Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Cambridge provisionally set new UK highest temperature record on Thursday
- European Investment Bank proposes end to fossil fuel lending
- 'Unprecedented': more than 100 Arctic wildfires burn in worst ever season
- French utility EDF says Flamanville will be delayed for at least three years
- Extreme weather has damaged nearly half Australia's marine ecosystems since 2011
- Electricity bills could double to bail out new wind farms, report claims
- Trains must run in heat
- Arch-Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom must get down to business in a hostile climate
- Climate change is a winning campaign issue — and President Trump knows it
- The Guardian view on Amazon deforestation: Europe must act to prevent disaster
- Intensification of hot Eurasian summers by climate change and land-atmosphere interactions
- Learning from the climate change debate to avoid polarisation on negative emissions
The Met Office says a provisional UK record high temperature was recorded during last week’s heatwave, reports Reuters. A reading of 38.7C (101.7F) was taken at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden in Cambridge, beating the existing record of 38.5C from Faversham, southeast England, in August 2003. The new reading will “not be declared official until experts ensured that the thermometer at the site was in full working order and no external influences could have affected the reading”, says the Times. The Met Office has already sent out an engineer to inspect the station and its equipment, notes BBC News, and the Observer says that “most experts expect the reading will stand as a new record”. Reuters also reports that temperatures in the Netherlands on Thursday surpassed 40C for the first time on record, and another Reuters piece says temperature records also fell in Germany and France last week. The Independent, Metro, Sun, Mirror, Daily Express, HuffPost and ITV News all carry similar coverage. The New York Times says that “officials across Europe have been scrambling to come up with measures to protect desperate residents in places that never even had the need for air-conditioning before”, and notes in a second piece that “that sweltering Europeans are rethinking their views on air-conditioning”. Quartz also notes that “the hotter it gets, the more electricity people use to run fans, air-conditioners, or freezers.” Carbon Brief published a guest post last week on how “unmanaged cooling growth could cause a surge in greenhouse gas emissions and hamper our ability to manage global warming”.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) has proposed that it will stop funding new fossil fuel-reliant projects by the end of 2020, according to a draft of the EU lending arm’s new energy strategy seen by Reuters. It says the wording of the plan suggests the development bank would phase out support to energy projects that were “reliant on fossil fuels: oil and gas production, infrastructure primarily dedicated to natural gas, power generation or heat-based on fossil fuels”. The EIB board, which is made up mostly of EU finance ministers, is expected to discuss the proposals at a meeting in September, though a final decision could take longer, notes Reuters. The bank will set up an energy transitions fund to support projects which help EU member states to transition to a cleaner economy, says the Guardian, noting that the draft strategy say that “this transition will be profound. Solidarity is required to ensure that potentially vulnerable groups or regions are supported”. Bloomberg and Climate Home News also have the story.
Since the start of June, more than 100 wildfires have burned in the Arctic circle, reports the Guardian, which warns that the “Arctic is suffering its worst wildfire season on record”. “Huge blazes in Greenland, Siberia and Alaska [are] producing plumes of smoke that can be seen from space”, the Guardian says, noting that the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has called the Arctic fires “unprecedented”. While Arctic wildfires are common at this time of year, says BBC News, “the intensity of these fires, as well as the large area they have taken up, make these unusual”. The “extremely dry ground and hotter than average temperatures, combined with heat, lightning and strong winds, have caused the fires to spread aggressively”, the article notes. The Daily Telegraph reports that “mostly in Alaska and Russia, the infernos have collectively released more than 120 million tonnes of CO2, more than the annual output of most countries. ” The Guardian also has a video of the fires.
EDF’s project to build a new nuclear reactor in Flamanville in France will be delayed by at least three years by problems with the weldings, reports Reuters. On Friday, EDF said that it is reviewing “three different scenarios to upgrade the penetration welds” that it had been instructed by the nuclear watchdog to repair, reports the Financial Times. However, the company warned that “at this stage, commissioning [of the plant] cannot be expected before the end of 2022”. Flamanville is just one of three projects being built in Europe using the next-generation “European Pressurised Reactor” technology, notes the FT: “The other two are the Olkiluoto project in Finland, which is more than a decade late, and the UK’s Hinkley Point, which is mired in controversy over its high costs.” At the same time, writing in the Observer, Guardian energy correspondent Jillian Ambrose argues that a proposed new funding model for new nuclear in the UK would mean “Britons will twice shoulder the risk of building new nuclear reactors”.
New research shows that extreme climate events such as heatwaves, floods and drought have damaged 45% of the marine ecosystems along Australia’s coast in a seven-year period, the Guardian reports. The study shows that more than 8,000km of Australia’s coast was affected by extreme climate events from 2011 to 2017, and in some cases they caused irreversible changes to marine habitats, the article adds. Elsewhere, the Guardian carries an interview with James Marape – the new prime minster of Papua New Guinea – who says Australia has “a moral responsibility” to protect the Pacific region from the impacts of climate change. And the Daily Telegraph interviews “a young marine biologist from Essex” whose research is hoping to “save the embattled Great Barrier Reef”.
