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TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UK: Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng admits energy security strategy is 'more of a medium three, four, five year answer'
- Methane emissions jump by record amount in 2021, NOAA says
- Germany will need full transition period to ban Russian coal – Scholz
- Cambo: Ithaca Energy pledges to develop controversial oil field
- China energy goals a problem as UN report calls for deeper coal cuts
- Speed up EU climate policies to wrest free from Russia, 11 countries say
- UK: One in two news cars must be electric by 2028
- The Times view on the energy security strategy: Wasted Energy
- The UK’s energy strategy flunks the key tests
- The critical benefits of snowpack insulation and snowmelt for winter wheat productivity
- Freshwater forcing of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation revisited
There is continuing coverage of the UK government’s new energy security strategy, which was finally published in full yesterday. A number of outlets lead with comments made by business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng yesterday morning that the measures could take up to five years to bring down energy bills. Speaking to Sky News, Kwarteng said it is “right” to say “the strategy is more of a medium term three, four, five year answer”, the outlet reports. He added: “It’s really important that we get an energy strategy, an energy policy, that means we can have more security and independence in the years ahead.” Kwarteng also told ITV News it is a “long-term” strategy that “won’t help you or me or others deal with short-term prices”. but will provide the UK with “cleaner and more affordable energy” by 2030. Criticising the strategy, Labour’s shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband told ITV’s Good Morning Britain show that the government has “rejected the cleanest, cheapest, quickest form of power – onshore wind and solar – and failed to act on energy efficiency, insulating homes, which are the things that can actually cut bills in the years ahead”. Michael Lewis, the UK chief of energy firm E.ON, said a failure to include measures to help people reduce energy use and insulate homes “condemns thousands more customers to living in cold and draughty homes, wasting energy and paying more than they need to for their heating”, reports Reuters. The Times says that Lewis “led a chorus of criticism from industry experts, charities and opposition MPs at the government’s failure to include substantive new plans for energy efficiency in the strategy”. In response, UK prime minister Boris Johnson said the strategy was “undoing the mistakes of the past and taking the big decisions now”, reports the Press Association. He added that the government was “already doing a huge amount to help people with the immediate cost of living and of course we are going to do more”. The Times, Guardian, BBC News and Daily Mirror all report on the government’s response to criticism.
The Press Association reports that the government announced £375m in investment to “unlock the enormous potential” in the new strategy. The newswire continues: “The financial package, announced on Friday, includes £240m to fund low carbon hydrogen production projects, £5m towards the acceleration of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCUS) Technologies, and a £2.5m competition for bidders to develop a UK Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR).” Reuters reports that chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday wrote to the Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England to encourage them to pay heed to the country’s new energy strategy when it comes to regulating banks and investment firms. In his letter to the FCA, Sunak wrote: “Where practical and relevant, the FCA should have regard to the government’s energy security strategy and the important role that the financial system will play in supporting the UK’s energy security – including through investment in transitional hydrocarbons like gas – as part of the UK’s pathway to net-zero.” Campaigners warned that the move contradicts the push to a net-zero economy, Reuters says.
Meanwhile, an “exclusive” in the i newspaper says that Sunak “vetoed” plans to more than double the previously announced energy rebate scheme. The outlet says it has seen an earlier draft of the strategy that included measures to increase the £200 energy rebate to “£500 or more” for either all households or just “fuel poor” homes, but this “was rejected by the Treasury”. BusinessGreen notes that the draft strategy also confirms that “earlier proposals included more ambitious plans to expand onshore wind capacity, including a target to deliver 45GW of capacity by 2035”.
In other reporting, the Independent leads with quotes from the strategy’s foreword by Boris Johnson, in which he says “we’re going to make better use of the oil and gas in our own backyard by giving the energy fields of the North Sea a new lease of life”. The Press Association notes that the International Energy Agency has previously said “that there should be no new oil and gas exploration after 2021 to meet targets to avoid the most dangerous warming”. The Daily Telegraph leads with the line that “homeowners who object to new solar panels, wind turbines and nuclear reactors face being ignored by planning officers” under the strategy. A second article in the paper explores how the Conservatives “risk shires backlash over wind and solar push”. The i newspaper, BusinessGreen, Daily Mirror and BBC News all have articles unpacking what did and did not make it into the strategy. BBC News also looks at nuclear power in the UK in more detail, while the i newspaper speaks to a nuclear waste expert who warns that the UK could run out of room to store radioactive waste if the government presses ahead with plans to build eight new nuclear power stations.
