Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate change: Last four years are 'world's hottest'
- Poland plans new coal mine as climate talks loom
- Climate change strike: thousands of school students protest across Australia
- Even Republicans at odds with Trump's climate posture, poll finds
- Exclusive: EPA lifts advanced biofuel mandate for 2019 – document
- Why is climate change so hard to tackle? - The great inaction
- Climate change: Can 12 billion tonnes of carbon be sucked from the air?
- Global warming
- Is another genetic revolution needed to offset climate change impacts for US maize yields?
- An interaction between climate change and infectious disease drove widespread amphibian declines
There is widespread coverage of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) State of the Climate report, which says 2018 is on course to be the fourth warmest on record. The first 10 months of the year averaged nearly 1C warmer than 1850-1900, the report finds. This is despite the natural cooling effect of La Niña, notes the Times. The report says the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, the MailOnline says, with the past four years the four warmest. Reuters reports on comments from WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas that “greenhouse gas concentrations are once again at record levels and if the current trend continues we may see temperature increases of 3-5C by the end of the century”. He added that: “If we exploit all known fossil fuel resources, the temperature rise will be considerably higher.” The report also finds that the extent of Arctic sea ice in 2018 was much lower than normal, says the Guardian, with the maximum in March the third lowest on record and the September minimum the sixth lowest. According to the WMO’s assistant deputy secretary general Elena Manaenkova, “these are more than just numbers”, reports CNN. “Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference to human health and access to food and fresh water, to the extinction of animals and plants, to the survival of coral reefs and marine life,” she added. Time, Al Jazeera News, the Independent and the Sydney Morning Herald all cover the story.
Just a few days before hosting the latest round of UN climate talks, Poland has announced it will start investing in a new coal mine next year in the south of the country, reports Reuters. “We’re planning an investment next year in building a new coal mine in Silesia, as this could make sense”, deputy energy minister Grzegorz Tobiszowski told a press conference, adding: “Poland needs coal and either this will be our coal or from outside.“ Despite a draft European Union plan to be climate neutral by 2050, energy minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski told the same press conference that: “I don’t see that in 2050 there will be no coal-fuelled power plants in Poland. The life span of power plants will not end in 2050.” At the same time, a separate Reuters article reports on the “dozens [of coal mines] closing down throughout Poland”, while Climate Home News reports that Greenpeace has threatened to sue Polish state-owned coal utility company PGE over climate change. Finally, DeSmog UK has an article explaining “what you need to know about the UN climate talks in Poland” and the Associated Press speaks to scientists about how “global warming is faster, more extensive and just plain worse than they once thought it would be” at the first climate talks in 1995.
Elsewhere in coal news, Reuters reports that miners and workers at Bulgaria’s largest coal-fired power plant marched in Sofia yesterday to protect their jobs and to urge the government to support coal-fired energy production. Meanwhile, analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence shows that power generators in the US are set to retire a total of 14.3 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired power plant capacity in 2018, up from 7.0 GW of capacity retired in 2017. A report from thinktank Carbon Tracker suggests that nearly half of the world’s coal power stations are already running at a loss, says the Independent. And the Financial Times has a piece about a “just transition” to provide support for communities and miners who lose their jobs because of the reduced use of fossil fuels.
Thousands of schoolchildren, parents and teachers across Australia walked out of class on Friday to demand action by the government on climate change, reports the Guardian. The “Strike 4 Climate Action” brought together children in capital cities and 20 regional centres such as Ballarat, Newcastle, Townsville and Cairns. They were protesting to “demand that the federal government block construction of the Adani Carmichael coal mine, block any new coal or gas projects and require 100% renewable energy use by 2030,” says the New York Times. On Monday, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison had rebuked their plans for “activism” during school hours, reports BBC News, insisting his government was tackling climate change. Chants of “ScoMo’s got to go” rang out from the protest in Sydney’s central business district, reports Reuters. Organisers said 15,000 students took part, notes the Sydney Morning Herald. “Armed with smart phones, the young activists documented, instagrammed and tweeted the event which included speeches, live music and slam poetry,” reports the Australian. Federal resources minister Matt Canavan said the main thing the students would learn from the protests “is how to join the dole queue”, reports the Daily Mail Australia, adding: “Because that’s what your future life will look like, up in a line asking for a handout, not actually taking charge for your life and getting a real job.” Elsewhere in its coverage of the protests, the Guardian has also published an opinion piece jointly written by three 14-year-old school children, as well as a gallery of the best banners and posters. Meanwhile, official government figures released today show Australian CO2 emissions rose 1.3% over the past quarter, reports the Guardian. And BBC News visits the controversial Carmichael coal mine, where work is about to get underway.
