Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Chancellor to announce £3bn green recovery as part of coronavirus strategy
- EU lawmakers ban nuclear from green transition fund, leave loophole for gas
- Tie for warmest June globally, Siberia sizzles: EU
- Meat and dairy production emit more nitrogen than Earth can cope with
- Global LNG projects jeopardised by climate concerns, pandemic delays – report
- Climate change could be the greatest commercial opportunity of our time
- Coal, oil and gas don’t burn themselves to cause climate change
- Fifty years of research on the Madden‐Julian Oscillation: Recent progress, challenges, and perspectives
- Assessing the feasibility of carbon dioxide mitigation options in terms of energy usage
- Weather literacy in times of climate change
Many publications in the UK report that the chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to announce a £3bn green investment package to aid the country’s recovery from coronavirus. The Press Association reports that Sunak will unveil “a raft of measures in his Commons statement on Wednesday, including £2bn for households to insulate their homes and make them more energy efficient”. The Sun says the £2bn will be offered to UK homeowners as grants of up to £5,000 to make their homes “more environmentally friendly”. It continues: “Homeowners will be able to spend the cash on loft, wall and floor insulation, eco-friendly boilers, heat pumps, double or triple-glazed windows, low-energy lighting and energy-efficient doors.” The scheme will go live in September, the Sun adds. The Daily Telegraph, which carries the story on its frontpage, reports: “The chancellor hopes that by ploughing money into the home insulation and energy industry, firms will take on thousands of workers who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus crisis.” The Guardian reports that some funds will also be directed towards improving draughtiness in social housing. It says: “Warmer homes for social tenants could lower annual energy bills by £200 a year for some of the poorest households, the government estimates. The UK’s homes are the draughtiest in Europe, accounting for about a fifth of the UK’s carbon emissions.” A second Guardian story reports criticism from environmental campaigners arguing Sunak’s recovery plan does not go far enough. The story notes that, by comparison, the German government has invested £36bn investment in measures to boost the economy while cutting emissions and France is spending £13.5bn. BusinessGreen adds: “The proposals drew a mixed response from environmental groups, who welcomed the new funds but criticised a lack of clarity over how the new spending would be targeted.” The Daily Mail, which carries the story on page four, reports that the funds will also contribute towards a government target of planting 75,000 acres of trees a year by 2025. The Daily Mirror, which carries the story on pages six to seven, reports that a nationwide rollout of the proposed scheme could cut household emissions by one fifth by 2024, according to the New Economics Foundation, a thinktank which has held talks with the treasury. BBC News reports criticism from the Labour party, which argues that renters are “left out” of Sunak’s green recovery plans. A second BBC News explores “five things Sunak may do” with his summer statement on Wednesday. The Times, the Evening Standard and Sky News also have the story, among others.
Reuters reports that EU leaders are “split over which fuels deserve support from the bloc’s flagship green energy fund, after lawmakers on Monday called for rules that could allow the money to be spent on some fossil gas projects”. The European Commission is to launch a £36bn Just Transition Fund using cash from the bloc’s coronavirus recovery fund to help retrain workers currently in polluting sectors. All EU member states agreed last week that the new fund should exclude all fossil-fuels projects, including nuclear or natural gas projects, Reuters says, but on Monday a committee of lawmakers leading talks on the issue in the European Parliament broke ranks. “They said that while nuclear energy projects should not be eligible, some fossil gas projects could get just transition funding,” Reuters says. Meanwhile, EurActiv reports that members of the European Parliament’s environment committee will vote today on a package of measures intended to clean up the maritime sector and include shipping in the EU’s Emissions Trading System. EurActiv says: “According to a set of compromise amendments seen by EurActiv, the main political groups – EPP, S&D, Renew and Greens – will all back the vote on a key policy report that urges the Commission and Council to agree to a carbon market extension.”
New data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) shows that average global surface temperature for June is “in a dead heat for the warmest June on record globally”, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP). It continues: “Globally, June 2020 was more than 0.5C warmer than the 1981-2010 average for the same month, and on a par with June 2019 as the warmest ever registered.” Calculations by Carbon Brief show that the past 12 months are in a statistical tie for the hottest 12 months on record. The Copernicus data also shows that Siberia “experienced its warmest June on record amid an unprecedented heatwave”, reports CNN. “Temperatures in the region were up to 10C (18F) higher than average in June,” it says, adding: “CS3 estimated that eastern Siberia hit a maximum hourly Arctic temperature of 37C (100.4F) on 20 June. That’s a new high for the Arctic, being 1-2C warmer than earlier records set in Alaska in 1969 and in eastern Siberia in 1973.” C3S director Carlo Buontempo tells the outlet that “finding what caused these record temperatures is not a straightforward endeavour as there are many contributing factors interacting with each other. Siberia and the Arctic Circle in general have large fluctuations from year to year and have experienced other relatively warm Junes before,…What is worrisome is that the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world.“ Carbon Brief has reported on how “blocking” weather patterns have contributed to the extreme conditions in Siberia.
New Scientist reports on a new study the livestock sector accounts for about a third of the world’s human-caused nitrogen emissions. The emissions from livestock farming amount to about 65 teragrams (Tg) of nitrogen a year, New Scientist says. It adds: “That means meat and dairy production alone breaches the lower limit of the 62 to 82 Tg a year considered to be the ‘planetary boundary’ for nitrogen emissions, or the safe global level beyond which humanity’s future prosperity is endangered. Nitrous oxide, for example, is exacerbating global warming.”
