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Daily Briefing |

TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES

Briefing date 14.11.2019
Climate change exposes future generations to life-long health harm

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News.

Climate change exposes future generations to life-long health harm
Reuters Read Article

A major new study warns that a child born today faces multiple and life-long health harms from climate change, reports Reuters. The 2019 Lancet Countdown On Health And Climate Change report finds that “climate change is already harming people’s health by increasing the number of extreme weather events and exacerbating air pollution”, says the newswire, “and if nothing is done to mitigate it, its impacts could burden an entire generation with disease and illness throughout their lives”. Children are “particularly vulnerable to the health risks of a changing climate”, lead author Dr Nick Watts tells Reuters. “Their bodies and immune systems are still developing, leaving them more susceptible to disease and environmental pollutants.” The report from 35 global institutions examines 41 indicators up to the present day across areas including the impacts of rising temperatures, resilience and economics, says the Press Association. The UK faces “increasing threats to crop production and the spread of infectious diseases as temperatures rise – with the presence of tick-borne encephalitis virus confirmed in the UK for the first time”, PA adds. Europe’s growing population of elderly people “will be hard hit by the increasing number and intensity of heatwaves linked to climate change”, says the Daily Telegraph. It adds: “The report says that with no requirements to prevent hospitals and care homes in the UK overheating in high temperatures, older people in care homes are most at risk.” The report “also found that human exposure to fires had doubled since 2000”, notes the Guardian, adding: “Wildfires not only cause deaths and health damage but had significant economic and social impacts.” The study finds that a “warming planet will exacerbate deadly air pollution across the world and kill tens of millions more people over the next decade”, reports the Financial Times. This will not only be an issue in developing economies such as China and India, it says, “but also in Europe and other wealthier countries”. Tackling worldwide air pollution was “probably the most important thing we should be considering from a public health perspective” to save lives, Watts tells the FT. The report does contain “glimmers of hope”, says the New York Times. Dr Richard Horton, editor in chief of the Lancet, tells the paper that “by putting health first in our response to climate, there were dividends for both the public and for the economy in terms of cleaner and safer cities and healthier diets”. While Watts tells InsideClimate News that “when you look at all the things we want to do to respond to climate change, many of them are just cost-effective, sensible public health interventions in their own right”. The Independent puts the story on its digital frontpage.

Venice floods: Climate change behind highest tide in 50 years, says mayor
BBC News Read Article

The mayor of Venice says the severe flooding in Venice that has left much of the Italian city under water is a direct result of climate change, reports BBC News. Mayor Luigi Brugnaro tweeted that the highest water levels in the region in more than 50 years will leave “a permanent mark”, says BBC News. “Now the government must listen,” he added. “These are the effects of climate change…the costs will be high.” Brugnaro called for a state of emergency and the closing of all schools after the Italian city was submerged under “acqua alta” – an exceptionally high tide, says the New York Times. This followed several days of rain across Italy that flooded 85% of the city, reports the Hill, with water levels peaking at 1.87 metres, or just over six feet. Only a 1966 flood reached higher levels, it adds. Brugnaro warned that the financial cost of the flooding is likely to run to hundreds of millions of euros, reports Reuters, and a senior cleric said the city’s historic Saint Mark’s Basilica risked “irreparable” harm. A flood barrier was designed in 1984 to protect Venice from high tides, but the multi-billion euro project, known as “Mose”, has been plagued by the sort of problems, says another Reuters piece. “If Mose had been working, then we would have avoided this exceptional high tide,” Brugnaro said. Sea levels have been rising more rapidly in Venice than in other parts of the world, notes the Washington Post. It adds: “But the city also faces a second problem: It is sinking, the result of the movement of tectonic plates below the Italian coast. Because of the sinking and the sea-level rise, climate scientists predict Venice will be entirely underwater by the end of this century.” BuzzFeed News has “apocalyptic” photos of the flooding.

Soaring demand for SUVs exacerbates climate crisis
The Times Read Article

In a frontpage story with a print headline of “Gas guzzlers are eliminating the benefits of electric cars”, the Times reports that increasing demand for sports utility vehicles (SUVs) is eliminating the emissions savings made by those who have switched to electric cars. According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest annual World Energy Outlook, there has been a sixfold increase in SUVs since 2010, from 35m to 200m, and they now account for 40% of new car sales. It continues: “SUVs consume 25% more fuel per mile than a medium-sized car because of additional weight and poorer aerodynamics. SUVs “were the second biggest reason for global emissions growth in last 10 years, after the power sector and more than all the industrial sectors put together”, IEA director Fatih Birol told reporters yesterday, says the Guardian. The IEA has warned that “unless there is a major change in consumer preferences, the recent boom in SUV sales could be a major obstacle towards developing cleaner car fleets”, the Times adds. Carbon Brief has a in-depth write-up of the IEA’s latest report.

