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:
- Climate change: IPCC report warns of ‘irreversible’ impacts of global warming
- IPCC: Revealed – how rich and at-risk nations fought over science of climate impacts
- Shell to sell Russian investments due to Ukraine conflict
- Supreme Court hears case that may derail Biden's climate plan
- Eastern Australian states hit by major flooding after ‘rain bomb’ weather event
- Germany aims for 100% green power by 2035, will present gas-reduction plan
- Ukraine invasion: European Union plans new energy strategy
- Kyiv seeks immediate connection to western electricity grid
- China sees biggest growth in energy and coal use since 2011
- The Guardian view on the IPCC report: inaction has cost the world dearly
- The Times view on European reliance on Russian gas supplies: Bad Energy
- Doubling of annual forest carbon loss over the tropics during the early 21st century
- Volcanoes and climate: Sizing up the impact of the recent Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption from a historical perspective
- Deforestation triggering irreversible transition in Amazon hydrological cycle
There is widespread media coverage of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), entitled “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”. The report warns that many of the impacts of global warming are now “irreversible”, but there is “still a brief window of time to avoid the very worst” impacts, BBC News reports. It adds that, according to the IPCC, “humans and nature are being pushed beyond their abilities to adapt”. Meanwhile, the Guardian calls the report the “bleakest warning yet” on climate change. According to the report, “countries aren’t doing nearly enough to protect against the disasters to come as the planet keeps heating up”, says the New York Times. The Washington Post says that humanity has a “brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all” and the Financial Times says that climate change risks are greater than previously thought. The Independent live-blogged the launch of the report, which AP news calls a “house on fire” report. A second Guardian article adds that the report is based on 34,000 studies, was written by more than 1,000 scientists and was unanimously approved by the governments of 195 nations.
The report is “at once a withering indictment and an industrious guide”, says Climate Home News. The outlet adds that the report “dispenses with hypotheticals, offering the most sure-footed evaluation yet of how we have already changed our climate beyond many ecosystems’ ability to cope”. And the Hill says the report shows that “nowhere near enough money is being spent to help countries, cities and corporations adapt to climate change”. Outlets including Times, Forbes and the New Scientist report that more than 3 billion people are already “highly vulnerable” to climate change. The Wall Street Journal highlights the health and economic impacts caused by extreme weather events. Reuters says that climate change could drive up world poverty, while the i newspaper says that “food and water supplies for billions of people around the world will be pushed to the brink of collapse if climate change continues unabated”. The Financial Times outlines the risks of climate change to the global supply chain, while the Independent says that climate change “poses [a] global risk to biodiversity”. Separately, the Independent highlights the impact of climate change on mental health, noting that this report “marks the first time the IPCC has spelled out a link between mental health and the climate crisis”. And the National Geographic has published a piece focusing on heat stress.
In regional coverage, the i newspaper and Politico stress that European countries will face more heatwaves, while AP News carries pieces on the Great Barrier reef and South America. The Independent has published separate pieces highlighting key findings for Europe, Asia and cities, while the Times of India calls the report “another big warning to India’s political leaders”. Outlets including the Independent, BusinessGreen, the Belfast Telegraph, AP News, Yale E360 and Politico quote UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, who called the report “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership”. Inside Climate News and Reuters lead with Guterres’ statement: “Delay is death”. Elsewhere, outlets including the Washington Post, the New York Times, Reuters, the i newspaper, Bloomberg, Climate Home News and the Independent have published lists of key takeaways from the report. And AP News and Reuters have published expert reactions to the report. Of course, Carbon Brief has also covered the report, with an in-depth Q&A.
Negotiations over the high-level “summary for policymakers” section of the IPCC’s latest report “were dogged by tense disagreements between rich polluters and at-risk nation”, Climate Home News reports. The outlet continues: “Adaptation finance, nature-based solutions and solar geoengineering were among the most contentious topics as online talks at the IPCC ran into overtime on Saturday.” According to the piece, the US sought to replace mentions of adaptation finance with “investment”, but were overruled by developing countries, led by India. It adds: “The US also led efforts to replace the term ‘losses and damages’ with ‘adverse impacts’ – but ultimately only succeeded in adding words.”
