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Daily Briefing

20.03.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Climate change making storms like Idai more severe, say experts
Climate change making storms like Idai more severe, say experts

News.

Climate change making storms like Idai more severe, say experts

Cyclone Idai, which tore through southern Africa in recent days, was likely made more severe by human-caused climate change, reports the Guardian. While it is too early to make specific conclusions, climate scientists tell the paper that climate change likely contributed to several aspects of the storm’s impact. Dr Friederike Otto of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute tells the paper: “There are three factors with storms like this: rainfall, storm surge and wind. Rainfall levels are on the increase because of climate change and storm surges are more severe because of sea level rises.” Dr Paulo Ceppi is also quoted saying: “There is a direct link between global warming and cyclone intensity. We need to make every effort to follow the Paris Agreement target of remaining below 1.5C of global warming in order to minimise future increases in the severity of tropical storms.” According to the UN, Cyclone Idai has affected more than 2.6 million people and could rank as one of the worst weather-related disasters on record in the southern hemisphere, reports Reuters. Mozambique’s president Filipe Nyusi has called it “a humanitarian disaster of great proportion”, reports BBC News. The death toll in Mozambique has risen above 200 people, says another Reuters piece, while Vox says it may rise to more than 1,000. The American Red Cross released drone footage of the devastation, reports the Hill. A piece in the Wall Street Journal says the cyclone “has spotlighted how the combination of rapid urbanisation and climate change is turning deadly in some of the world’s poorest places”. And Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for southern Africa, tells the Independent that “the devastation wrought by Cyclone Idai is yet another wake-up call for the world to put in place ambitious climate change mitigation measures”.

The Guardian Read Article
UK’s first deep coal mine in over 30 years given go-ahead in Cumbria

The first deep coal mine in the UK for more than 30 years was given the go-ahead yesterday by Cumbria county councillors, the Financial Times reports. The £180m Woodhouse Colliery, on a coastal site near Whitehaven in West Cumbria, will access underground, offshore reserves of coal. The mine will produce more than three million tonnes of coking coal, reports the Times, which is typically used in blast furnaces for steelworks. The developer, West Cumbria Mining, has insisted that its coal will not be used for energy purposes, the paper addds. The project was approved unanimously by Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors, and was “wholeheartedly” backed by Copeland’s Conservative MP Trudy Harrison and supported by international trade secretary Liam Fox. Friends of the Earth clean energy campaigner Tony Bosworth tells the Independent that “this is awful news for our environment”, adding: “If we want to avoid dangerous climate change, giving the go-ahead to a new coal mine takes us in completely the wrong direction”. To mitigate some of the impact of the plant on the environment, the owners have agreed a deal for a 50 megawatt solar farm nearby to provide about a third of the project’s energy needs, notes the Guardian.

Financial Times Read Article
One-third blame climate change for colder winter temperatures: Gallup

One-third of Americans attributed the “unusual” weather this winter to climate change, according to a Gallup poll released yesterday and picked up by the Hill. The survey found that 19% of respondents said the 2018-19 season was colder than usual due to climate change, while 14% said climate change made the season warmer than usual. (Carbon Brief covered the links between the brutal weather and climate change at the time.) Meanwhile, analysis by the Associated Press suggests that the US is twice as likely to see record-breaking heat than record-setting cold. The assessment of more than 400 weather stations throughout the contiguous US shows that since 1999, the ratio has been two warm records set or broken for every cold one. The results were shared with climate scientists, AP adds, “who all said the conclusion was correct, consistent with scientific peer-reviewed literature and showed a clear sign of human-caused climate change. They pointed out that trends over decades are more robust than over single years”.

At the same time, there is coverage of the flooding that hit the US midwest following the “bomb cyclone” last week. Floodwaters inundated large swaths of land along the Missouri River, killing four people and causing more than a billion dollars in damage to crops, livestock and roads, reports Reuters. Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin have all declared states of emergency. And Scientific Americanreports that low-lying communities from Minnesota to Missouri are bracing for what could be the Mississippi Basin’s worst flooding since 1993 as “temperatures rise and rainstorms continue to track over areas with deep winter snowpack”.

