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Briefing date 09.08.2021
Climate change: IPCC report is ‘code red for humanity’

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Climate change: IPCC report is 'code red for humanity'
BBC News Read Article

Media outlets around the world are covering the findings of the latest report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Released within the last hour, the IPCC’s assessment report – which will be released in four stages over the next year or so and is the first since 2013/14 – shows that humanity’s damaging impact on the climate is a “statement of fact”, says BBC News. The broadcaster adds: “The report says that ongoing emissions of warming gases could also see a key temperature limit broken in just over a decade. The authors also show that a rise in sea levels approaching 2m by the end of this century ‘cannot be ruled out’. But there is new hope that deep cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases could stabilise rising temperatures…In strong, confident tones, the IPCC’s document says ‘it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land’.” The Guardian says the report is the “IPCC’s starkest yet” and involved “marshalling the work of hundreds of experts and peer-review studies” over eight years. The paper quotes Boris Johnson, prime minister of the UK, which is hosting COP26 later this year: “Today’s report makes for sobering reading, and it is clear that the next decade is going to be pivotal to securing the future of our planet…I hope today’s report will be a wake-up call for the world to take action now, before we meet in Glasgow in November for the critical COP26 summit.“ Bloomberg says: “An epochal new report from the world’s top climate scientists warns that the planet will warm to 1.5C in the next two decades without drastic moves to eliminate greenhouse gas pollution…The latest scientific assessment from the UN’s IPCC for the first time speaks with certainty about the total responsibility of human activity for rising temperatures. The scientists forecast no end to warming trends until emissions cease…The document is ‘a code red for humanity’, said Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, in prepared remarks tied to the report’s release. ‘This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet.’” The Independent says that “the group of 234 scientists from 66 countries found ‘it is more likely than not’ that the world will reach 1.5C above pre-industrial levels sometime over the next 20 years”.

Climate Home News carries what it says are “five takeaways” from the report, which include, “We are set to pass 1.5C warming by 2040”, and, “We are closer to irreversible tipping points”. Reuters also highlights the “key takeaways”, including “humans are to blame – full stop”. The New York Times notes that the report’s authors conclude that “not all is lost, however, and humanity can still prevent the planet from getting even hotter”. The newspaper adds: “Doing so would require a coordinated effort among countries to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by around 2050, which would entail a rapid shift away from fossil fuels starting immediately, as well as potentially removing vast amounts of carbon from the air. If that happened, global warming would likely halt and level off at around 1.5C, the report concludes.”

The IPCC’s website had crashed at time of writing, but a live press conference is being streamed and recorded on YouTube.

Carbon Brief is preparing an in-depth Q&A about the report’s findings – as well as a package of other coverage – and will be publishing the content throughout this week.

We’re on the brink of catastrophe, warns Tory climate chief
The Observer Read Article

Ahead of the latest IPCC report being published today – and facing criticism from some quarters for using aeroplanes to conduct international shuttle diplomacy ahead of COP26 – Alok Sharma, the UK minister in charge of the UK talks, has given various interviews over the weekend. He told the Observer that the consequences of failure at COP26 would be “catastrophic”. He said: “I don’t think there’s any other word for it. You’re seeing on a daily basis what is happening across the world. Last year was the hottest on record, the last decade the hottest decade on record.” The newspaper adds: “But Sharma also insisted the UK could carry on with fossil-fuel projects, in the face of mounting criticism of plans to license new oil and gas fields. He defended the government’s record on plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, which have been heavily criticised by the UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change, and dismissed controversies over his travel schedule.” BBC News picks up Sharma’s comments to the Observer saying he “defended his decision [first reported by the Daily Mail] to travel to more than 30 countries in seven months”. Speaking to the Sunday Times, Sharma insisted that face-to-face meetings are essential: “It really matters to be able to look people in the eye and build those relationships with ministers, and that’s what I’m doing.” The newspaper adds: “He has received support from a surprising range of sources, including Professor Mike Berners-Lee, of Lancaster University’s Environment Centre, who says: ‘Alok Sharma has one of the best reasons in the world to fly.’” The Guardian quotes a series of climate campaigners supporting Sharma’s travel itinerary, including Leo Murray, a veteran campaigner on flying and co-founder of Plane Stupid: “The reason the Daily Mail has done this is to serve an agenda – they know it undermines the whole green agenda. He’s a diplomat – he needs to be flying. If there’s a limited budget for emissions from aeroplanes, this seems like a very good use of it.”