Meanwhile, DeSmog reports that the IPCC has, for the first time, “addressed the tactics used by those attempting to delay action on climate change, a move that has been welcomed by academics”. It continues: “[The report] said that despite scientific certainty around human-caused climate change, ‘vested economic and political interests’ were delaying efforts to tackle it. These have ‘generated rhetoric and misinformation that undermines climate science and disregards risk and urgency’, it noted, resulting in ‘public misperception of climate risks and polarised public support for climate actions’. In addition, the report described the tendency of some sections of the media to ‘unevenly amplify certain messages that are not supported by science, contributing to politicisation of science’.” The Independent adds that the report “took an in-depth look at the role that climate change misinformation is playing in North America”. Elsewhere, the Conversation has published a piece by Prof Ilan Kelman, professor of disasters and health at University College London, entitled: “IPCC report: how politics – not climate change – is responsible for disasters and conflict.” And Politico draws links between the IPCC report and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Shell has announced that it will end involvement with Russian energy Gazprom, in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, BBC News reports. The company will also end its involvement in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was built to deliver gas from Russia to Germany, as well as selling its 50% state in two Siberian oilfield projects, the outlet adds. According to the Guardian, Shell’s 10% stake in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is worth $1bn (£0.75bn), while its ventures with Gazprom are worth $3bn (£2.2bn). The paper adds: “The planned sales include its 27.5% stake in the Sakhalin-II liquefied natural gas facility, its 50% stake in the Salym Petroleum Development and the Gydan energy venture.” The Times says that UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng “welcomed” Shell’s decision. The announcement comes just one day after BP decided to sell its 20% stake in Russian oil company Rosneft, the Financial Times notes. The New York Times says: “Shell’s decision will put pressure on TotalEnergies, the French giant, to sell its considerable Russian gas holdings. Exxon Mobil also has a sizeable Russian project.” Reuters adds that “BP abandoning Russia shows disruption to commodities will be profound”. Separately, the newswire says that BP has cancelled all fuel oil loadings from the Russian Black Sea port of Taman. Meanwhile, Politico reports that European football’s governing body UEFA will terminate its sponsorship contract with Gazprom. Carbon Brief has updated its round-up of what Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means for energy and climate with the latest developments.
Elsewhere, the Financial Times reports that a British energy group will sell gas produced from one of the newest fields in the North Sea to a subsidiary of Gazprom. The agreement was made before Russia invaded Ukraine, but “is due to kick in as western companies face a growing backlash over their dealings with Russian state-backed entities”, it adds.
Yesterday, the US Supreme Court heard arguments about the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit emissions from power plants under the landmark Clean Air Act, BBC News reports. The outlet says the 6-3 conservative majority “sounded sceptical of the EPA’s authority to issue broad regulations”, but adds that it is unclear how the justices will rule so far. The Wall Street Journal says that while several conservative justices are seeking rules to rein in the EPA’s power, “the liberal minority said the EPA’s approach adequately accommodated industry needs.” The case is based on claims by 19 mostly-Republican-led states and coal companies, Al Jazeera adds.
The New York Times says the two-hour questioning was “mostly technical”, and climate change was mentioned “only in passing”. It adds: “A ruling against the EPA would severely cut back on its ability to regulate the energy sector, limiting it to measures like emission controls at individual power plants and, absent legislation, ruling out more ambitious approaches like a cap-and-trade system at a time when experts are issuing increasingly dire warnings about the quickening pace of global warming.” This ruling would be a “huge blow” for the Biden administration, the Washington Post says. Separately, the paper says the court case has “potential implications for subverting the basic functioning of virtually all federal regulatory agencies”, adding that “the EPA has entered a newly inhospitable era for regulatory action”. The Los Angeles Times notes that the EPA has yet to issue any regulations involving carbon emissions from power plants and the Guardian adds that the Biden administration wants the court to throw out the case as it does not relate to any existing regulation. Meanwhile, Inside Climate News calls the questioning a “pre-emptive strike” against Biden’s climate agenda: “Even companies that run power plants say that West Virginia and its co-litigants have gone too far, and they will argue in support of the Biden administration.” The court session is also covered in the Independent, Reuters and AP News. Meanwhile, in a Guardian opinion piece, professors Laurence H Tribe and Jeremy Lewin say that “the court is breaking with precedent, procedure and prudence to achieve the ultra-conservative majority’s policy preferences”.