Former Australian fire chiefs say Coalition ignored their advice because of climate change politics
The Guardian Read Article

A group of former fire chiefs says the government “fundamentally doesn’t like talking about climate change” and that politics is the reason the government was ignoring their advice, reports the Guardian. Former heads of the New South Wales (NSW), Queensland, Victorian and Tasmanian fire services met in Sydney yesterday after fires that killed four people tore through the the Australian east coast this week, the paper says. Greg Mullins, the former chief of NSW Fire and Rescue, says he and 23 other fire and emergency chiefs had been trying to have a meeting with the prime minister, Scott Morrison, since April because they “knew that a bushfire crisis was coming”. Instead, he says current fire chiefs had been locked out of discussions and were “not allowed” to mention climate change, the Guardian reports. In a Guardian comment piece, former deputy commissioner of NSW Fire and Rescue Ken Thompson writes: “Unfortunately, successive governments have largely dismissed or ignored these [climate change] warnings. Even today, we have people disputing the evidence or spreading deliberate misinformation.” And in another Guardian comment piece, Sydney firefighter Jim Casey writes: “I have a message for our prime minister, and any other politicians commenting on the fires this week – I don’t need your thoughts and prayers. If you want to reduce the stress on firefighters, we need less empty talk and more commitment to tackling climate change which is driving these dangerous fire conditions.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the latest weather forecasts show “no substantial rains for at least three months, providing grim news as firefighters battle to get more than 100 bushfires raging across the east coast under control”. And a “news analysis” piece in the New York Times looks at why “climate change is Australia’s labyrinth without an exit, where its pragmatism disappears”.

Netherlands cuts speed limit to reduce nitrogen pollution
Reuters Read Article

The Netherlands will cut its nationwide speed limit to a maximum of 100km per hour (62 mph) during daytime hours as part of a package of emergency measures intended to reduce nitrogen pollution, Reuters reports. The Dutch government “has been in crisis since a court in May ordered thousands of construction projects to be delayed because the Netherlands has been exceeding European Union limits on nitrogen emissions for years”, Reuters adds. Announcing the measures yesterday, prime minister Mark Rutte said “it’s a rotten step to take, nobody likes it, but this serves a greater interest…It’s needed to make sure the Netherlands doesn’t get locked down and to prevent jobs from being lost unnecessarily”. The government wants to build 75,000 homes next year, so the cabinet had been looking for a solution over the past week, explains BBC News, which adds: “Among the options discussed by ministers was a ban on vehicles on Sunday.” “That is why this breakthrough is so important,” said the minister for housing, Stientje van Veldhoven, reports the Guardian. “We can achieve that target of 76,000 homes if we start working hard now.” From 2020, the current top speed of 130km per hour (81mph) will be reduced between 6am and 7pm, notes the Independent. The reduction “marks a significant climbdown for Mr Rutte’s centre-right VVD party which pioneered a rise to 130km/h in 2012 and has been traditionally known as a party of car-owning voters”, says the Financial Times, adding: “The VVD is known in the Netherlands as the ‘Vroom Vroom’ party.” Deutsche Welle and the Times also have the story.

Greta Thunberg sets sail for Spain ahead of climate summit
Reuters Read Article

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg set off for Spain from Virginia aboard a catamaran on Wednesday, after an 11-week tour of North America, reports Reuters. Thunberg is hitching a ride aboard the 48-foot vessel belonging to an Australian couple that sailed from the port of Hampton. She hoped to make it to Europe in time for the next UN climate talks, tweeting that she was “so happy to say I’ll hopefully make it to COP25 in Madrid”. Thunberg had planned to travel to Chile, but the country pulled out of hosting the COP25 climate meeting because of protests there, says BBC News. The Guardian says “she is leaving behind a simple message for those who care about the climate crisis: you must vote”. “My message to the Americans is the same as to everyone – that is to unite behind the science and to act on the science,” Thunberg told the Guardian on Tuesday. The Hill notes that “the boat’s voyage across the Atlantic could take as long as two to four weeks and present a challenge as November is considered off season for traveling across the ocean”.

Comment.

Voice of the Mirror: 'Why we have devoted an entire edition to the climate crisis'
Editorial, The Daily Mirror Read Article

In an editorial, the Daily Mirror explains why it is devoting today’s paper to the issue of climate change. It says: ‘We believe this is the most important issue of our time and the challenge is immediate. The world is heating up at an alarming rate. Ten of the hottest years on record in the UK have occurred since 2002.“ The paper is “calling for a ban on private jets and higher taxes for gas-guzzling vehicles”, as well “a new Clean Air Act to protect our children”. It also argues for “massive investment in all forms of public transport and lower fares so people have an alternative to using their car” and “a commitment to make all new housing carbon neutral and a plan to fit insulation and solar panels in existing properties”. Finally, the paper says it is “calling on everyone to back our campaign to plant millions of trees. Reforestation is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of tackling climate change”. All the stories in today’s edition – which has a green masthead instead of its usual red – can be found at this link.

Science.

Climate induced stress and mortality in vervet monkeys
Royal Society Open Science Read Article

Severe droughts driven by climate change could threaten the survival of vervet monkeys, a new study finds. For two and a half years, researchers observed the animals in South Africa. They studied the animals’ behaviour during droughts and collected faecal samples, which give an indication of stress levels. “Our study contributes to knowledge of the limits and scope of behavioural and physiological plasticity among vervet monkeys in the face of rapid environmental change,” the authors say.

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