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Daily Briefing

30.05.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Climate change link to puffin deaths
Climate change link to puffin deaths

News.

Climate change link to puffin deaths

Climate change “played a role in the deaths of thousands of puffins” on an island in the Bering Sea, off the coast of Alaska, BBC News and many other outlets report. A new study in the journal PLOS One suggest that the birds starved to death when the fish they eat migrated north with rising sea temperatures. Many of the dead birds were also moulting, which made flying farther for prey difficult, the Hill explains. Scientists estimate that up to 9,000 puffins and other seabirds died over the course of a few months in 2016. An article by zoologist Tim Birkhead in the Conversation puts the findings in context: “Changes in seabird numbers are probably the best way to monitor the quality of the marine environment…In the past 50 years, the world population of marine birds has more than halved”. He notes that the puffin deaths seem “to be part of massive shift in the marine environment, a ‘Pacific marine heatwave’”. The Washington PostNew ScientistCNNGuardian and Inside Climate News also have the story.

BBC News Read Article
Trump energy officials label natural gas 'freedom gas'

In a press release from the Department of Energy yesterday, officials referred to the natural gas exported by US energy companies as “freedom gas” and “molecules of US freedom”, the Hill writes. Under-secretary Mark Menezes said in a statement that an expansion of natural gas exports in Texas would help in “spreading freedom gas throughout the world”. The comments were mocked online including by 2020 presidential candidate Jay Inslee. The Guardian also covers the officials’ comments, writing: “It’s unclear if members of the Trump administration attempting to assign patriotic intentions to natural gas are aware of the silliness of the concept”. BBC News and the Washington Post also cover the story.

In other news about US energy, Politico reveals that Ohio has approved a bill to “gut clean energy standards and subsidise at-risk nuclear and coal plants”, following pressure from a Trump campaign official. Bloomberg reports that the two “nuclear power plants pressing Ohio lawmakers for bailouts may actually be among the most profitable single reactors in the US, according to a report sponsored by an oil and natural gas trade group.”

The Hill Read Article
Exxon fights off Church’s climate bid

Two-fifths of investors in oil major Exxon Mobil have backed calls by the Church of England to make it appoint an independent chairman amid fierce criticism of its stance on climate change, the Times writes. The Church led the revolt at Exxon’s annual meeting in Dallas, “after Exxon blocked its attempt to bring a shareholder vote on a proposal to force it to set emissions reductions targets”. Edward Mason, head of responsible investment at the Church’s endowment fund, tells the paper that progress to make the company engage on climate change has been “painfully slow”. The Financial Times also covers the developments at the meeting.

The Times Read Article
EV charge points outstrip petrol stations for first time ever

There are “now more [electric vehicle] charging locations than petrol stations in the UK”, according to industry data picked up by BusinessGreen. Electric Vehicle charging company Zap-Map say that there are now 8,546 charging locations compared to 8,400 petrol stations. However, an editorial in the Daily Mirrorlaments that there are “far too few charging points” and argues that the government “needs to invest in the infrastructure”. Meanwhile, a piece in the Times paints a bleak picture of the UK electric car industry, writing that “sales are lacking spark”, as new figures from the Department of Transport reveal that “only 48%” of adults would be willing to buy electric or hybrid models. Ministers said that the research indicates raised awareness of the environmental impact of transport. The Guardian highlights the dangers posed to drivers who charge their vehicles from their home mains supply. In the US, DeSmogBlog reports that a new poll by Climate Nexus “shows widespread bipartisan interest in electric cars”.

BusinessGreen Read Article
Cato closes its climate shop; Pat Michaels is out

The Cato Institute, the prominent libertarian US thinktank co-founded by Charles Koch, has “quietly shut down a program that for years sought to raise uncertainty about climate science”, E&E News reports. This leaves the organisation without an office dedicated to global warming, although a spokesperson insisted that the closure does not represent a shift in the institute’s position on climate change. The move follows the departure of climate sceptic scientist Pat Michaels earlier this year “amid disagreements with officials in the organisation”.

E&E News Read Article

Comment.

Further inaction on climate change is simply not an option

The secretary-general of the United Nations has written an opinion piece in the Financial Times urging world leaders to act on climate change. “People all over the world are starting to feel the impacts of the climate emergency — and these will only worsen”, Guterres writes. “The struggle against climate change is the fight of my life…Unfortunately, it is one we are not winning.” He recommends adhering to the goals set out by the scientific community: “carbon neutrality by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C by the end of the century”. He also suggests that governments “shift taxes from salaries to carbon”, “stop subsidising fossil fuels” and “stop building new coal plants by 2020”. Guterres highlights that climate action could reap an “economic gain of $26tn, compared to business as usual, through to 2030, making it a cost-effective option”.

António Guterres, Financial Times Read Article
Europe needs smart climate policy. The Greens’ EU elections success could help.

“The Greens’ success can represent a positive turning point in European politics, if the new political energy to confront climate change is channeled into effective reforms”, begins an editorial in the Washington Post. “Europe sorely needs smart reform”, the papers says, describing the continent’s cap-and-trade program as “a weak system”. The paper adds: “It is good, then, that the platform of Europe’s newly empowered Greens includes reforming the ETS [emissions trading scheme].” It cautions that the Greens could go wrong in “emphasising counterproductive responses to…environmental threats”, such as the European left’s “scepticism of nuclear power” which “ignores the fact that the proven, emissions-free technology would likely play a substantial role in any sensible transition off coal, oil and gas.”

Editorial, The Washington Post Read Article
Extreme weather has made half of America look like Tornado Alley

A recent spate of tornados are “part of an explosion of extreme weather events, including record flooding, record cold and record heat”, write environmental journalists Joel Achenbach and Jason Samenow. They examine whether the extreme weather is the result of climate change or “just an unusually bad year”. “Teasing out a climate change signal from a natural disaster is invariably complicated”, they say. But Jennifer Francis, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, says that extreme warmth in and around Alaska, along with the reduction of Arctic sea ice, affects the flow of the jet stream. She tells them: “The jet stream is the thing that creates and steers individual storms and also sets up large-scale patterns. What we’re seeing now that’s so unusual is that the large-scale pattern, all the way from the middle of the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic is stuck”. VoxInside Climate News and USA Today all have features investigating the link between recent extreme weather in the US and climate change.

Joel Achenbach and Jason Samenow, The Washington Post Read Article

Science.

Asia’s shrinking glaciers protect large populations from drought stress

More than 280 million people rely on Asia’s melting glaciers for freshwater during summer droughts, a study finds. However, meltwater production is currently unsustainably high—at 1.6 times the balance rate—and is expected to increase in future decades before ultimately declining.

Nature Read Article

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