In other US news, the Washington Post says “the Biden administration will not challenge a federal court ruling that it did not sufficiently consider climate change when it auctioned off 1.7m acres in the Gulf of Mexico last year, accepting a decision that invalidated the largest offshore oil and gas lease sale in the nation’s history”. Meanwhile, Bloomberg says that Biden “will call on Congress to revive stalled climate legislation in Tuesday’s State of the Union address”, pitching the plan as a way to battle inflation.
There is widespread coverage of the “rain bomb” weather event that has hit Australia’s east cost. The Guardian calls the storm “unprecedented” reporting that some parts of New South Wales have been hit by more than 1.5 metres of rain – close to the average annual rainfall – since Thursday. The Times notes that the storm first inundated Brisbane, before moving south to New South Wales. A Guardian article giving more detail of how the flooding played out says: “Brisbane has two features that make it susceptible to flooding. A subtropical climate naturally suited to big rain events and a city and suburbs built beside rivers and creeks in front of mountain ranges.” Separately, the Guardian says the severe rain event is continuing to move southward to areas including Sydney. Meanwhile, Reuters says: “New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet described the extreme weather as a ‘one-in-a-one thousand-year event’”.
Elsewhere, the New Scientist says the recent flooding was driven by a combination of climate change and La Niña. The Guardian warns that, according to the latest IPCC report, “catastrophic flooding on the scale of the disaster hitting Queensland and New South Wales is becoming more likely as the planet heats due to greenhouse gas emissions, climate scientists have warned.” And separately, the Guardian reports that the recent flooding in northern New South Wales “will force Lismore shire council to rework its new flood management strategy even before it is implemented, and other regions will probably follow suit as insurers tally the cost of worsening climate extremes”.
The German government has “begun to decide on a wide-ranging renewables reform that should make the country’s power supply almost 100% renewable by 2035”, Clean Energy Wire reports. The paper continues: “In a draft paper seen by Clean Energy Wire, the economy and climate ministry proposes higher renewable capacity targets for 2030, aligning the German clean energy path with the 1.5C warming limit.” According to Reuters, Germany uses gas to heat half of its households and Russian gas accounts for half of German gas imports. Separately, Reuters says the 2035 goal is a five-year improvement upon the country’s previous target to abandon fossil fuels “well before 2040”. The newswire also reports that according to a government spokesperson, Germany “is considering all options to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, but it is not yet at a point where it could make a decision about extending the life of nuclear power stations”. Bloomberg says that two of Germany’s largest energy companies are “open to delaying a highly-anticipated nuclear phase out”, but adds that keeping plants open is easier said than done Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph has published a piece entitled, “Putin forces Germany to rethink nuclear power shutdown”, which features an anti-nuclear campaigner.
Elsewhere, AP News says that “Germany’s vice chancellor is traveling to Washington for talks with US officials that will focus on energy security and the need to ramp up renewable energy supplies in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.”
The European Union will unveil a plan next week for reducing its dependence on Russian gas, New Scientist reports. The outlet continues: “The European Commission was due to publish a strategy on reducing EU reliance on Russian hydrocarbons on 2 March, but that has been delayed to next week to allow the bloc to finalise its proposals, New Scientist understands. The plan will reportedly include a 40% reduction in fossil fuel use by 2030.” Bloomberg says the blueprint could reduce the EU’s reliance on gas by 23%. It adds that the document will be adopted on 8 March and “EU executive plans to call on member states to implement the climate and energy package as soon as possible”. Separately, Bloomberg says that EU energy ministers have discussed various natural gas “supply-shock scenarios”. EnergyMonitor says that Europe’s dependence on gas is growing, as EU countries have more than 32GW of natural gas-fired power plants in the pipeline. In a piece framed around the IPCC report, the Independent notes that Russia currently provides 40% of the EU’s oil and coal, and around 20% of its gas.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times covers warnings from UK prime minister Boris Johnson that energy prices will rise further following sanctions on Russia. And the Guardian highlights a twitter thread by Kwasi Kwarteng, the UK’s business secretary, which “set out his case for a clean energy future for the UK”. In related news, Reuters reports that the International Energy Agency will hold an “extraordinary ministerial meeting” today to discuss the impact of Russia’s invasion on oil supplies, as the Times reports that “gas and oil prices rose again yesterday as the escalation of sanctions against Russia increased concerns about supply disruption.” And the Guardian reports that Russian vessels will be banned from British ports.
