Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate change is making hurricanes stronger, researchers find
- Companies worth $2trn are calling for a green recovery
- Spain unveils climate law to cut emissions to net zero by 2050
- Climate change: Future floods will delay emergency response
- Renewable energy investors increasingly look to UK, says report
- No silver lining: The Covid-19 pandemic won't slow climate change
- Angus Taylor's 'tech, not taxes' approach is likely to create more problems than it solves
- Present-day greenhouse gases could cause more frequent and longer Dust Bowl heatwaves
- Disruption of emergency response to vulnerable populations during floods
- Circumpolar projections of Antarctic krill growth potential
Many publications report on a new study finding that tropical cyclones – also called hurricanes and typhoons depending on where they originate – have become more intense in the past 40 years. The New York Times reports that the likelihood of a hurricane developing into a Category 3 or higher storm, with sustained winds greater than 110 miles per hour, has increased by about 8% per decade globally. “The trend is there and it is real,” study author Dr James Kossin told the New York Times. CNN reports that the new research “builds upon previous studies that showed a likely increase in stronger storms as global oceans had warmed”. It reports: “But the data did not go back far enough to confidently assess the increase was due to man-made global warming and not natural cycles that can span decades. The latest findings add another 11 years to the data set, which allows for statistically significant trends to become clear.” The Washington Post notes that the findings “are far-reaching for coastal residents, insurers and policymakers, as the most intense hurricanes cause the most damage”. It adds that the authors did not look explicitly at the influence of climate change on these changes within the study: “The study may be capturing aspects of natural variability in some ocean basins, tempering somewhat the significance of its conclusions.” The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was also covered by New Scientist, MailOnline and USA Today. Carbon Brief takes an in-depth look at the new findings, including a breakdown of what the results mean for different world regions.
As the study is published, outlets are also reporting on Cyclone Amphan, a “very severe” storm due to make landfall in East India and Bangladesh on Wednesday. The Washington Post reports that the “super cyclonic storm” is the most intense to form in the northern hemisphere this year and the strongest on record in the Bay of Bengal. On Monday morning, Cyclone Amphan had winds of up 200mph, making it a “Category 5” storm, the Post says. It was later downgraded to a Category 4 storm, the Post adds: “Even as a Category 4 storm as of Monday evening, Cyclone Amphan is capable of inflicting catastrophic damage in a heavily populated, low-lying area that has seen staggeringly high death tolls in past storms.” India has began evacuating thousands of people in response to the threat, Reuters reports. BBC News and the Guardian also cover the cyclone.
Bloomberg reports that a group of companies worth a combined $2.4 trillion “have added their voice to a growing chorus calling for the economic recovery from the coronavirus to be green”. Firms including Adobe, Unilever and more than 150 others have signed a statement asking officials to ensure their response to the pandemic is “grounded in bold climate action” and to prioritise moving to “a green economy by aligning policies and recovery plans with the latest climate science”, Bloomberg says. BusinessGreen adds the new statement is backed by the UN secretary-general. The move “was coordinated by the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), a group that validates corporate climate targets, and its Business Ambition for 1.5C campaign partners We Mean Business and the UN Global Compact”, BusinessGreen says. The Hill reports that some environmental groups are also calling for an end to wildlife trade to “prevent the next pandemic”.
The news comes as BBC News reports on a study finding electric bikes could help people in the UK to return to work as lockdown restrictions are eased. “If e-bikes took off in the same way in the UK, as in many European cities, it would reduce congestion, improve mobility, and save CO2, the study says…It said the UK government hadn’t yet realised the strategic importance of e-bikes, push-bikes with electric motors.” Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the US solar industry has shed five years of job growth in the coronavirus pandemic, equalling 65,000 jobs lost. “The steep losses were mostly among workers unable to install solar energy equipment as businesses have closed and shelter-in-place orders were implemented,” Reuters says. A second Reuters story reports the virus has caused global gas demand to shrink by 2%.
Spain is to unveil a plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 to its parliament today, Climate Home News reports. “The draft text, which follows a public consultation started in February 2019, sets the direction of economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic,” says CHN. “This law offers us an incredible opportunity to debate about the country that we want to be,“ Spain’s vice president Teresa Ribera, who serves as the minister for the ecological transition, told CHN. Under the law, which still needs to be approved by parliament, the government is pledging to make Spain’s electricity system 100% renewable by the middle of the century, ban all new coal, oil and gas extraction projects with immediate effect, end direct fossil fuel subsidies and make all new vehicles emission-free by 2040, CHN says.