(For more, see Carbon Brief’s in-depth Q&A on the UK’s new energy security strategy.)
Global methane emissions increase by a record amount in 2021, eclipsing the record set the year before, reports the Washington Post, “demonstrating the huge challenge facing policymakers who have pledged to limit greenhouse gas emissions”. The data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that atmospheric methane levels jumped 17 parts per billion (ppb) in 2021, the largest amount since systematic measurements began in 1983, the paper explains. It adds: “Atmospheric methane levels averaged 1,895.7ppb during 2021, or around 162% greater than preindustrial levels.” In a statement, NOAA administrator Richard W Spinrad said: “Our data show that global emissions continue to move in the wrong direction at a rapid pace,“ reports the New York Times. Spinrad added: “Reducing methane emissions is an important tool we can use right now to lessen the impacts of climate change in the near term, and rapidly reduce the rate of warming.” The Guardian, Associated Press, Hill, Reuters, CNBC all have the story.
German chancellor Olaf Scholz said yesterday that Germany will need to use the full four-month phase-out period to implement a ban on Russian coal under European Union sanctions, reports Reuters. The EU’s ambassadors agreed a fifth sanctions package on Russia, including a coal embargo, with a 120-day wind-down period to give EU member states time to find alternative suppliers, the newswire explains. Scholz told a news conference that “we will need to use this period”, adding: “If it’s faster, that’s good. But we will need some time, and the companies will need it as well, though they have been looking for new suppliers for a while already.“ Reuters also reports that “European buyers are increasing shipments of coal from across the globe against a backdrop of a proposed European Union ban on Russian imports and the scramble to relieve tight gas supplies”. And Reuters senior market analyst John Kemp writes that an EU embargo on Russian coal “would raise prices worldwide”.
Bloomberg reports on the “hurdles” that the EU encountered as they sought to agree on the latest sanctions, “with several countries saying the package is being watered down too much”. The newswire notes that Poland was “resisting a change in the draft sanctions plan, sought by Germany, that extends the phase-in period for the ban by a month to four months”. The article also notes that “several countries have demanded restrictions on imports on Russian oil, which European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc will discuss in the coming days”, adding: “But Germany and Hungary have been opposed to such a step.” Politico also reports that “Hungary’s newly reelected prime minister [Viktor Orbán] has emerged as the single biggest roadblock to ratcheting up sanctions”. It adds: “Pressure is building across the bloc for a sweeping ban on oil. On Thursday, an overwhelming majority of European lawmakers demanded an ‘immediate full embargo’ on Russian oil, gas and coal. European leaders in Brussels, as well as the governments of France, Italy, Poland and the Baltics are all on board to go further in sanctioning Russian energy. Germany is reluctant to move too quickly on energy, even seeking to delay the moment a full ban on Russian coal imports comes into force. But, even in Berlin, there’s a growing acceptance that paying Putin for oil will have to stop eventually. When it comes to Hungary, however, the obstacle remains firm.”
Elsewhere, Politico reports that the US Senate and House passed bills yesterday “to revoke normal trade relations with Russia and ban oil imports from the country, a one-two punch that caps three weeks of negotiations over legislation to further isolate Moscow”. And Bloomberg notes that “Russia’s oil output dropped the most in almost two years in early April as some buyers looked elsewhere for their energy supplies following the invasion of Ukraine”.
Bloomberg also reports that “talks to safeguard UK energy security by keeping some coal-fired power plants open through next winter have just got a lot harder after Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to ban Russian supplies”. It continues: “Johnson unveiled a new round of Russia sanctions on Wednesday following allegations this week of atrocities by Moscow’s forces in Ukraine. The new measures include a plan to end all imports of Russian coal and oil by the end of the year. While the UK has been reducing its coal burn for years as it transitions to cleaner energies, natural gas shortages meant Britain had to rely more on the dirtiest fossil fuel to keep the lights on.”