Ukraine disconnected from the Russian-dominated power grid on Thursday, and now wants to connect to the EU system, Politico reports. According to the outlet, Ukraine and Moldova initially disconnected from the Soviet-era power grid as a “three-day exercise of electricity independence”. However, it says the countries are hoping that the change will be made permanent, and want the EU to let them join the grid of continental Europe. The outlet adds: “On Monday, EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson met with ENTSO-E to discuss Ukraine’s early joining, a process called synchronisation.” Reuters adds: “The European Union’s energy policy chief said on Monday she expected ministers from EU countries to back a proposal for Ukraine’s electricity grid to be synchronised with the European network as soon as possible.”
Reuters reports that China’s total energy consumption and coal use saw “its biggest increase…in a decade” in 2021 as its economy rebounded from the pandemic. It says that the country consumed 5.24bn tonnes of standard coal equivalent of energy last year, a 5.2% increase from 2020. It adds that coal consumption in China rose 4.6% in 2021. The newswire cites the latest figures from the country’s statistical bureau. Mysteel – a Shanghai-based website publishing commodity news, data and analyses – also features the data. It reports that China produced more than 4bn tonnes of raw coal last year, a 5.7% increase.
Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post reports that China is projected to add “93 gigawatts (GW) worth of new offshore wind power capacity from 2021 to 2030”. The newspaper says that the figure was released by Wood Mackenzie, a “resource consultancy”. It adds: “That build-up would bolster the country’s efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060”. Yicai – a Shanghai-based financial outlet – reports that China has said that it will build “another batch” of renewable energy projects, which will add a total of 455GW of renewable electricity generation capacity by 2030. The outlet says most of the projects will be situated in the “resource-rich Gobi desert area in the northern part of the country”, citing China’s macroeconomic planner.
Elsewhere, according to Beijixing Electricity Net – a Chinese industry news portal – the nation’s energy regulator, the National Energy Administration, has said that the country “in principle, will not build new coal-fired projects whose sole purpose is to generate electricity”.
The eruption of the undersea volcano at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai (HTHH) near the South Pacific island nation of Tonga on 15 January 2022 was “not strong enough to have significant impacts on the global climate”, a new study says. The researchers review the influence of historical volcanic eruptions on the global climate and then evaluate the impact of the HTHH eruption. The study estimates that the eruption will decrease the global average surface temperature “by only 0.004C in the first year after eruption, which is within the amplitude of internal variability at the interannual time scale”.
The Guardian has published an editorial in response to the IPCC’s latest report, saying that: “No amount of global heating is safe… This report is a final warning. The next time the world’s scientists pronounce will be at the end of the decade – when it will be too late to stop the rot.” The editorial argues that “past inaction and the failure to begin significant emission reductions early have cost the world dearly” and that “a gentle transition away from fossil fuels toward low-carbon alternatives no longer seems realistic”. It concludes: “The Ukraine crisis is showing that governments will spend vast sums of money to address a threat deemed serious enough… What is needed is to find a way of living our lives that combines social justice with ecological sustainability. Depressingly, the IPCC reveals that the search has still not properly begun.” Meanwhile, Prof Mark Howden, a vice-chair of the IPCC, and Ofa Ma’asi-Kaisamy – manager of the Pacific Climate Change Centre at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme – have penned an opinion piece in the Guardian. They note that the Pacific is particularly impacted by cyclones, despite having low historical responsibility for global emissions. It also outlines traditional adaptive strategies that have been used in the region, discusses the cost of adaptation in developing countries and notes “growing calls for developed countries to urgently dial up action on adaptation policy, finance and practice so that they keep pace with climate change”. Meanwhile, Alice Bell – co-director at the climate change charity Possible – has written a Guardian comment piece arguing that “the IPCC climate report is grim – but there is still room for hope”.
Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser to the UK government, writes in the i newspaper that climate change trends over the UK “will strain housing, agriculture, transport and supply chains – little of which was built with such pressure in mind”. According to Vallance, “the challenge is enormous, but it can be met” through “recognition that we must adapt to and mitigate climate change at the same time”. Former chairs of UK’s Adaptation Committee Lord John Krebs and Baroness Julia Brown write in the Guardian that “[t]he UK has the capacity and the resources to adapt, but the government is simply not doing enough”. They say that “adaptation should be integral to ‘levelling up’, because the impacts of climate change will increase inequalities” and that “it requires upfront investment now for longer-term gain.”