Meanwhile, in other UK news, the Times reports today that the chancellor Rishi Sunak “is drawing up plans for richer households to bear the brunt of funding Britain’s climate-change targets to protect low-income families”. It continues: “The government is facing growing pressure from backbench Conservatives to delay bans on fossil fuel cars and boilers, but the urgency of tackling climate change will be set out starkly in a UN report today. Publication of a Treasury review of the costs of meeting the net-zero legal target to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050 has been repeatedly delayed amid concerns that they could fall most heavily on the poorest households. Treasury sources insisted that the chancellor would not allow low-income families to be hardest hit. The delay in publishing the review has triggered fears that a row over the costs of the policy will undermine Boris Johnson’s ambitious green agenda before COP26…Allies of Sunak insist that he has a duty to evaluate the costs and find a way to ensure that the burden falls on richer households…Among ‘mitigation’ measures being considered to limit the impact on the poorest households are subsidies to help the poorest households convert to low-carbon heating and tax breaks on energy bills. A Whitehall source insisted that the prime minister and chancellor were on the ‘same page’ on the issue. The government said: ‘[We] will put affordability and fairness at the heart of reforms, such as investing £1.3bn into keeping bills low, helping make the homes of low-income families more energy efficient and cheaper to heat.’” The Sunday Telegraph ran a frontpage story yesterday under the headline: “Boris Johnson’s push for net-zero plunged into chaos.” While the Daily Mail reports that the Information Tribunal “has told climate policy chiefs {the Climate Change Committee] to show why they think reaching net-zero carbon emissions will cost only 1% of GDP”.

Separately, BBC News says that “Boris Johnson has declined to apologise amid a backlash over his remarks about coal mine closures under former premier Margaret Thatcher”. It adds: “The PM has faced demands to say sorry after claiming the shutdowns in the 1980s gave the UK a ‘big early start’ in fighting climate change. Opposition MPs have called the comments offensive to former mining communities.” The Daily Mail says that business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has told the BBC that “a carbon tax – seen as a tax on meat – is also still being considered”. Finally, the Financial Times reports the views of pro-hydrogen industry groups who say that “Boris Johnson must move with ‘more urgency’ and double targets for producing so-called low-carbon hydrogen by 2030 if the UK is to reach its net-zero emissions goal”. And the Times says that “residents of Winlaton did not know that on Wednesday they became guinea pigs in a home-heating experiment that will help to determine whether the UK meets its climate targets”. It adds: “More than 650 homes in the village near Newcastle upon Tyne became the first on the gas grid to get hydrogen to burn in boilers, cookers, hobs and fires…The company has said the customers would have noticed no difference, and did not tell them when the trial was starting in part out of fear that it would be blamed for any boiler problems.”

Greece wildfires spread, causing mass evacuations
BBC News Read Article

There is continuing coverage of the various extreme weather events causing devastation around the world. BBC News is among the many outlets reporting on the “more than 150 fires” near the Greek capital Athens. It says: “Thousands of tourists and residents have been evacuated from towns north of the Greek capital, Athens, as wildfires spread across the country. Strong winds and high temperatures are making it difficult to control the blazes, which have killed at least two people, including a firefighter. Greece, like many parts of Europe, has been grappling with extreme weather this summer. Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the fires showed ‘the reality of climate change’.” Politico says “the blazes highlight climate change policies in Turkey, one of six nations that has not ratified the Paris Agreement.” It adds: “Blazing forest fires and record heat waves across the eastern Mediterranean are casting a harsh light on the region’s vulnerability to the effects of global warming and raising pressure on Turkey to change its climate policies.” The Guardian reports from the “apocalyptic” scenes in Greece. Sky News reports: “Hundreds of people have been evacuated from hotels, campsites and homes across an Italian seaside resort as a wildfire spread through the area. More than 400 people have been evacuated in Campomarino Lodi, a city in the Italian region of Molise.”

