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Daily Briefing

03.07.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Climate change made European heatwave at least five times likelier
Climate change made European heatwave at least five times likelier

News.

Climate change made European heatwave at least five times likelier

Many publications report on new rapid analysis finding that climate change made the extreme heatwave affecting France last week “at least” five times more likely. The researchers, from the World Weather Attribution network, also found that “heatwaves hitting Europe are more frequent and more severe than climate models have predicted”, the Guardian says. BBC News reports that heatwaves in June in France are now 4C hotter than they used to be, according to the analysis. CNN reports that the estimate given by the scientists is likely to be “conservative”. Dr Friederike Otto, an author of the analysis from the University of Oxford, tells CNN: “It’s important to stress the ‘at least’ [in five times]. It’s likely to be much higher but this is hard to quantify. Our best estimate is that it’s 100 times more. We give the most conservative estimate.” The analysis is the latest in attribution science – “an analysis specifically designed to determine the likelihood of an extreme weather event, especially as it relates to the contribution from human-caused global heating”, CBS News reports. The IndependentReutersInsideClimate News and USA Today also cover the analysis. Carbon Brief was the first to report on the new work.

Elsewhere, several outlets report new global data released by Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) finding that last month was the hottest June on record. The Hill reports that the global-average temperature this June was about 0.1C higher than the previous record for that month, which occurred in 2016. The Independent also covers the data.

The Guardian Read Article
China pledges to strengthen climate plan by 2020

China has “made its clearest signal yet of an intention to ramp up climate action” by committing to “update” its emission reduction targets by 2020, Climate Home News reports. China pledged to update its national contribution under the Paris Agreement before the end of next year to reflect its “highest possible ambition”, according to Climate Home News. In a joint statement with France and UN chief António Guterres on Saturday, China committed to “update” its climate target “in a manner representing a progression beyond the current one”. “It also vowed to publish a long term decarbonisation strategy,” Climate Home News says. Reuters carries comments from Li Shuo, senior climate advisor with environmental group Greenpeace, who says the commitment to “update” rather than reaffirm current contributions also suggests that stronger pledges will be made. “‘Highest possible ambition’ can’t be there if there is no desire at all from Beijing,” he tells Reuters.

Climate Home News Read Article
Tory MPs set out green manifesto urging more eco-friendly policies

The Guardian reports on a new manifesto from the Conservative Environment Network, which hopes it will “govern the UK’s policies to prevent climate catastrophe and allow for greener economic growth”. Policies include a ban on fracking, a new royal commission on how to build new homes in an environmentally sustainable way and a call for a new environment act, the Guardian says. The manifesto has received backing from 41 MPs, including senior figures such as Sir Nicholas Soames, Sir Oliver Letwin, Greg Hands, Caroline Spelman, Richard Benyon and Zac Goldsmith, the Guardian says. “Both Tory leadership contenders, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, offered assurances that they supported the broad aims of giving government policy more environmental focus, but stopped short of explicitly endorsing all of the plans,” it adds.

The Guardian Read Article
Climate change: Antarctic Peninsula 'can still avoid irreversible change'

BBC News reports on a new panel report from the Grantham Institute exploring the future of the Antarctic peninsula under 1.5C of global warming – the world’s aspirational temperature limit. “The group says reaching the threshold will likely result in a 50-150% increase in the number of days a year the frozen peninsula spends above zero,” BBC News says. This means “more melting”, according to BBC News, but adds the situation would be far worse if the 1.5C temperature limit is breached. The article reads: “Keeping below this figure should allow the peninsula to hang on to its remaining ice shelves, [the report] argue[s]. That’s important because these floating platforms of ice that fringe the long spine of mountainous land work to hold back glaciers, preventing them from dumping more ice into the ocean and raising sea-levels.”

BBC News Read Article

Comment.

The Times view on the shrinking of Antarctic sea ice: Precipitous plunge

An editorial in the Times reflects on the recent release of a study finding that Antarctic sea ice levels have dramatically fallen since 2014. “For years Antarctica, which sits on the South Pole, has been held up by climate change sceptics as proof that the planet isn’t really warming,” the editorial says. “Yet an analysis of 40 years of satellite observations published this week shows that this situation has gone into reverse: between 2014 and 2017 an area of sea ice larger than Mexico has disappeared. Indeed, the Antarctic is [now] melting at a faster rate than the Arctic.” The melting of Antarctic sea ice could have consequences for wildlife and global weather patterns, the editorial says. “At the least, evidence that the Antarctic’s sea ice is rapidly vanishing should intensify the global debate about what can be done to limit climate change.”

Editorial, The Times Read Article
We must not barter the Amazon rainforest for burgers and steaks

The Guardian’s global environment editor Jonathan Watts offers his thoughts on a new agreement between Brazil and the EU that he says will make it cheaper for Brazilian farmers to export agricultural products, particularly beef. The deal, which took two years to negotiate, will also see European businesses get greater access to the markets of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay – which will benefit producers of vehicles, chemicals, machinery, wine and cheese, he says. Watts adds: “Europeans know the risks. Many more people here are adopting a vegetarian diet as it becomes clear that consumption of beef – particularly from Brazil – is a cause of forest clearance, which is destabilising the climate.” Watts says: “Even before the trade deal…meat consumers in Britain were indirectly responsible for up to 500 football pitches of land clearance in Brazil.” He concludes: “The world’s greatest rainforest is a globally essential source of oxygen, carbon sequestration and biodiversity, but as long as these benefits are omitted from trade balance sheets, it will continue to lose out to steakhouses and burger joints.”

Jonathan Watts, The Guardian Read Article

Science.

Seasonal injection strategies for stratospheric aerosol geoengineering

A new study investigates the potential impact of applying the solar geoengineering technique of stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) at particular times, rather than at a constant rate over the year. The researchers simulated “single point” injections of sulphur dioxide (SO2) in each of the four seasons and at five different latitudes. The findings suggest that injecting only during one season “reduces the amount of SO2 needed…thus potentially reducing some of the side‐effects of geoengineering”. Injections at latitudes “of 15N or 15S in spring of the corresponding hemisphere results in the largest reductions in incoming solar radiation”, the study notes.

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article
Climate variability alters flood timing across Africa

Fluctuations in climate caused by natural variability can affect the timing of annual flooding in African rivers by more than three months, new research says. Using observations and model reconstructions of river flows across sub-Saharan Africa, the researchers assessed the influence of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) and El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The findings show “significant changes in flood timing between positive and negative phases of both IOD and ENSO”, particularly in eastern and southern Africa.

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article
The relative importance of cell wall and lumen phytoliths in carbon sequestration in soil: A hypothesis

A new “hypothesis and theory paper” discusses the “controversial” idea that “phytoliths” – minute particles of silica found in some plant tissues – could be beneficial for sequestering substantial amounts of carbon in soils. When a plant dies, it decomposes and is incorporated into the soil organic matter. Here it is susceptible to being broken down, releasing CO2 back to the atmosphere. But phytoliths – named after the Greek for plant (“phŷton”) and stone or rock (“lithos”) – are much more resistant to breakdown and can persist for hundreds or thousands of years, the author says.

Frontiers in Earth Science Read Article

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