Elsewhere, Business Green editor James Murray looks at the parallels between the impacts of climate change laid out in the IPCC report and the Netflix film, Don’t Look Up, about the threat of an Earth-bound comet. He writes that “the climate crisis is not totally unlike a comet, and that comet is closer than ever before”. He argues that while “climate change may not be an existential threat in and of itself, but it makes existential threats considerably more likely”. That said, he adds that “there is a growing realisation that the world knows what needs to be done, and the solutions that can resolve so many of the crises we are now facing are broadly aligned”, and that “clean technologies and nature restoration are both the only way to stop climate and geopolitical risks intensifying further still, and the best path for neutering the power of aggressive petrostates”.
A Times editorial argues that Europe’s dependance on Russian has has left it “strategically vulnerable”. Over the past decade, European dependance on Russian gas has deepened, the editorial says, adding: “This reliance on Russian gas risks undermining western efforts to confront President Putin. It leaves Europe vulnerable to any move by Moscow to retaliate against western sanctions that are wrecking the Russian economy by cutting off gas supplies…Weaning Europe off this reliance on Russian gas is a strategic and economic necessity but will not be easy.” The editorial concludes that the answer is diversify away from gas be investing in nuclear energy and renewables. Elsewhere, a Mail editorial entitled, “Fill the power vacuum”, says: “If fracking is out, we must be less pusillanimous about exploiting North Sea fields and massively increasing nuclear power.”
A Lex column in the FT says that while “[s]pilling red ink over stranded assets is becoming a habit at BP”, the divestment of its Rosneft stake “should have happened years ago”. According to Lex, “BP can afford to take the hit” of “jettisoning its near-20% stake” in Rosneft. However, the column says, “the reputational damage to the UK-listed oil group of continuing to do business in Russia would have been much greater”. Meanwhile, a comment in the Evening Standard by city editor Oscar Williams-Grut says that “Shell must follow BP and dump Gazprom”. He writes that while “Shell might argue that the joint ventures are good for the green agenda”, working to “support the company…[is] unacceptable as missiles rain down on Kyiv.” He concludes that the “the uncomfortable bigger truth for Europe is we remain reliant on Russian oil and gas…[t]he taps keep flowing even as the deals dry up”.
A Financial Times editorial says that while “epoch-shifting geopolitics may very well require more revenue to be raised”, windfall taxes on energy companies is a “bad idea” that could “compound uncertainty and distract from the need to pursue well-thought-out reform”. The paper observes that it would be “wise to accelerate plans to transition towards the renewables that will give European countries true energy independence”.
Finally, opinion columnist David Fickling writes in Bloomberg that “food is one area where Russia’s sway is set to increase rather than deteriorate in the coming decades”, a fact he considers “a perverse reward for a country that has contributed amply to the warming climate as the world’s biggest fossil fuel exporter”. He cites the latest IPCC report, saying that “much of the global population will be at increased risk of starvation” as a result of climate change, but “Russia will be well-placed to reap the strategic benefits of that more chaotic future, as the same factors open up new areas in the north with longer growing seasons and warmer conditions.”
New research shows a “doubling” of gross tropical forest carbon loss worldwide between 2001-05 and 2015-19. The researchers use a combination of high-resolution satellite datasets, noting that the “increase in carbon loss from forest conversion is higher than in bookkeeping models forced by land-use statistical data, which show no trend or a slight decline in land-use emissions in the early 21st century”. The acceleration in forest carbon loss suggests that “existing strategies to reduce forest loss are not successful”, the authors conclude.
Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is causing an “irreversible transition in Amazon hydrological cycle”, a new study says. The researchers show that the reduction in evapotranspiration in the region caused by 20 years of deforestation has “dried the atmosphere persistently and caused moisture decoupling”, that is – “an opposite sign of moisture change between the lower and middle troposphere”. However, the authors note, “the more recent drying through the seasons over rainforests and during the wet season over the transition zones from rainforests to monsoon forests and savannahs…suggests a window of opportunity for preventing ecosystem collapse with forest conservation”. For more on a “tipping point” in the Amazon rainforest, see Carbon Brief’s guest post.