Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate change risks new cold war in Arctic, warns Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg
- UN’s Kunming biodiversity summit delayed a second time
- Indian lawmaker submits private bill to achieve net zero emissions by 2050
- China: Climate change 'inexcusable' for causing sandstorms
- US: Biden administration revives EPA webpage on climate change deleted by Trump
- UK halfway to reaching net-zero after Covid-19 spurs record emissions cuts
- UK: BP plans to build Britain's largest hydrogen plant
- Oil suffers biggest fall in six months on demand concerns
- Time is running short – but we can get a grip on the climate crisis
- This Congress must go big on climate change
- Climate targets mean our draughty UK homes need serious attention
- Green meanies
- Future climate risk to UK agriculture from compound events
- A potential feedback loop underlying glacial-interglacial cycles
The Times carries a series of articles on climate change security risks, across a double-page spread in today’s paper. In the lead article, it reports that Jens Stoltenberg, Nato chief, has “warned that Russia and China are increasing their military presence in the Arctic Circle as melting ice caps open up trade routes and raise fears of conflict”. It quotes Stoltenberg saying in an interview with the Times: “Climate change is a crisis multiplier, it has direct consequences for our security…[It] can fuel conflicts everywhere, but in different ways. The drought in the Sahel is something very different to melting ice caps in the high north.” A second Times article in the spread reports: “Climate change puts [the] military in danger on multiple fronts.” It says that British military bases “are likely to become increasingly vulnerable because of climate change, according to a report seen by the Times”. A third Times piece reports under the headline: “Pentagon fears climate change damage to US bases.” The final piece in the series reports: “The military is turning to virtual wargaming as climate events such as floods reduce access to training sites overseas.”
The UN COP15 biodiversity summit, due to have been held in China in May, has been officially delayed for a second time, the Guardian reports, with the meeting now pushed back to October. It adds: “Countries are expected to reach an agreement over targets to protect the natural world, including proposals to conserve 30% of the world’s oceans and land by 2030, introduce controls on invasive species and reduce plastics pollution…COP15 will be the first time China has led the world in a major international agreement on the environment.”
An Indian MP has submitted a private members bill to parliament calling for the country to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, reports Climate Home News. The website says: “The bill, obtained by Climate Home News, aims to provide a framework ‘by which India can develop and implement clear and stable climate change policies’ under the Paris Agreement.” It is modelled on New Zealand’s climate law and would require five-yearly emissions budgets for India from 2022. Bloomberg, which earlier this week reported that advisers to India’s prime minister Modi were considering a net-zero goal, has a new piece with “six charts [that] show how hard it is for India to hit net-zero by 2050”. The charts highlight issues such as India’s reliance on coal and its rapidly rising energy demand.
China’s state broadcaster CCTV reports that climate change is “inexcusable” for causing the severe sandstorms that have hit multiple regions of the nation this week. The official TV station says that the adverse weather originated in the Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia, before affecting China. Mongolia is usually among the first nations to be impacted by climate change, according to Du Shiwei, a researcher from the Centre for Mongolian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences quoted by the channel.
Meanwhile, Zhou Xiaoquan, president of Shanghai United Assets And Equity Exchange, urged Shanghai to complete building China’s National Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) “as soon as possible” to guarantee its launch in June, according to financial news website Yicai.com. The Shanghai Environment Energy Exchange (SEEE) is leading the development of a trading platform for the ETS. During a joint inspection to the SEEE on 16 March, Zhou added that Shanghai should explore and promote “carbon finance” to help it become a global financial centre, the website says.
Separately, China Environment News reports that Beijing’s “carbon intensity” in 2020 was more than 23% lower than in 2015. Referring to the data, the article says that the Chinese capital has “overachieved” the target set by the 13th five-year plan. The report, which explains the city’s “new pathways” to low-carbon development, has been posted by China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment on its website. Elsewhere, website ReNews picks up the findings of a new report from consultancy Wood Mackenzie, which it says finds that “China’s 2060 carbon neutrality target can complement both energy security and economic goals.” Finally, the Financial Times carries a letter from Prof Lord Stern arguing that: “Collaboration with China is the way to fight climate change.”
Several outlets report the news that the Biden administration has reinstated a webpage on climate change deleted under Donald Trump, with the Washington Post saying the move “again marks the chasm between the two administrations when it comes to climate policy”. According to Bloomberg, it is: “The latest sign the US government is back in the fight against climate change.” Reuters says the move highlights how the Biden administration is “likely to result in sweeping policy changes in the coming years to tamp down on planet-warming emissions”. The Hill also has the story. In his new monthly guest post for Vox, David Roberts argues that “[West Virginia senator] Joe Manchin will decide whether Biden succeeds on climate change.” He says that Manchin will determine the fate of a “clean electricity standard that would push the US electricity sector to net-zero carbon emissions by 2035”, calling this “arguably Biden’s single most important climate policy promise”. Bloomberg reports on moves by Democrats senator Elizabeth Warren and representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to introduce “a $500bn proposal to shift US transportation away from fossil fuels”.
