Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Every weekday morning, in time for your morning coffee, Carbon Brief sends out a free email known as the “Daily Briefing” to thousands of subscribers around the world. The email is a digest of the past 24 hours of media coverage related to climate change and energy, as well as our pick of the key studies published in peer-reviewed journals.
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- California to ban the sale of new gasoline cars
- UK: Fracking ‘could ease soaring energy bills if given immediate green light’
- China’s power supply, energy structure tested in extreme drought amid transition to cleaner energy future
- Germany hypes green hydrogen alliance while shopping for Canadian fossil gas
- Google change reduces airline emissions calculations
- Stop quibbling and start building the solar future we need
- Losing your neighborhood to climate change is sometimes necessary
- Increased energy use for adaptation significantly impacts mitigation pathways
- Recent climate change has driven divergent hydrological shifts in high-latitude peatlands
The New York Times reports that regulators in California will vote today “to put in place a sweeping plan to restrict and ultimately ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars”. Gavin Newsom, the state’s governor, describes the move as the “beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine”. The newspaper adds: “The new policy, detailed Wednesday morning in a news conference, is widely expected to accelerate the global transition toward electric vehicles. Not only is California the largest auto market in the US, but more than a dozen other states typically follow California’s lead when setting their own auto emissions standards. If those states follow through, and most are expected to adopt similar rules, the restrictions would apply to about a third of the US auto market.” It also quotes Margo Oge, an electric vehicles expert who headed the US Environmental Protection Agency’s transportation emissions program under various presidents: “This is huge.”
The Washington Post says “California is set to move closer to banning the sale of new cars running only on gasoline by 2035, a major step in the car-loving state’s fight against climate change”. It adds: “The proposed regulation would set strict deadlines for meeting that goal, forcing automakers to step up production of cleaner vehicles considerably, starting in 2026. The requirements would only speed forward from there, until only zero-emission passenger cars, pickup trucks and SUVs as well as a limited number of plug-in hybrids are allowed to be sold in the state by 2035…The state’s move does not ban the sale of any used vehicles. And owners of old-fashioned gas guzzlers will still be able to drive California’s roadways.” CNN quotes Daniel Sperling, a member of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), who will vote on the measure: “This is monumental. This is the most important thing that CARB has done in the last 30 years. It’s important not just for California, but it’s important for the country and the world.”
Meanwhile, CNBC covers research published this week in Nature Communications showing that “Americans care about climate change, but don’t think that their peers care about it as much as they do”.
The Daily Telegraph claims, via an unnamed source, that the Treasury will “tell the new prime minister” that fracking should be given the green light “immediately” to “ease bills next winter”. It reports: “Whitehall officials are drawing up a ‘three winter’ strategy to help families with soaring energy costs between now and 2025, the Telegraph understands. They are working on options including short-, medium- and long-term proposals that will be presented to Downing Street early next month. Work is under way to determine which measure could be rolled out immediately and in place this autumn, when the energy price cap will rise to over £3,600. Treasury officials are also examining ways in which the UK’s energy supply could be bolstered in time for next winter.” The newspaper quotes a “senior government source” saying: “There is even one fracking company who reckons they could even get some energy into the market by next winter if they were allowed to get cracking straight away.” The paper continues: “The firm, based in the north of England, has told the Treasury that, if it is granted a fracking licence immediately, it is likely to be able to inject new supplies into the market by January.” [Gas produced in the UK is sold on international markets and would not bring down local prices – unless, possibly, the sector was, say, nationalised.] Elsewhere in the newspaper, it advises its readers on the “energy-saving upgrades worth the investment” which include installing solar panels and insulation. A separate article (which was among the most popular on the newspaper’s website yesterday) is headlined: “Installing solar panels will have the shortest pay off period on record.” BusinessGreen reports that “UK-based [Google] searches for solar panels hit their highest ever level last week as daily temperatures again reached 30C”.
Meanwhile, in other UK news, the Financial Times reports that “environmental campaigners have launched a legal challenge against the government’s food strategy for England, arguing its lack of plans to cut meat and dairy consumption breaks laws, including the Climate Change Act”. Channel 4 News has analysed the accounts of four of Europe’s largest oil and gas companies – BP, Shell, TotalEnergies and Equinor – and revealed that the “big energy companies are investing the equivalent of 5% of their record profits in green projects”.
Separately, the Times reports that “imports from Russia have been almost completely cut off by the introduction of sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine, with Britain buying no fuel from the country in June for the first time on record”. BBC News says that “rain could become Wales’ oil of the future if moves to send water to drought-stricken parts of England are realised, an expert has said”. The Daily Telegraph reports that “Britain’s last fertiliser plant is to temporarily stop ammonia production, risking a major shortage of carbon dioxide across the country”. And BusinessGreen notes that Conservative leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak has pledged to “turbocharge” home insulation rollout to “cut energy bills and support climate goals”, if he becomes prime minister next month (which is currently looking very unlikely according to polling).