The Cambo oil field near the UK’s Shetland Islands could now be developed after the owner of the field was bought by another energy firm, reports BBC News. It continues: “Siccar Point Energy – which put the project on hold when Shell pulled out – has now been acquired by Ithaca Energy in a $1.5bn (£1.125bn) deal. The new company has pledged to develop Cambo and the nearby Rosebank field.” Ithaca’s chief executive Alan Bruce said Cambo and Rosebank were “two of the largest undeveloped and most strategically important discoveries” in UK waters Bruce added that developing the fields was a “huge opportunity to not only help secure the UK’s energy future for at least another quarter of a century, but also to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs in the process”. BBC News notes that he Cambo field “is thought to contain 800m barrels of oil, but its development has not yet received final approval from UK government regulators”. The Financial Times also has the story.
Meanwhile, the Independent reports that Just Stop Oil activists “hacksawed” their way into UK’s largest inland terminal in Warwickshire last night and chained themselves to pipes.
Reuters says that a new report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “has highlighted” the need for China to “accelerate its shift towards clean and low-carbon energy”. The newswire points out that the IPCC report puts “China’s efforts to decarbonise its coal-heavy energy system – and its renewed emphasis on energy security – under the spotlight”. It writes: “China, which produces about a third of global annual emissions, has not officially responded to the IPCC report, and media coverage has been scant. Chinese researchers who helped draft the report also declined to comment.” A separate Reuters report says that China intends to “steadily control” exports of “some” high carbon petrochemical products, according to its Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The newswire notes that the news comes as the country “strives to deal with climate change”.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that “officials” in the Inner Mongolian city of Ordos – which the outlet describes as the “biggest coal mining hub in China” producing “more of the fuel than any other country in the world” – has approved a “massive” mine. It says that the mine can produce “15m tonnes annually and operate for nearly 97 years”. The piece writes that the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) – China’s top economic planner – approved the project in 2019, and the mine started operation “before obtaining local permits”, according to a report on China Coal Resources. Bloomberg adds that the license from Ordos now allows it to produce “legally”, highlighting that China “wants miners to boost output and enhance energy security”.
Separately, China’s Energy magazine says that the country’s coal power industry met its “darkest moment yet” in 2021 in an article that analyses the causes of the power shortages last year. The publication explains that due to China’s unique pricing system for power, “the more electricity [coal power plants] produced, the more money they lost, and the entire industry suffered financial losses”. It says that the root cause for the phenomenon lies in the fact that the prices for coal were determined by the market while the prices for electricity were controlled by the government. Elsewhere, a report on Huaxia Energy Website says that China’s five “major” power generation groups suffered “huge losses of nearly 30bn yuan ($4.7bn) in 2021”, according to the financial reports from these companies.
Eleven countries said yesterday that the European Union nations should speed up negotiations on new climate change policies and also increase the ambition of those proposals to quit Russian fossil fuels as soon as possible, reports Reuters. According to Der Spiegel, Germany and 10 other EU countries want to bring forward “the climate package of the alliance of states”, and that according to the plan, the EU would use about 30% less gas by 2030. In the statement, the countries say: “This is the key to making the EU fit for energy independence from Russian fossil fuels and the only way to deal with the climate crisis.”
Elsewhere in Europe, Germany’s Handelsblatt reports that the energy minister of the Netherlands, Rob Jetten, has announced an increase in gas production in the North Sea which increases the pressure on Germany to accept new funding projects. The outlet quotes Jetten: “In an ideal world, we would not develop any new gas fields in the North Sea. But the situation makes it necessary.” Bild reports that German vice-chancellor Robert Habeck has met resistance from Free Democrats on the question of using only “green” electricity by 2035. Michael Kruse, energy policy spokesman for the Free Democrats, tells Bild: “It was agreed in the coalition agreement that electricity production should be climate neutral from 2045. I think it is unrealistic that we will reach this goal 10 years earlier.“ And Die Welt reports that climate activists of the “Last Generation” initiative are planning “new disruptive actions for next Monday: in Frankfurt, streets and bank buildings are to be blocked to protest against the continued use of fossil fuels”.
