Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Business leaders back plan to cut industry emissions to zero
- 'Mind-blowing': Hazards to multiply and accumulate with climate change
- Hydrogen gas plan for millions of homes
- Dutch government to appeal landmark climate ruling, again
- AP Factcheck: Trump's misdirection on Calif fires, climate
- What's driving this French revolution?
- Will we survive climate change?
- Momentum builds for ambitious agreements at COP24
- Broad threat to humanity from cumulative climate hazards intensified by greenhouse gas emissions
- Tropical forest leaves may darken in response to climate change
- Antarctic surface hydrology and impacts on ice-sheet mass balance
A coalition of business leaders known as the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) has backed proposals for “radical changes” to industries, including steel, cement, shipping and aviation, to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, reports the FT: “The [ETC], which includes leaders from companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, Saint-Gobain and Schneider Electric, as well as banks and environmental thinktanks, said net emissions from those sectors could be cut to zero by 2060 at a cost of about 0.5% of world gross domestic product, using technologies including renewable energy and hydrogen fuel.” The ETC was created to find ways to cut GHGs in ways that will, says the FT, “allow healthy economic growth” while limiting global warming to “well below” 2C, as per the Paris Agreement. BBC News says the report “offers a rare slice of optimism”. It adds: “Sectors like steel, chemicals, cement, aviation and aluminium face a huge challenge in cutting carbon emissions. But a group including representatives from business concludes it is both practical and affordable to get their emissions down to virtually zero by the middle of the next century. The report’s been described as wishful thinking by some environmentalists.” The Daily Telegraphsays the report’s authors “believe electric trucks and buses are likely to become cost effective by 2030”, adding: “It also points to biofuels, hydrogen and carbon capture technology as key in helping the global economy achieve ‘net zero’ carbon emissions.” Axios muses that none of this will happen “without a bunch of policy shifts”. These include CO2 pricing and “green fuels mandates for aviation and shipping”. In a deep dive into the report for BusinessGreen, Michael Holder concludes: “Once again, a close reading of the numbers, the technology, and the science demonstrates that a zero carbon economy is within the global economy’s reach within a single generation. The technical challenges are undoubtedly significant, but so are the business opportunities in terms of efficiencies and savings, even before you consider the huge new markets as yet unimagined innovation could unlock.”
A number of publications around the world report on a new study published in Nature Climate Change which, says the Sydney Morning Herald, has “identified 467 pathways that populations were already being hit by a warmer climate”. It adds that the paper finds that “tropical coastal regions will be the most exposed to multiple hazards”. Camilo Mora, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii and lead author of the paper, is quoted as saying: “We never stopped being surprised by how many impacts had already happened to us.” NBC Newssays: “Mora’s team combed through more than 3,200 studies to try to paint a broad picture of what climate change is going to do to people over the coming century. They cross-referenced their findings against known disasters.” The New York Times says the researchers have concluded that “global warming is posing such wide-ranging risks to humanity, involving so many types of phenomena, that by the end of this century some parts of the world could face as many as six climate-related crises at the same time”. The study assesses a broad spectrum of problems, including heat waves, wildfires, sea level rise, hurricanes, flooding, drought and shortages of clean water. The Voice of America is among the other outlets covering the study.
Almost 4m homes across northern England could be converted to use hydrogen gas for heating and cooking by 2034 under a £23bn scheme to tackle climate change, reports the Times. The assessment is contained within a new joint report by Northern Gas Networks and Cadent, which between them own 168,000km of British gas distribution pipelines, and Equinor, the Norwegian company that supplies about 25% of Britain’s gas needs. The Times says the report also adds that “boilers and gas cookers would need to be replaced or converted under the plan, which would add more than £50 to the annual energy bill of every UK home…Tens of thousands of kilometres of existing gas pipelines could be used, however, which the companies say would make the scheme cheaper and less disruptive than other ‘green’ heating options.” The Committee on Climate Change, the UK government’s official climate advisor, is due to publish a report on hydrogen on Thursday.
The Dutch government is taking its fight against a landmark climate change verdict to the supreme court, reports Climate Home News. Under the initial ruling, which was upheld by an appeals court last month, the Netherlands must cut emissions 25% from 1990 levels by 2020. In 2017, emissions were down 13%. The government says it is committed to meeting the tougher goal, but wants to challenge the decision on principle: “This could have significant consequences for governments’ freedom to make climate policy and in other areas.” Urgenda, the NGO behind the lawsuit, has criticised the decision to appeal.