There are now so many wildfires blazing across the planet that the Guardian has published an article today, headlined: “Fires rage around the world: where are the worst blazes?” One area featured is California where CNN reports that “the Dixie Fire, the largest wildfire currently burning in the country, has grown to become the second-biggest in the state’s history, according to CalFire”. The Independent says that “last month was the worst July for wildfires across the world in at least 18 years, scientists have said”.

Meanwhile, the impact of other extreme weather events makes headlines, too. The Washington Post has an article under the headline: “Mass horse graves on the steppes as Kazakhstan battered by one of worst droughts in living memory.” The Financial Times says Germany’s wine country is counting the “cost of devastating summer floods” following a “disaster that pushed climate change to the top of the political agenda”. The Independent says that “Kim Jong-un has called on the military to undertake relief work in regions of North Korea decimated by flooding that is expected to continue into next week”. It adds: “More than 1,000 homes were damaged and about 5,000 people were evacuated after torrential rain hit and caused river banks to collapse.” The Guardian reports from Wales where it says “people can’t sleep” in the Rhondda valley where last year’s flooding “leaves climate fear in its wake”.

Finally, BBC News quotes Sonam Wangdi, chair of the UN’s Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group on climate change, who says that low-income countries are struggling to protect themselves against climate change: “We need to adapt our plans to the worsening climate crisis. Our existing plans are not enough to protect our people.”

China: Heavy rain in Sichuan forces evacuation of 80,000 people – state media
Reuters Read Article

China News Service, an official state-media outlet, has reported that more than 80,000 people have been evacuated because of heavy rains and floods in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan, says Reuters. The newswire adds: “Water levels at major rivers in the province were above warning levels following heavy rainfall from Friday to Sunday. One reservoir in the city of Dazhou exceeded its flood limit by 2.2 metres, according to the official China News Service. It said more than 440,000 people have now been affected by floods in six cities across the province…China is routinely hit by heavy rainfall during the summer, but experts have warned it must now improve the resilience of its cities as extreme weather becomes more frequent.”

A “blue paper” released by the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) last week continues to attract media attention. (See last Friday’s Daily Briefing.) Caixin, an independent financial outlet, reports that China has been increasingly impacted by risks from climate change, citing the paper. It highlights that, according to the paper, China “has experienced increasingly extreme weather including high temperatures and heavy rainfall over the past few decades”. The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, reports that the paper “provides the latest monitoring information on climate change in China and globally, including data on the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, terrestrial biosphere and driving factors of climate change”.

Shanghai-based Jiemian News reports that “relevant departments and industry associations” are “hastening” the process of assessing “the carbon emission situation” of “key” industries, such as iron and steel, construction material, non-ferrous metal, petrochemical and chemical. The website says, separately, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has also instructed six provincial-level regions to set up “pilot assessments” to evaluate their CO2 emissions. Separately, Reuters reports that “China’s coal inventories have dropped to near historic lows since August due to peak summer electricity demand and transportation bottlenecks exacerbated by last month’s severe floods and typhoon, state media reported on Friday”.

Elsewhere, experts have warned of a “domino effect” and damage to the UK’s reputation as a credible global partner if the UK government removes CGN, a Chinese state-run nuclear energy company, from its power projects, reports China Daily. The state-run newspaper also cites a spokesperson at China’s embassy in London, who said that the potential removal would be “against the UK’s interests” and prevent it from benefiting from China’s advanced technology and capital investment, among others. Al Jazeera focuses on a study from Greenpeace East Asia, which found that “scorching temperatures are becoming much more frequent in cities across East Asia”. The news outlet says that the research covered 28 cities in China, 21 in Japan, and eight in Korea.

Exxon suspended from climate advocacy group it helped form
Reuters Read Article

Exxon Mobil has been suspended from the advocacy group known as the Climate Leadership Council (CLC) a month after an Exxon lobbyist said the company supports a carbon tax publicly because the plan to curb climate change would never gain enough political support to be adopted, reports Reuters. The newswire adds: “The CLC’s decision marks a u-turn after it supported the oil major in June after the lobbyist’s comments. Exxon said in a statement the CLC’s decision was ‘disappointing and counterproductive’.”