The news comes as Australia’s energy minister Angus Taylor said it is not Australian government policy to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the Guardian reports. “Our approach is not to have a target without a plan,” Taylor told the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation].
Several outlets report on a study finding that future increases in rainfall in England could significantly impact the ability of ambulances to reach emergencies. The study, published in Nature Sustainability, finds that future flood conditions “could see just 9% of some rural populations reached by an ambulance within the 7-15 minute mandatory timeframe”, BBC News reports. “Flooding is one of the most devastating impacts of climate change. According to studies, it is likely to increase in the future,” adds BBC News. MailOnline and the Independent also cover the new research. Meanwhile, the Guardian covers new research finding that the dust bowl conditions of the 1930s US are now more than twice as likely to reoccur.
The Guardian reports that the UK has become more attractive to renewable energy investors following the government’s decision to lift its block on financial support for onshore wind and solar projects, according to a survey of investors. The UK “has climbed the rankings of a biannual global survey of investors to take the sixth spot in EY’s ‘attractiveness index’ for renewable energy ahead of a major clean energy auction next year”, the Guardian says. The UK is now sixth in the ranking behind the US, China, France, Australia and Germany, the Guardian adds. Elsewhere, a second Guardian article reports that a legal case has been launched over the UK’s “outdated” energy policies.
For Yale Climate Connections, writer Daniel Grossman asks if the expected drop in CO2 emissions this year as a result of the lockdown means that the world is closer to slowing climate change. He writes: “As always, it’s complicated. But spoiler alert: the short answer is no, unless a new awareness of humanity’s global fragility takes root. Researchers say the concentration of CO2 in the air will rise to a record-high level this month, higher than it’s been in human history. Higher than it has been since the Pliocene, millions of years ago.” His article quotes Carbon Brief’s deputy editor Simon Evans, who says: “People’s cars are parked on the driveway. Planes are not flying anymore. Offices are closed. But the car, it is still the same car. The plane is still the same plane. The factory, once it opens, will have exactly the same emissions.” Elsewhere, for the Independent, environmental campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy argues that the Covid-19 aviation bailout should “benefit workers, not offshore billionaires”.
For the Guardian, freelance writer Ketan Joshi analyses the Australian energy minister’s approach to tackling climate change. He explains: “For several months now, Australia’s energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, has been insisting on a ‘tech, not taxes’ approach to climate policy. This shuns concepts like net zero targets, and opts instead for the incentivisation of technological advancements (using money acquired through taxation, strangely enough).” To develop his policy, Taylor chose to hold a secretive review of the country’s emissions reductions fund (ERF). Joshi says: “It was helmed by former head of Origin Energy Grant King, who is also former director of Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association Ltd (Appea) and BHP Billiton…The King review puts forward a range of tweaks to the ERF that seem likely to create far more problems than they solve. Historically, baselines have been weak and flexible, meaning large emitters simply chug along as normal without consequence.”
In the 1930s, the central US experienced a series of hot, dry summers amidst the famous Dust Bowl drought that hit the Great Plains. A new paper uses a “large-ensemble regional modelling framework” to show that rising greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) at this time “caused slightly enhanced heatwave activity” over the eastern US. Under today’s levels of GHGs, such heatwaves would be “much larger”, the researchers say, with the 1-in-100-year return period of the 1936 heatwave summer reduced to about 1-in-40-years.
Flooding can have a “dramatic” reduction in the response times of emergency services in England, a new study says. The researchers model the spatial coverage of all Ambulance Service and Fire and Rescue Service stations during flooding of varying severity. The findings show that “even low-magnitude floods can lead to a reduction in national-level compliance with mandatory response times and this reduction can be even more dramatic in some urban agglomerations”. The results highlight that the effectiveness of the emergency response is “particularly sensitive to the expected impacts of future increases in extreme rainfall and flood risk”, the study concludes.
New research investigates how growth rates and distribution of Antarctic krill in the Southern Ocean could be affected by warming over the 21st century. Combining climate model projections and an empirical krill growth model, the researchers “find that 85% of the study area experienced only a moderate change in relative gross growth potential (± 20%) by 2100”. However, a “temporal shift in seasonal timings of habitat quality may cause disjunctions between krill’s biological timings and the future environment”, the analysis shows. The regions most affected are likely to be “near the northern limits of krill distribution and in the Amundsen–Bellingshausen seas region during autumn”, the study finds, “meaning habitat will likely shift to higher latitudes in these areas”.
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