The Hill Read Article
Vitol warns oil demand to peak within 15 years

Vitol, the world’s biggest independent energy trader, has said it expects oil demand to peak within 15 years, reports the Financial Times, “joining a chorus of warnings that the industry needed to prepare for a shift towards cleaner fuels”. Chief executive Russell Hardy said yesterday that while the world was not ready to move to renewable energy without denting economic growth, there was a clear inflection point ahead, the FT reports: “We anticipate that oil demand will continue to grow for the next 15 years, even with a marked increase in the sales of electric vehicles…But that demand growth will begin to be impacted thereafter.” Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports that UK’s North Sea oil industry needs £200bn of investment to survive for another generation after the steady decline in spending fell to its lowest in 15 years.

Financial Times Read Article

BBC News.

Green light for Shetland subsea link but Western Isles' rejected

Plans to lay a new subsea electricity cable from Shetland to the Scottish mainland have been provisionally approved by the energy regulator Ofgem, reports BBC News. The 600MW transmission link would allow new wind farms on Shetland to export electricity to the rest of the UK. It is estimated the link would cost around £709m and would be completed in 2024, says the Press Association via the Belfast Telegraph. However, Ofgem has rejected current proposals for a 600MW cable linking the Western Isles to the mainland, citing cost concerns for a link serving just two wind farm projects on the isles. Ofgem said it would instead support alternative proposals for a 450MW cable, or even a 600MW link but at a reduced cost.

In other UK energy news, the chief executive of Ofgem has warned that replacing traditional gas boilers for heating with greener alternatives faces “significant and difficult decisions”, reports that Times. Speaking at the Aurora Spring Forum in Oxford, Dermot Nolan said alternatives using hydrogen-based technology “doesn’t potentially really exist at the moment” and would require huge changes such as the installation of new boilers in every home. And Reutersreports that increasing use of electricity to warm Britain’s homes instead of gas could more than triple power demand from the heating sector by 2050, according to Aurora.

Finally, Reuters reports that EDF Energy has extended the temporary closure of two nuclear reactors at its Hunterston B plant in Scotland while it waits for the regulator to assess their safety cases. In March last year, the two reactors were taken offline to carry out inspections of cracks in the graphite core.

BBC News Read Article

Comment.

The Guardian view on weather forecasts: we need the bigger picture

The suggestion by former BBC weather forecaster Bill Giles for forecasts to include information about climate change as well as local weather conditions is “extremely welcome”, says a Guardian editorial. “Weather and climate are not the same thing, and to confuse them would be unhelpful. But the rapidly developing science of weather attribution means that experts are now able to analyse extreme events including floods and heatwaves to determine the contribution of manmade climate change,” it says. The results of such attribution studies “could feature in the remodelled broadcasts, and play a valuable role in increasing public understanding”, says the editorial, and “so could information about globally important climate-related events, such as updates on melting ice sheets in Greenland or Antarctica.”

Editorial, The Guardian Read Article
UK and Italy bid for 2020 climate talks, amid political uncertainty for both

Britain and Italy are “squaring off to host the UN’s 2020 climate change summit” despite significant domestic uncertainty, writes senior reporter Sara Stefanini in a news feature for Climate Home News. Next year’s Conference of the Parties (“COP”) will be “a key moment where countries will be expected to ramp up their commitments under the Paris Agreement”, notes Stefanini. Yet, in the UK, “it’s not yet clear if the country will have left the European Union by then, be in the middle of a transition or even still locked in negotiations over leaving the bloc”, she says, and “in Italy, current public opinion polls predict a full-out win for the right-wing League party, which now shares power with the populist 5 Star Movement”.

Sara Stefanini, Climate Home News Read Article

Science.

Interactions of tropical cyclones with the Windward and Leeward Islands

Hurricanes affecting the Windward and Leeward Islands in the southeastern Caribbean have intensified over the past 40 years, research suggests. The researchers studied how tropical cyclones have changed from 1979-2016 using the Atlantic Hurricane Database. The research finds hurricanes have intensified “with respect to maximum sustained wind speed and central pressure”, the authors say.

International Journal of Climatology Read Article

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