In related comment, in a piece for German’s Die Zeit, Jan Guldner and Jurik Caspar Iser look at whether Germany should abandon Russian coal. They write: “German coal importers brought a total of 38.7m tonnes of hard coal to Germany in 2021. Around 20m tonnes were mined in Russia. According to data from the Federal Statistical Office, 2m tonnes of Russian hard coal were added in January 2022 alone.” However, the authors underscore that, according to the ministry’s so-called progress report on energy security, “dependence on Russia for coal will drop from 50% to around 25% in the next few weeks”. This will take effect step by step from April, they says, adding: “Germany can be independent of Russian coal by autumn.”
Analysis by Susanne Götze for Germany’s Der Spiegel says that Robert Habeck “presented the first comprehensive package of laws to move away from fossil fuels: instead of nuclear power, gas and coal, only electricity from wind, sun and biomass will soon flow through the German grid”. Götze describes the contents of the government’s “Easter package”, which includes “expansion of offshore wind energy, adding 10 GW of onshore wind, the annual expansion rate of solar energy is set to increase to 22 gigawatts”. Götze assesses whether Germany can achieve the fall of CO2 emissions by at least 65% by 2030 compared to 1990 – now just 8 years and 8 months away.
Finally, France’s Le Monde carries an editorial about the new IPCC report which says: “Changing our behaviour – toward energy consumption, food, transportation and housing – as well as decarbonising the industrial sector will require huge financial transfers. Collectively, we can afford the costs of this transition.” And Le Monde has also published an opinion piece by economists Cédric Durand and Etienne Espagne under the headline: “The war in Ukraine is the death knell for the price of carbon.”
Half of all new cars rolling off forecourts must be fully electric-powered by 2028 under UK government plans to accelerate the shift away from petrol and diesel, reports the Daily Telegraph. The paper continues: “The Department for Transport has proposed legally binding annual targets that manufacturers will be forced to meet before 2035, when no new hybrid or petrol vehicles will be allowed to be sold. The scheme would start in 2024, when manufacturers would have to sell all-electric cars accounting for 22% of the total, rising to 52% in 2028 and 80% in 2030. In response, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said that new rules “must encourage consumers to purchase, not just compel manufacturers to produce”, the paper repors. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “The danger is that consumers will lack the incentive to purchase these new vehicles – vehicles that will remain more expensive than traditional petrol and diesel cars for a number of years to come – in the quantities needed, keeping their older, more polluting vehicles for even longer thereby undermining the carbon savings this regulation seeks to deliver.”
The UK government’s new energy security strategy amounts to “little more than a glorified press release”, says a Times editorial. The “eye-catching announcement” of eight new nuclear power plants offers “no analysis of why Britain had succeeded in starting construction on just one new reactor in the 16 years since Tony Blair announced a nuclear renaissance”, the paper says, adding: “What is certain is this new nuclear programme will not bring energy bills down any time soon, if ever. Instead it will push bills up as the costs of construction are passed on to consumers. Nor will it do much in the near term to reduce Britain’s reliance on Russian oil and gas given that it takes at least a decade to build a nuclear power station.” A “big expansion of renewables” could achieve these aims – as well as help meet emissions targets, the paper says, but “here too the ‘strategy’ was light on detail”. Yet, “what was most striking about the strategy was what was left out”, the paper concludes: “It had little to say about reducing energy demand, despite acknowledging in the introduction that improving energy efficiency is “the first step” towards meeting the objectives. What is needed are innovative policies to accelerate domestic insulation and take-up of clean technologies, such as heat pumps and rooftop solar, by reducing the expense for homeowners and allow the costs to be recouped via energy bills. Instead the government has left improving energy efficiency up to individual households. That is not a strategy. It’s a cop-out.”
An editorial in the Financial Times is similarly critical, noting: “By backing away from targets for the cheapest and fastest forms of new generation – especially onshore wind – the plans do little to enhance short-term security. And new measures to raise energy efficiency and reduce overall consumption are largely absent.” The FT is more positive on the plans for nuclear and offshore wind, but the “most glaring gap”, it says, “is the lack of initiatives to cut energy use”. The paper concludes: “The Treasury is understandably resistant to new spending…Yet such investment would have huge long-term benefits. An insulation effort starting with the neediest households could reduce energy costs long-term, unlike one-off help with bills. With signs that the war in Ukraine has made consumers more willing to turn down thermostats and lag their lofts, failure to follow up with ambitious efficiency plans would be a big missed opportunity.”