Associated Press has published a factcheck of Donald Trump’s recent claims about the Californian wildfire. It takes a “look at his recent statements, compared with the facts” and concludes that he was wrong to say there is “no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor”. AP says “the facts” include that “both nature and humans share responsibility for the state’s devastating wildfires, but fire scientists say the forest management is not the main contributor. Nature provides the dangerous winds that have whipped the fires, and human-caused climate change over the long haul is killing and drying the shrubs and trees that provide the fuel.” In BuzzFeed News, Mat Honan says that “what we saw in California this year is unlike anything that has come before”. He adds: “2018 is the year when everyone, everyone, in the state ran from the fires or choked on the fumes. It is a before-and-after moment. In California, in mid-November of 2018, it became as clear as it did in New York in mid-September of 2001 that what was a once-distant threat has now arrived.” Meanwhile, HuffPost notes that the US interior secretary Ryan Zinke has blamed the fires on “radical environmentalists” for not managing the forests correctly. “This is on them,” he is quoted as saying.
There is continued debate and analysis of the fuel protests in France. Writing in UnHerd, John Lichfield argues that “Macron – backed by much of young, Metropolitan France – sees the petrol tax rises as a necessary move towards an oil-free future”. But there are conflicting messages, he notes: “The yellow jackets [protesters] say that the global warming arguments are being deployed hypocritically. Over 60% of the petrol and diesel pump price in France goes to the government, they complain. Only a small fraction of that goes to pay for better rural public transport or for other environmental projects to prepare France for an oil-free or oil-reduced future. Most goes to the general state budget.” Zachary Young in Politico says: “Renouncing the gas tax could spare Macron some short-term suffering. But it would leave a gaping hole in the French budget and embolden protesters. Moreover, a retreat could earn the ire of environmental backers, who are already being courted by the centre left. For now, France’s leadership is sticking to its guns.”
“Possibly,” answers Schwartz, who speaks to climate scientists Dr James Hansen, Dr Kate Marvel and Dr Katharine Hayhoe on whether “we are doomed”. Marvel, who was recently interviewed by Carbon Brief, says: “It’s worth pointing out there is no scientific support for inevitable doom. Climate change is not pass-fail. There is a real continuum of futures, a continuum of possibilities.” Schwartz says that Marvel is “no fan” of the way some people recently interpreted the latest IPCC special report on 1.5C to mean we have “just over a decade” to sort the climate problem. “There’s no cliff,” she says, “but there’s for sure a slope.”
The current chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) negotiating bloc of nations at the UN climate talks sets out on the IIED blog the LDCs’ “asks” for next month’s COP24 in Poland. They will be “pushing COP24 to produce the strongest ‘rulebook’ possible”, says Endalew: “If we succeed, then the conference could mark a tipping point where the commitments made in Paris start to materialise at scale…LDCs will also be aiming to use COP24 to scale up climate action through the Talanoa Dialogue…Finally, LDCs will use COP24 to push for greater climate finance.”
The world’s populations could face between three and six “climate hazards” within their lifetimes, if little is done to limit global warming, according to a review article published in Nature Climate Change. Drawing on analysis from more than 3,000 research articles, the review finds that coastal populations are at double the risk of “climate hazards” including floods, droughts and wildfires than inland populations. However, if efforts are made to keep global warming below 2C, the world’s populations could face an average of just one climate hazard within their lifetime, the researchers say.
Climate change could cause tropical forest leaves to become darker – increasing the rate at which they absorb sunlight, new research suggests. A study undertaken in the tropics of Peru finds that warmer areas tend to have darker and thinner leaves than cooler areas and that global warming of 2C could cause widespread changes to forest leaf colour. “Climate simulations indicate this increased absorbed energy will warm tropical forests more at high CO2 conditions with proportionately more energy going towards heating and less towards evapotranspiration and cloud formation,” the authors say.
The activities of rivers, lakes and streams atop of Antarctic ice sheets could worsen the rate of melting, according to a Perspectives article published in Nature Climate Change. The article looks at three ways that rivers and lakes could impact ice loss, including through increased run-off, “meltwater injection” and by increasing the rate of ice fracturing – “all of which may contribute to future ice-sheet mass loss from Antarctica,” the researchers say.
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