Finally, the MailOnline reports on official figures that reveal “more than 1,500 extra deaths took place in England and Wales during July’s heatwaves – as the UK set a new record for night temperatures across the month”.
China’s Global Times writes that, as the “rare triple-dip” La Nina “treks the globe leaving behind it extreme weather phenomena and disasters”, some regions in southern China are experiencing a “severe drought that only happens once in decades”, which has challenged the country’s power supply and storage system. An expert who preferred to remain anonymous is quoted saying that China has built an “advanced” power supply system which can “meet consumption demands most of the time, but, in the face of extreme weather conditions, it is still hard to meet the demand”. The state-run newspaper writes that the current wave of developing renewables has become a “temporary challenge to ensure the balance of supply and demand of electricity in real time, especially during peak electricity consumption”. It adds that hydropower is not yet able to withstand the effects of extreme weather and new energy sources are “far from enough” to cope with extreme weather.
Meanwhile, a Bloomberg article, titled “China’s fragile economy is being hammered by driest riverbeds since 1865”, says that, with climate change “likely to deliver more frequent and persistent heatwaves and droughts”, the current “outages raise longer-term questions about China’s reliance on hydropower”. It is the country’s “largest source of clean energy that accounted for about 18% power generation in 2020”, according to BloombergNEF. The outlet says that the current situation is “expected to be less painful than last year as the strictest measures have largely been limited to Sichuan”, which comprises “just 5% of the country’s GDP”, adding that “still, it could pose a risk to the sputtering $18tn economy”. A separate Bloomberg article quotes Charles Hart, a commodities analyst at Fitch Solutions, saying “the impact of adverse weather conditions at the present time will weaken mainland China’s net food balance in the current harvest cycle”, adding that “the autumn harvest represents roughly three-quarters of total grain production and thus will determine whether or not China achieves its goal of 650m tonnes of output”. Additionally, Reuters reports that “damage to crops and water scarcity could ‘spread to other food-related sectors, resulting in a substantial price increase or a food crisis in the most severe case’”, quoting Lin Zhong, a professor at City University of Hong Kong.
In other news about the heatwave, Reuters carries an article, titled “China’s shrinking ‘kidney’ lake lays bare growing climate challenges”, which focuses on China’s biggest freshwater lake, Poyang. The Washington Post says China’s summer heatwave is “breaking all records”. Bloomberg carries a comment piece headlined: “China’s hydro power cuts could herald a Himalayan-scale crisis for rivers, dams”. Finally, China Dialogue has published a “roundtable” on the “implications” of the US and China “suspending” climate cooperation.
After meeting with Germany’s leader Olaf Scholz, Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau has announced Canada will work towards exporting green hydrogen to Germany by 2025, reports Climate Home News. The outlet calls this move a distraction from “Germany’s push to buy non-Russian fossil gas”. It says the prospect of green hydrogen exports has been described by energy experts as “unrealistic”. Bloomberg New Energy Finance founder Michael Liebreich is quoted calling the alliance “hilarious”, adding that “no more than homeopathic quantities of [hydrogen] will ever move by ship”. Electrical engineering professor Arvind Ravikumar is quoted as saying: “This is more an LNG export deal than a hydrogen one, at least in the short term…because transporting [liquified hydrogen] like [liquified natural gas] is an expensive, leaky and uneconomic endeavour”. During the trip, Scholz also urged Trudeau’s government to build shipping terminals on its east coast to export LNG to Europe, CHN reports. Die Zeit says that the hydrogen is to be generated primarily by wind power in the Canadian Atlantic provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and then shipped across the Atlantic to Germany as ammonia. Deutsche Welle adds that a train line not far from Hamburg will start operating exclusively with hydrogen-powered trains, using a fleet of 14 produced by French company Alstom.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that, to reduce the dependency of Germany’s economy on Russian gas, “Germany’s government has approved a bylaw restricting the heating of public buildings and banning illuminated advertising hoardings, in an effort to save energy and tackle soaring energy costs”. It says the legislation will come into force in just over a week and will initially remain in place for six months. Der Spiegel reports that the federal cabinet has passed an ordinance requiring that “energy carrier transport by rail and the rail-bound transport of large transformers” will be given priority on the rail network to ensure that coal, oil and other means of production reach the power plants and refineries quickly enough in an emergency. However, federal transport minister Volker Wissing is quoted saying that “this can also mean that passenger trains have to wait”. Companies such as Uniper SE have have faced difficulties getting enough coal to keep power plants fully operating, says Bloomberg. And Reuters has an “exclusive” based on a document it has seen showing that “Germany’s government is concerned about possible problems with the coal supply for power plants in the autumn and winter due to low water levels on the river Rhine and the oil supply in eastern parts of the country”.
Elsewhere in German news, Die Zeit reports that the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party wants to stop a gas levy of 2.419 cents per kilowatt hour saying that it was “crafted extremely poorly” and is also “antisocial”. Der Spiegel adds that, according to the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), the gas levy should only help companies threatened with bankruptcy.