New polling suggests that Americans, including Republicans, are becoming more convinced on human-caused climate change, reports the Guardian. Some 64% of Republicans now think climate change is happening, the poll shows, compared to 49% three years ago. And more of the general population acknowledge climate change – 78% compared to 70% three years ago. Residents of coastal areas were 17% more likely to say that climate change was a “very serious” problem, compared to their inland neighbours, notes the Hill.
Meanwhile, there is continued coverage of the fourth US National Climate Assessment, which was published last Friday. The Hill also looks at how “a rash of officials from President Trump on down are parroting similar lines” to dispute the report’s findings. The Guardian has the fourth in its week-long series looking into the report, with the latest article focusing on “why rising seas will force coastal residents to move – or spend”. And in a comment piece for the Guardian, Brenda Ekwurzel and Ken Kimmell from the Union of Concerned Scientists look at what “Trump [is] hiding in the climate report”.
And finally, the Washington Post and the Hill report that former US vice-president Al Gore has labelled president Donald Trump “the face of climate denial”.
A Reuters exclusive reports that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will increase its annual blending mandate for advanced biofuels by 15% for next year. An agency document seen by Reuters suggests the mandate for fuel refiners to use biofuels – which can be made from plant and animal waste – is going up to 4.92bn gallons in 2019. This is up from the 4.29bn set for 2018. The requirement for conventional biofuels – such as corn-based ethanol – will remain at 15bn gallons for 2019, on par with 2018. The Hill also covers the news.
An editorial in the Economist says climate change is a “problem of unprecedented scope and intractability, to which current responses are unequal. It adds that “things will only get worse – perhaps catastrophically so”. This could mean that the countries suffering from climate change “may resort to unilateral measures to improve their own situation”, it says, adding: “Geoengineering is within the scope of a country like Belgium or Brazil. But its effects are not fully predictable, nor will they be evenly spread; some schemes could harm some places. It is no substitute for mitigation and its planned use by one country could terrify others, spreading instability. Geoengineering is worth studying, but it could leave the world an even more dangerous place.”
The Irish edition of the Times uses an editorial to scold the Irish government for not doing more on climate change: “If Ireland truly wants to be a global leader in tackling one of the gravest challenges of our time, the government will have to carry through on its pledge to raise carbon taxes, which will increase the price of petrol, diesel, coal and other fuels. It could have started on this path in last month’s budget, but chose not to. Political courage will be needed…The extreme weather that battered and scorched this island throughout this year provided ample warning that the threat from climate change is real.”
David Shukman, Comment.
“Is it remotely feasible to remove 12bn tonnes of CO2 from the air? Every year. For decades to come,” asks BBC News science editor David Shukman in a feature on the topic of negative emissions. Shukman looks at the different techniques that could be used, such as direct air capture and ocean fertilisation. Focusing on enhanced weathering – ramping up a natural process in which basalt rocks are broken down in a chemical reaction that draws CO2 from the air – Shukman speaks to Prof David Beerling at Sheffield University. Beerling notes that “the infrastructure for farmers to deploy basalt on their crops is already in place. If proven safe and effective, it might be deployable within a decade or two”. “Yet all the time, even more CO2 is being added to the atmosphere – and with few options for reversing it,” notes Shukman. Beerling wrote a guest post on enhanced weathering for Carbon Brief earlier this year.
The use of genetically engineered seeds may be needed to offset the impacts of climate change on crop yields, a new study suggests. Using modelling, the researchers evaluate the impact of climate change on US maize yields in light of the productivity gains associated with the period of rapid adoption of genetically engineered seeds. “We find that yield gains on the order of those experienced during the adoption of GE maize are needed to offset climate change impacts under the business-as-usual scenario,” the researchers say. “Our findings have important implications for regions lagging in the adoption of new technologies which could help offset the detrimental effects of climate change.”
Global warming is compounding the risk amphibians face from infectious fungal diseases, which may be driving rapid population declines and even extinctions, a new study finds. In an experiment with a critically endangered frog (Atelopus zeteki) that prefers cool temperatures, the researchers found that exposing the animal to high temperatures heightened its risk of infection with a fungal pathogen (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) and its risk of mortality. “Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that widespread species declines, including possible extinctions, have been driven by an interaction between increasing temperatures and infectious disease,” the authors say.
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