wonderful Company” – is the world’s largest producer of almonds and pistachios.) Caltech plans to build a $100m “sustainability research institute” named after the family, adds the LA Times. This will “study solar science, climate science, energy, biofuels, decomposable plastics, water and environmental resources, and ecology and biosphere engineering”. Stewart Resnick said the donation is a way to help protect future generations, reports the Hill, noting that he and his wife had seen the impact of climate change in their own business.

Energy groups risk ‘misleading’ customers over renewable claims
Financial Times Read Article

Many UK energy companies that claim they supply renewable electricity are guilty of “greenwashing” and risk “misleading” customers, reports the Financial Times. An investigation by consumer group Which? found that an increasing number of suppliers are promising “green” energy, but they are not generating any renewable electricity themselves, nor are they buying it direct from renewable generators. Instead, they are purchasing certificates cheaply that allow them to make those marketing claims under industry rules, says the FT, and are likely just purchasing electricity from the wholesale market, which could come from any source. Which? found that Green Star Energy, Ovo Energy, Pure Planet, Robin Hood Energy, So Energy, Tonik Energy and Yorkshire Energy all sell 100% renewable tariffs solely backed up by these certificates, says the Press Association. Which? said that it was concerned the system allowed suppliers who relied exclusively on certifications to “greenwash their tariffs while seemingly doing very little to support renewable electricity generation”, reports the Times. The Daily TelegraphMirror and Daily Mail all cover the story.

Record renewables output helps push coal to less than one per cent of UK grid
BusinessGreen Read Article

Official data shows that “coal power was almost completely absent from the UK’s power grid during the second quarter of the year”, reports BusinessGreen. The data confirms that coal accounted for just 0.6% of the UK’s power mix between April and June, says BusinessGreen, “marking the first quarter since the 19th century in which coal has fallen below one per cent of total generation”. In contrast, renewables set a record for the second quarter as its share of the grid rose 3.5 percentage points year-on-year to 35.5%, the article adds.

Comment.

Greta Thunberg: why the right’s usual attacks don’t work on her
David Roberts, Vox Read Article

Vox’s David Roberts has written a piece looking into “the unlikely confluence of personal history and characteristics that have made [Greta] Thunberg so politically potent and so resistant to the right wing’s familiar smears”. For example, Thunberg has “sidestepped attacks on her motives by almost entirely refraining from endorsing specific political reforms or policies”, says Roberts. In addition, “attempts to personally smear Greta have backfired”, writes Roberts. “She is manifestly authentic, direct in a way unique among public figures, no more subject to flattery than to coercion,” he says, adding: “Witness Thunberg’s utterly indifferent reaction to the plaudits lavished on her by congressional Democrats.” Writing in the Guardian, senior social reporter Martin Belam picks up on similar points, noting that she has “rebutted” criticism – “particularly from rightwing commentators” and has “shown that she can live her low-carbon values with a vegan diet and by sailing to New York, rather than flying”. New York Times opinion writer Charlie Warzel says that youth strikers are “short-circuiting the right-wing media ecosystem”. He continues: “Since Friday’s strike, pro-Trump media and conservative cable news pundits have devoted significant resources to turning the children of the climate movement into Public Enemy No. 1.” Yet, “the stakes, as the movement sees it, are too high to focus attention on the trolls. And the pressure, from conservative pundits and Breitbart contributors, doesn’t just get dismissed, it goes unnoticed”,“ he says. “Faced with a political enemy that pays it no attention, the right is palpably frustrated.” Taking a different line, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard – international business editor of the Daily Telegraph – criticises Thunberg for her speech at the UN climate summit in New York. He picks up on her dismissal of “technical solutions” and “eternal economic growth”, instead arguing that they “are our only salvation”. “We have a choice,” he writes, “either we fight runaway climate change with liberal market policies and capitalist creativity, or we cede the field to Malthusians and the Green Taliban”. Times columnist Ed Conway makes a similar point, arguing that “the telling thing about this phrase [“eternal economic growth”] is that it seems to cast economic growth as a futile government obsession rather than what it actually is: the most potent force for helping people live happier, longer lives”.

Climate lawsuits – an existential risk to fossil fuel firms?
Michael Liebreich, Bloomberg New Energy Finance Read Article

Michael Liebreich, founder and senior contributor at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, has a long article asking whether “climate lawsuits represent an irritant to fossil fuel companies, a meaningful drag on their business, or an existential threat”. Currently, there are cases in 29 countries around the world, says Liebreich: “Australia leads in terms of volume with 95 cases, followed by the UK (48 cases), EU (43 cases) and Canada (18 cases)”. “Perhaps the most significant category of cases in terms of potential damages are those in the area of tort law called ‘nuisance,” says Liebreich. Looking at some examples of these cases, Liebreich notes that the “stakes in all this could scarcely be higher, though there is very little agreement on precise figures”.

Meanwhile, in a piece trailed on the frontpage of the Financial Times, its columnist Gillian Tett argues that “climate change could cause a new mortgage default crisis”. She adds: “Today, a small number of insurance experts and climate change scientists understand the risks. So do some savvy financial players, including hedge funds. But most ordinary investors have little grasp of the full implications, because climate science — like mortgage derivatives — is technically complex. Even professional asset managers struggle to work out the probabilities embedded in insurance forecasts. The result is extreme information asymmetry.”

Science.

Dependence of economic impacts of climate change on anthropogenically directed pathways
Nature Climate Change Read Article

There are great uncertainties in the projected economic impacts of climate change. These arise from uncertainties in the climate response, the mitigation pathways and the socioeconomic development pathway. Although the relative contributions of these factors are important, they are poorly understood. This paper examines to what extent the projected economic impacts of climate change can be attributed to these three factors using a coupled integrated assessment model. The most pessimistic pathway without mitigation would result in a net economic impact equivalent to 6.6% (3.9–8.6%) of global gross domestic product at the end of this century, the pathways with stringent mitigation would limit the impact to around or less than 1%. The climate change mitigation pathway is the dominant factor. These results suggest that decisions on mitigation and development have a great influence in determining the economic impacts of climate change, regardless of the uncertainties in the climate response.

THE BRIEF

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Get a Daily or Weekly round-up of all the important articles and papers selected by Carbon Brief by email. By entering your email address you agree for your data to be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.