Prospects for nearly half of the world’s projects to build infrastructure for exporting liquefied natural gas have faltered in recent months, “amid rising concerns about climate change, public protests and delays due to the coronavirus pandemic”, Reuters reports. Out of 45 major LNG export projects in pre-construction development globally, at least 20 – representing a capital outlay of some $292 billion – are now facing delays to their financing, according to a report by the Global Energy Monitor, Reuters says. “Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure like liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals is increasingly an economically unsound decision,” Andrew McDowell, president of the European Investment Bank, tells Reuters.
Ahead of UK chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement of funds for a green recovery, the UK pensions minister Guy Opperman writes in the Daily Telegraph arguing “it is right that we acknowledge the existential risks from climate change, but also grasp that this has the potential to be turned into the greatest commercial opportunity of our time”. He says: “We have recently passed legislation that requires occupational pension schemes with 100 or more members to explain how they take account of climate change in their investment strategies. By October 2020 all schemes will be required to report publicly how they do so, as transparency is key to informed decisions and informed change.” Meanwhile, in the Times, former business secretary and energy minister Andrea Leadsom argues “tough love and green investment” are what’s needed to recover from coronavirus. She says: “My advice to Mr Sunak would be to look to our strength in the fast-growing green economy, where the 450,000 green-collar jobs could rise to two million by 2030. I urge him to invest in thousands of green apprenticeships for young people, to introduce retraining for older workers, to set decarbonisation targets by sector to create investment opportunities, to inject public funds into green infrastructure and, vitally, to build international collaborations in areas like offshore wind, battery technology and afforestation.”
In the Financial Times, Robert Shirmlsley, the newspaper’s UK chief political commentator and UK editor at large, says prime minister Boris Johnson “needs to live up to his climate change rhetoric”. He says: “Others highlight the green influence of a ‘holy trinity’ of Michael Gove, cabinet office minister, Zac Goldsmith, environment minister, and Mr Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds. And yet, there is a gap between the rhetoric and the reality. Britons are getting used to him promising ‘world beating’ innovations that fail to materialise. There are initiatives aplenty, but critics question his sticking power on meeting the UK’s 2050 net zero emissions commitment.” He adds: “The UK is not on track to hit its latest carbon budget emissions targets; the cabinet committee launched to co-ordinate policy has met just once; the national infrastructure strategy has been delayed until the autumn and some in Downing Street want to delay — or at least backload — the manifesto pledge of £9bn for energy-efficient homes.”
An editorial in the Sun, meanwhile, praises Sunak’s planned green recovery funds as “great news for Sun-reading plumbers and builders”. Elsewhere, writing for the Times Red Box, Amy Norman, a researcher at the Social Market Foundation, argues that Sunak “must make the case for a green recovery”. She says: “Better insulation and low-carbon homes may not seem exciting but delivering them could mean more jobs and money for a country worried about the economic future. Quick, tangible wins such as this will make the ‘green recovery’ a reality for voters, and help build support for the long journey to net zero.” Meanwhile, for BusinessGreen, Tom Burke, co-founding director and chairman of E3G, argues a “green recovery needs green money”.
Bloomberg’s sustainability editor Eric Roston argues that “entrenched systems of power” are the largest barrier to transitioning away from fossil fuels. He adds: “Discussions about how to fight climate change almost always conclude with a lament over the ‘lack of political will’…That’s a comforting fallacy. The lack of political will is the whole point: Climate change is a problem caused by entrenched systems of social, economic, and political power. To overturn that, the climate community would do well to learn from the fight for racial justice.”
In a commissioned paper, a group of authors review fifty years of research into the Madden‐Julian Oscillation (MJO), a climate phenomenon in the tropics. Since it was discovered in 1971, the “crucial role” of the MJO on “global hydrological cycle and its tremendous influence on high‐impact climate and weather extremes have been well recognised”, the researchers write. The MJO “not only significantly influences intense tropical rainstorms, such as hurricanes, but also extreme weather over the mid‐to‐high latitudes”, they add. However, while “skillful prediction of the MJO several weeks ahead” would be “greatly valuable for disaster mitigation purposes”, many climate models “have great difficulty in realistically simulating the MJO for reasons that are not well understood”.
A new study assesses the relative effectiveness of several CO2 mitigation routes by calculating the energy cost of mitigating CO2 emissions. The researchers considered energy efficiency measures, decarbonising electricity, heat, chemicals and fuels, and also capturing CO2 from air. The most “energy-effective mitigation” of these methods were efficiency measures, such as improving building lighting, the study finds. Also, switching to renewable energy technologies offer more energy-effective mitigation than carbon embedding or carbon removal approaches, “which are more energy intensive”, the study notes.
Results from the nationally representative survey in Germany suggests “the public does not seem well equipped to anticipate weather risks in the here and now and may thus also fail to fully grasp what climate change implies for the future”, a new study says. The survey tested the public’s weather literacy and awareness of climate change using 62 factual questions. It found that “many respondents misjudged important weather risks…and struggled to connect weather conditions to their impacts”. The results “highlight the need for impact forecasts that translate what the weather may be into what the weather may do and for transparent communication of uncertainty to the public”, the authors conclude. In a separate paper, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, researchers present a way to present attribution of human-caused climate change to extreme weather to the public. They find that “even members of the general public who do not understand the difference between weather and climate are readily able to understand basic concepts of attribution and explain those concepts to others”.
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