A Guardian editorial also points to the “missed opportunities” in the strategy, warning that it “carries some of the hallmarks of his flawed government: a prime ministerial penchant for grands projets that may or may not be deliverable; a tendency to be unduly influenced by vocal lobby groups on the right of the Conservative party; and a propensity to set targets without doing the necessary work to enable them to be met”. The government has missed a “golden chance” to fund “greater energy efficiency and better insulation in Britain’s leaky housing stock”, the paper says, despite “the relief this would afford the less well-off in particular”.
An editorial in the Daily Telegraph warns that “our fixation with net-zero carries great risk”, noting that the government’s “tendency to appease environmental activists has prevented it from taking more radical measures in the short term, including lifting the moratorium on fracking now”. It adds: “It is all very well setting ambitious targets and goals, but much greater thought is needed on how they can be achieved without further loading consumers and businesses with extra cost. A lot of faith is also being placed in new technologies that promise no damage to living standards while shifting us away from fossil fuels. Let us hope that those technologies can actually deliver the goods.”
The Sun‘s editorial welcomes the plans for new nuclear plants, but adds: “we’ll believe those only when we see them”. The paper says that nuclear is “vital to any net-zero future in a country where wind and sun are intermittent, even though vastly increasing our solar and wind capacity makes sound sense too”. The paper adds that “we will need more home-produced oil and gas from the North Sea” and “a successful review into fracking’s safety will help hugely too. The sooner we get on with it the better”. However, the paper warns of three problems: “eco extremists”, “NIMBYs” and Tory MPs being “far more terrified of voters than of government whips”. These all risk “paralysis” for the strategy, the paper says, suggesting that “Boris Johnson must convince the public, perhaps via Covid-style TV broadcasts, why it is so badly needed”.
A Daily Mail editorial urges Johnson to be “as bold on energy as he has been in the ‘war on woke’”. The paper says “it is vital we ignore the shrieks of eco-warriors and exploit every drop of oil and gas beneath the North Sea”, adding: “Remaining pointlessly hamstrung by green dogma means remaining perilously reliant for energy on unpalatable regimes.”
Finally, a gushing editorial in the Daily Express (via Press Reader) says: “The good news is that plentiful and affordable clean energy is within our reach, and it would be foolish not to grasp this opportunity.” It adds: “Britain now has an energy strategy to ensure we can keep the lights on while avoiding dependency on dictators. The country will harness a broad range of energy sources, with nuclear and offshore wind playing vital roles. This will allow us to slash carbon emissions while ensuring security of supply.”
In further reaction to the UK government’s energy security strategy, Financial Times business columnist Helen Thomas writes that the plan has “taken weeks of government wrangling”, but has produced an “insipid effort”. She continues: “The result has been hobbled by penny-pinching at the Treasury, which apparently can’t get itself on to a war footing even when there is a land war in Europe. It has also been gutted by the myopia of backbenchers, who can only see as far as a constituency view to which they wrongly presume voters would be aghast to add a wind turbine. It is heavy on grandiose long-term targets for nuclear, wind and hydrogen, and light on anything that would make a difference in the near term on security, climate or bills.” Overall, says Thomas, the plan “flunks on two basic issues: demand and delivery”. It is “bizarre and self-defeating not to tackle energy efficiency head-on”, she says: “On a basic level, if the government is putting money into big, shiny projects like nuclear, it should also want to stop the expensive electricity produced leaking unnecessarily out of draughty windows.” The strategy was “not bold”, concludes Thomas, and “failed to connect the dots between energy affordability, security and the climate transition”. BBC News energy and environment analyst Roger Harrabin also notes that “there’s wide agreement among environmentalists, energy experts and opposition parties that the UK needs a huge insulation programme to save houses leaking heat”. But, he says, the plan “offers no new incentives for that”, adding: “A Downing Street source told me it was an energy supply strategy – not a demand strategy – even though experts point out that these are two sides of the same coin.”