A story on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph picks up on a press release from climate-sceptic lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which claims that the companies currently building a 950 megawatt offshore windfarm – Moray East off the northeast coast of Scotland – will not be able to make money at the low price agreed in their government contract to generate electricity for £57.50 per megawatt hour. According to the Sunday Telegraph, the GWPF says this means the firms must be planning to “tear up large numbers of banknotes” or to default on their contract and assume the government “will force through a large increase in the wholesale price of electricity” instead. [The GWPF comes to this conclusion by assuming that the project cannot possibly generate as much electricity each year as assumed by the project developers or the government. The project is being developed by French utility ENGIE, which says it is the largest independent electricity producer in the world, along with Portuguese firm EDP Renewables.]
“The travel chaos which accompanied yesterday’s record temperatures must act as a warning to all those in charge of the transport network,” says an editorial in Friday’s London Evening Standard. The disruption was a “disappointingly predictable example of this country’s infrastructure failing to cope in extreme weather”, it says, warning that “solutions are needed because as global warming bites what now seems freak weather looks likely to become more frequent”. Also reflecting on last week’s heatwave, the Capital Weather Gang of the Washington Post writes that “[H]eat of this magnitude is impressive, But a heatwave demolishing records by such an obscene margin over such a large area? Virtually unprecedented.” Analysing the temperature records that were broken across Europe, the article notes that “even a seemingly small shift in the global average temperature can spur disproportionately large changes in the likelihood and intensity of temperature extremes”. Elsewhere, Reuters climate correspondent Matthew Green writes that the “foretaste of a radically hotter world underscored what is at stake in a decisive phase of talks to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement”, and Guardian columnist Arwa Mahdawi says that “what makes this extreme weather even more uncomfortable is the grim realisation that we have done this to ourselves”.
Robert Lea and Emily Gosden – industrial and energy editor of the Times, respectively – ponder the “widely awaited” plans for energy policy from Andrea Leadsom, the newly appointed secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS). “On energy she has become a leading climate change believer,” they write. Asked directly by the Times, “Mrs Leadsom did not specifically commit to the existing industrial strategy but pledged herself to ‘net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 [and] embracing the technological revolution’”. However, she does hold “an apparently contradictory view in supporting fracking – hydraulic fracturing of rock to access hydrocarbons deep underground – but explains: ‘I support fracking as a part of our diverse energy mix and as a bridge to a carbon neutral future’”. Leadsom “also supports new nuclear but only backs onshore wind where there is local communities’ support”, they note. Elsewhere, Tim Wallace – deputy economics editor of the Daily Telegraph – writes that “much of the infrastructure investment she has backed so far includes public transport schemes and electric buses for the north of England, seeking to meet the twin goals of boosting the economy while keeping emissions down.” Wallace also notes that “nuclear energy and fracking are both on the agenda”, which shows that “eco-warrior causes are [not] the only ones she favours”. Finally, BusinessGreen reports that Rachel Reeves, chair of parliament’s BEIS select committee of MPs, has written to Leadsom to call for her to “hit the ground running and act quickly to ramp up efforts on the policies and actions crucial to tackling climate change and capitalising on the opportunities of a low-carbon economy”.
“I’ve heard it my whole career, from pundits, special interests and even political consultants: Just shut up about climate change if you want to be elected,” writes Jay Inslee – governor of Washington and a Democratic candidate for president – in the New York Times. “That was bad advice then, and it’s even worse advice now,” he says: “There is a change happening: Americans really feel climate change in their daily lives – and they are demanding leadership from their politicians like never before.” President Trump is “scared” of the topic because “he knows that climate change is his weak spot”, Inslee argues. “More than ever, Americans want bold solutions to the climate crisis. Democrats can beat Donald Trump if we elect a nominee who will challenge him on this issue.”
“If there is a glimmer of light amid the darkness of recent reports from the Brazilian Amazon…it could lie in the growing power of climate diplomacy, combined with increased understanding of the crucial role played by trees in our planet’s climate system,” says a Guardian editorial. This month is “set to be the first in five years in which Brazil has lost an area of forest bigger than Greater London,” the article notes. The groups fighting deforestation “should work through European political institutions, in the knowledge that the EU is the second-biggest market for Brazilian exports”, the Guardian argues: “Firm pressure must be brought to bear in the form of strong environmental regulations, and a refusal to compromise on transparency. Beef or soya farmed on illegally cleared land must not be imported to Europe.”
Summers in eastern Europe and Siberia are becoming more intense as a result of human-driven climate change and alterations to the landscape, such as declining snow cover, a study finds. The authors use modelling to investigate the causes of the intensification of summers in eastern Europe in recent years. The authors say: “The recent summer temperature trend has been intensified by two factors: steady warming induced by external forcing [human activity] and inhomogeneous warming induced by internal atmosphere-land interactions.” Such interactions include changes to springtime snow cover and soil moisture, the research says.
For negative emissions technologies to be implemented successfully, researchers must avoid the “ideological baggage of the broader climate change debate”, new research says. Negative emissions technologies are a group of methods that would tackle climate change by removing CO2 from the atmosphere. For these methods to be successfully introduced, they must be “built on societal discourse”, the authors say. “At its core, our argument is to avoid the ideological bundling of negative emissions; this can be pursued directly and via careful selection of communication frames and the use of non-partisan, trusted messengers.”
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