Tories need a green plan that makes energy clean, plentiful and, yes, cheap
Editorial, Daily Telegraph Read Article

Amid a flood of climate-related comment in the UK media over the recent days, an editorial in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph says that “an air of unreality surrounds Britain’s climate agenda”. It adds: “Wild targets are set; it is unclear how we will get there; the costs go undiscussed on the assumption that consumers are happy to bite the bullet…The Conservative Party, which introduced said cap [on household energy bills], has strayed from the pro-market philosophy of the 1980s, swapping consumer power and choice for regulation – adopting Labour policies that it once opposed. Green policy must not go down this route…At present, renewable subsidies are passed on to energy bills, and consumers are expected to bankroll household changes from new boilers to electric cars that the Tories have decided are the future. Huge public spending on infrastructure will be necessary, too – and for the green lobby, no amount of investment will ever be enough. Labour is always happy to outbid. The Tory model, however, should be to unleash and encourage private sector solutions, not expand state regulation in the style of the price cap. Technology is moving fast; the market with it. The state, via tax cuts and deregulation, should do whatever it can to facilitate business and choice. The Left imagines the green revolution as hair-shirt socialism. It is time for the Tories to lay out a transparent, costed plan for going green that sets the goal, in the long run, of delivering energy that is clean, plentiful and, yes, cheap.” An editorial in the Sunday Telegraph follows a similar theme: “The government has not been honest about the price tag for its decarbonisation revolution, either to individual consumers or taxpayers. Just £12bn has been earmarked thus far, a tiny fraction of the eventual bill. At the same time, fuel duty, which yields some £28bn each year, will dwindle. No wonder the Treasury is panicking: the country is poised for a ruinous cost explosion, not merely because of the green revolution but also because of rising inflation, the prospect (in time) of higher interest rates, higher taxes (many of them already agreed) and a short-term increase in the cost of wholesale energy prices. Does anybody in No 10 really believe that the ‘red wall’ voted Tory to see their living standards hammered? The green revolution could be made a lot less painful. Whenever possible, market forces must be harnessed.”

Meanwhile, there is a slew of comment reacting to the news that Alok Sharma has travelled to meet his counterparts in other countries. An editorial in today’s Daily Mail says: “The Mail doesn’t doubt these were business trips. But why, in this age of conference calling, was it necessary to visit at least 30 countries in seven months?” An earlier editorial in the Daily Mail says: “We share Mr Sharma’s desire to make this climate conference a success. But these egregious double standards will only undermine the message.” An editorial in the Daily Mirror says “‘one rule for us and another for everybody else’ is a way of life for the Tory elite”. It adds: “Everybody accepts that a minister handling negotiations to save the world from climate change at this autumn’s COP26 eco-summit needs to speak to world leaders in person. But Sharma’s decision not to quarantine after visiting red-list counties is just reckless.” Camilla Tominey in the Daily Telegraph says “Britain is suffering a pandemic of political hypocrisy”, while John Humphrys in the Daily Mail asks: “Has Mr Sharma and his team never heard of Zoom?” In the Observer, Fiona Harvey argues that “Sharma’s air miles made the headlines, but missteps by his colleagues may be more damaging to the crucial talks in Glasgow”. In the Spectator, Kate Andrews says the story has acted to resurface the “party elite” narrative for the Conservatives.

Other commentators focus on Boris Johnson’s remarks about coal mines and Margaret Thatcher. In the Daily Mail, Sarah Vine says the “coal mines row shows the Left needs a lesson in 1970s history because Margaret Thatcher was well ahead of her time on climate change awareness”. In the Guardian, Ellie Mae O’Hagan remarks that “Johnson’s coalmine quip shows he thinks the climate crisis is a joke”. In the Sunday Telegraph, climate sceptic columnist Ross Clark says : “The Conservatives do not need to feel embarrassed that Thatcher closed coal pits. On the contrary, she was the visionary – while Labour were the dinosaurs.” And in the Daily Telegraph, Tom Harris says that “the notion that [Thatcher], as a science graduate, had no grasp of the link between carbon fuels and climate change, is demonstrably untrue”.