Finally, in the first six months of this year, Germany saw a 22% jump in the installation of solar systems, compared with the same period last year, according to data shared with CNN by the German Solar Association. “This [demand] has only gotten stronger with the war against Ukraine, which is happening on our doorstep,” David Wedepohl, managing director of the German Solar Association, tells the outlet. And, in wider European news, Reuters says that “European power prices are surging to fresh records as France grapples with lower nuclear output, adding further pressure to wholesale energy markets already struggling with vastly lower Russian gas supply”.
The way Google “calculates the climate impact of your flights has changed”, reports BBC News. It continues: “Your flights now appear to have much less impact on the environment than they did before. That’s because the world’s biggest search engine has taken a key driver of global warming out of its online carbon flight calculator. ‘Google has airbrushed a huge chunk of the aviation industry’s climate impacts from its pages,’ says Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist of Greenpeace. With Google hosting nine out of every 10 online searches, this could have wide repercussions for people’s travel decisions. The company said it made the change following consultations with its ‘industry partners’.” The article explains that, in July, Google decided to exclude all the global warming impacts of flying except CO2. Some experts have told BBC News that Google Flight’s calculations now represent just over half of the real impact on the climate of flights. “It now significantly understates the global impact of aviation on the climate”, says Prof David Lee of Manchester Metropolitan University, the author of the most comprehensive scientific assessment of the contribution of air travel to global warming. BBC News adds: “Google told the BBC it ‘strongly believes’ that non-CO2 effects of aviation should be included in its calculations. It says it recognises that at the global scale they are a significant additional impact of flying. But it argues the company’s priority is the ‘accuracy of the individual flight estimates’ it provides to its consumers. It says it is working with academics to better understand how contrails and other warming impacts affect specific flights.”
Writing in the Times’s Thunderer column, chief reporter Sean O’Neill argues that the two candidates to be the next UK prime minister, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, are “displaying staggering ignorance” and “pandering to the whingeing nimbys in their tiny electorate” by expressing casting doubt about solar farms. He says: “Here we sit in the drought-stricken summer of 2022 with a looming cost of living crisis and an environmental emergency, both caused by the soaring price and polluting effects of fossil fuels, and the people vying to be prime minister are flatly rejecting the clean energy the nation needs…Planning guidance states solar farms can be installed only on lower-grade farmland. Better-quality farmland would be ridiculously expensive for solar energy firms. It is also simply misleading for these potential PMs to imply that our farmland is being endangered by the alien march of solar panels. Indeed, according to their own government’s 2021 food security report, it is not solar panels but the very danger they aim to tackle — climate change — that is the biggest threat to the future viability of agricultural land…If the candidates don’t want solar farms in our fields, let’s come up with alternatives. Perhaps we should target golf courses, those huge expanses of unproductive land given over to a dreary sport. I wonder how Tory members would feel about that.”
Meanwhile, an editorial in the Sun highlights that Shell and BP are making “scandalously vast war profits since Putin strangled the oil supply”. It adds: “Those who still oppose the windfall tax in these truly exceptional circumstances should think again.” It goes on to say that “thanks to NIMBYs, we can’t build enough homes or power plants, nor approve a single reservoir, nor extract shale gas crucial to our energy security”.
Writing in the New York Times, the authors of the book, “Soaking the middle class: Suburban inequality and recovery from disaster”, say “we believe managed retreat must become more common so communities can avoid the worst consequences of climate changes”. They add: “Efforts to expand managed retreat won’t be easy. But any costs for supporting managed retreat will ultimately be made up in savings from not having to repair homes that are just going to flood again and again.”
Also in the New York Times, columnist David Wallace-Wells ponders the “smoke-filled future” of America’s west: “Just a few years ago, fire scientists thought that the burn scars of all these megafires and gigafires might help check future spread, theorising that it would take a while for the landscape to recover and that what would grow back could prove less flammable than what burned originally. But that impact appears to be quite small. Patches of forest that burned just in the past decade are now burning again already and sending off smoke.”
Finally, an editorial in the Los Angeles Times argues that “California can’t count on Diablo Canyon’s nuclear power, so it should spend now on renewables”.
The energy needs for efforts to adapt to climate change “increase considerably over time and with warming”, a new study says. The researchers “quantify the impacts of adaptation actions entailing direct changes in final energy use on energy investments and costs, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution”. In the short-to-medium term, much of the additional power generation capacity for these energy needs is fossil-fuel based, the researchers say. Accounting for this “adaptation-energy feedback” in mitigation pathways “would require a higher global carbon price, between 5% and 30% higher”, the study finds.
A new study reconstructs the hydrological conditions of the world’s high-latitude peatlands all the way back to the 17th century. The researchers assess proxy data derived from testate amoeba – tiny, single-celled organisms found in a range of wetlands and soils – from 103 high-latitude peat archives. The findings show that 54% of the peatlands have been drying and 32% have been wetting since the 17th century, the study says. This illustrates “the complex ecohydrological dynamics of high latitude peatlands and their highly uncertain responses to a warming climate, the authors say.