In other reaction, the i newspaper‘s chief political commentator Paul Waugh follows up on his outlet’s exclusive on departmental disagreements (see earlier news section), warning that “there’s no question that Partygate has made Johnson a prisoner of his MPs and his cabinet”. He adds: “Rishi Sunak’s refusal to back Kwarteng’s plan to offer more energy bill rebates this spring…confirms the Treasury still has lots of sway.” Bloomberg journalist Jess Shankleman writes that Boris Johnson’s “bold nuclear bet has echoes of Thatcher failure”. She continues: “In the 1980s, then UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher proposed constructing a nuclear power station every year for a decade. In the end, only the Sizewell B plant was built…Decades after Thatcher’s bold nuclear bet, the industry remains beset by delays and cost overruns.” BBC News business editor Simon Jack says “above all, this is a plan to secure future supply rather than reduce demand”. He writes: “Policies to reduce household and business consumption are largely limited to tax breaks to introduce privately funded energy saving measures. To its advocates it’s the moment when the government called time on a decade of drift in energy policy, to its critics it’s a plan full of reheated ideas that has come too late.” And in an analysis piece, Times energy editor Emily Gosden says: “The objectives may be admirable, but actual proposals appear sorely lacking. In the near term, the strategy offers almost nothing new to ease the pain for households struggling with their bills. In the longer term, it sets a number of extremely ambitious targets for green technologies without any detailed plans for achieving them.”
Elsewhere, the Daily Telegraph’s international business editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says that, despite several caveats, “I nevertheless applaud the government’s plan”. He writes: “Industrial renewal creates its own virtuous circle, and continental Europe is going to need copious imports of clean energy for a long time. Whether ministers will actually deliver what they promise is another matter.” Less impressed is Labour’s shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband, who writes in the Independent that the strategy “has failed on all counts”. He continues: “Over 12 short pages, the document offers virtually nothing that will tackle the cost of living crisis people face – not just in the next year, but in the next decade. Instead, we have a series of vague targets, distant plans, and very notable omissions.” Making a similar point, writer Eleanor Salter says in the Guardian that the strategy is “a mash of promised policies which don’t tackle the issue of energy security”. She writes: “Without seriously contemplating a reduction in our energy demand or fast-tracking renewables, the strategy simply does not address what it was created for in the first place – ending dependence on a belligerent Russia, and bringing down eye-watering bills. Instead, the ragged Tory consensus is to deliver high-intensity infrastructure at some indefinite point in the future, and a failure to rise to the urgency required on energy for both people and planet.” The Independent’s Harry Cockburn says the strategy is “a complete shambles”, adding: “This proposal utterly fails on its own terms: It won’t cut emissions as fast as it could and certainly won’t help those facing terrifying rises to bills.” Finally, the Sun publishes an opinion piece by John Constable, energy editor of the campaign arm of the climate-sceptic lobby group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). Constable writes that “in spite of a few positive aspects, it is uninvestable, unaffordable and impractical”. (The Daily Express also carries a full-page opinion piece by climate sceptic Ross Clark, which is not online.)
Finally, the Times Red Box has an opinion piece by Ed Birkett, Onward’s head of energy and climate, under the headline: “A bold energy strategy won’t help households in the short term.” And a further piece by Stephen Brown, chief executive of Orcadian, under the headline: “Three things to make the energy strategy work.”
A new study shows that the reported benefits of climate change on wheat production in cool regions of the world may be partially offset by the decrease in insulation provided by accumulated snow. Researchers use statistical models to analyse how snowpack insulation made wheat yields less sensitive to freezing temperatures over the period from 1999-2019. They find that snowpack reduces the yield sensitivity by almost one-quarter. Looking to the future, they project that the diminished snowpack will offset up to one-third of the benefits gained from the decrease in frost damage that comes with the warming climate. They write that these insulation factors must be “explicitly considered” in predicting climate impacts on winter wheat crops.
An influx of freshwater to the North Atlantic Ocean thousands of years ago had only “muted” effects on the strength of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) – a large-scale ocean current that plays a significant role in climate – according to new research. Researchers use palaeoclimate data and models of past climate to understand how ice melt influenced AMOC following the last deglaciation. They find that despite a large addition of freshwater to the North Atlantic nearly 12,000 years ago, the circulation remained “stable and strong”, as an accompanying perspective piece puts it. The authors note that their results suggest the circulation “may not be as sensitive to [freshwater] fluxes” as previously thought. (For more on AMOC, see Carbon Brief’s guest post from 2020.)