In the Guardian, Isabel Hardman, the assistant editor of the Spectator, argues that “if Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer harbour grand ambitions about tackling climate change, crime and inequality, they should do something about them”. She adds: “The climate crisis issue is obviously much harder than whether the public or, indeed, Johnson’s colleagues will embrace electric cars in the near future. But [his COP26 spokesperson Allegra] Stratton was right to highlight the problems with the UK charging network for people taking long journeys”. Catherine Bennett in the Observer asks: “If the PM’s climate spokesperson is in no rush to go electric, then why should we bother?” Dan Hodges in the Mail on Sunday writes: “Yes, Allegra Stratton is a car crash…but the big problem is Boris Johnson can’t decide if he’s Jeremy Clarkson or Greta Thunberg.” The Mail on Sunday also finds space for a highly misleading comment piece about electric cars by climate sceptic Richard North and today’s Daily Mail gives its lead comment page slot to climate sceptic Dominic Lawson who asks: “Why is BBC a pulpit for eco-fanatics and their doomsday climate cult?”

Finally, an editorial in the Times comments on the news that domestic energy bill price cap could rise by 12%: “It is undeniable that wholesale prices have soared in recent months, as economic activity has bounced back from the steep recession caused by the pandemic. The reasons the price increase is contentious, however, as are the extent of the increase and the speed with which energy suppliers pass their cost increases on to consumers. Given also the government’s plan to achieve a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, it is understandable that consumers will fear a rising burden of energy bills.” An editorial in the Guardian also follows a similar theme saying: “The rise could be discounted for households on low incomes. The existing warm homes discount could be extended. The universal credit uplift could be maintained. In the larger frame, the government urgently needs to get more strategic about how it intends to support households, poorer ones in particular, with energy costs as the need for climate action moves into people’s homes. Government plans for yet further surcharges on domestic energy bills to help underwrite the building of new nuclear power stations and to subsidise the embryonic hydrogen industry should be rethought, too.”

Reform and renewal is long overdue in Germany
Annalena Baerbock, Financial Times Read Article

Annalena Baerbock, the co-leader of Germany’s Green party, has written a comment piece in the Financial Times arguing that “climate neutrality should be made the new engine of prosperity after next month’s national elections” in Germany. She continues: “As the Green candidate for chancellor, this is my offer: reform and renewal. In its election programme, my party has put forward proposals to invest an additional €50bn a year in the digital and environmental transformation of our country. Indeed, compared with other industrialised economies, Germany’s public investment rate has been particularly low for years. With interest rates near zero, a failure to undertake such investment would leave future generations with a much heavier burden of poor infrastructure. I believe that many of these investments should support the fight against the climate crisis in areas such as renewable energies, agriculture and mobility. We must make climate neutrality the new engine of prosperity…I want Germany to lead by example – and to extend an invitation to anyone who is willing to join the cause of a carbon-neutral world economy that strives towards global climate justice. In this regard, as much as the British decision to leave (at least temporarily) our home that is the EU is to be regretted, I am convinced that any kind of closer international collaboration – including with the Biden-Harris administration in Washington – should ideally run in tandem with London. To give but one example, when I suggest creating a US-European working group at ministerial level to agree upon ambitious common goals for the upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow, I would like to make it clear that the UK is more than cordially invited to join in. We have much to learn from one another.”


The Alaskan summer 2019 extreme heat event: The role of anthropogenic forcing, and projections of the increasing risk of occurrence
Earth's Future Read Article

The extreme heatwave in Alaska over June-July 2019 was made up to 6% more likely by human-driven climate change, according to new research. The authors “use multiple large ensembles of climate models, comprising thousands of simulated years” to investigate the impact of climate change on the heatwave. They add that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise rapidly, “the likelihood of such events would exceed 75% by 2090”.

Experiencing climate change: revisiting the role of local weather in affecting climate change awareness and related policy preferences
Climatic Change Read Article

A new study suggests that personal experience of an extreme weather event does not “shape people’s awareness of climate change as a political problem or their climate policy preferences in a sustained manner”. The authors compared data from more than 18,000 German voters collected over 2016-19 with weather data from 514 weather stations. They find that, even among those who “may be considered most likely to exhibit such effects”, they did not see any change in climate awareness following an extreme weather event. “It cannot be taken for granted that personally experiencing extreme weather phenomena makes a difference in perceptions of climate change and related policy preferences”, the authors conclude.

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