Elsewhere in US politics, the New York Times reports that Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer is “objecting to a plan that would raise costs for some of his constituents by bringing flood insurance rates in line with climate risks”. The Hill reports that senators “sparred Thursday over the role financial regulators should play in the fight against climate change as federal agencies move toward tighter requirements for major firms”. Meanwhile, the Independent reports that “Joe Biden told the permanent representatives of the UN Security Council on Thursday that the US will join the international body’s Group of Friends on Climate and Society”.
There is continuing coverage of Carbon Brief‘s analysis, published yesterday, showing that the UK is halfway to reaching net-zero emissions after a record drop in emissions during the Covid crisis last year. BusinessGreen, the Independent, MailOnline and YaleEnvironment 360 all have the story. The news is given a full page of coverage in the Daily Express. It says prime minister Boris Johnson “wants all nations to commit to net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century”. (BBC News reports that the Northern Ireland executive is to consider a draft climate change bill that would target “at least” an 82% reduction by 2050 as a contribution to the UK’s overall net-zero target.) An editorial in the Daily Express (not online) reacts to Carbon Brief’s findings and says: “A great green revolution is unfolding for the benefit of us all…We have the chance to not only prevent catastrophic climate change, but to ensure our grandchildren inherit a cleaner, safer and more prosperous Britain.” Under its news story on Carbon Brief’s analysis, the Daily Express also carries a comment from London mayor Sadiq Khan, saying:“I’m delighted to give my backing to the Daily Express’ brilliant campaign – ‘Green Britain Needs You’.” CityAm has also published a comment piece by Khan under the headline: “London’s Covid recovery must fight injustice and promote a greener capital.”
Oil major BP has announced plans to build what it says would be the UK’s largest hydrogen production plant by 2030, Reuters reports. The plant, on Teesside in northeast England, would have a capacity of up to 1 gigawatt (GW) of “blue hydrogen” made by converting gas and storing the CO2 produced in the process, the newswire says, compared to a UK target of 5GW by 2030. Reuters adds that BP is exploring the possibility of capturing “up to 98%” of the CO2 released during the process. The Daily Telegraph says the scheme could be up and running by 2027, reaching full capacity by 2030. It says BP will make a final investment decision on the plans in “early 2024”. Bloomberg says the BP plant would “support an industrial cluster” in the region, as well as capturing and storing 2m tonnes of CO2 per year. The Daily Mail reports the story, calling it a “boost for [the] North as FTSE 100 oil supermajor steps up its green revolution”. CityAM also has the story. Meanwhile, the Financial Times continues its coverage of the prospects for hydrogen in a feature asking if “the lightest gas turn heavy industry green”, pointing to sectors such as steel, cement and chemicals. The Financial Times “Energy Source” newsletter also looks at discussions on hydrogen at a recent event. Carbon Brief published an in-depth look at hydrogen last year.
US oil prices saw their largest fall in six months yesterday, the Financial Times reports, “as indications of flagging demand in China and the US sent jitters through a previously buoyant market”. The paper goes on to quote an analyst saying: “Markets rarely move in straight lines and the current soft patch should not detract from what we believe will be a strong summer for global oil demand.” InsideClimate News has a piece looking at how global oil demand could “surpass pre-pandemic levels within a few years”, according to the International Energy Agency. The website: “As oil demand rebounds, nations will need to make big changes to meet Paris goals.” Separately, the Guardian reports exclusively that: “Oil firms knew decades ago fossil fuels posed grave health risks, files reveal.”
In a comment for the Guardian, the UK’s COP26 president designate Alok Sharma sets out his “four clear aims” for the meeting. He begins: “The climate crisis represents a clear and present danger to people and our planet. Its real-world consequences are now all too visible…Unless we act now, we will be out of time to hold back the worst impacts.” Sharma then explains his aims: “The first: global net-zero. I want to put the world on a path to reach net-zero by the middle of the century, which is essential to keeping 1.5C within reach.” He adds that current climate pledges fall far short of this ambition and says “the UK is using the COP presidency to urge all countries to set 2030 emissions reductions targets that put us on a path to net-zero”. His second goal, on adaptation, is: “by COP26, we want every country to have a credible plan for managing the unpredictable and often damaging weather patterns that are the result of climate change”. His third goal is to ensure “sufficient funds” are available for climate finance and he reiterates the Paris target for $100bn to be given each year by 2020. [COP26 is expected to negotiate a new, higher climate finance target for 2025.] Finally, Sharma’s fourth goal is “working together to make the negotiations in Glasgow a success”. The Guardian carries a news story writing up the contents of Sharma’s comment. A cover story in Politico magazine reports on the “greybeards running the world’s climate talks”, in a piece looking at the cadre of ageing men leading climate negotiations for the EU, US and China.
BusinessGreen reports on its interview with Anne-Marie Trevelyan, UK business minister and also the country’s “international champion on adaptation and resilience”, in which she discussed her priorities for COP26. It quotes her saying: “We want to drive forward global ambition and action on adaptation, resilience, and loss and damage, working with those countries that are really on the front line of those climate shock risks.” The piece continues: “[T]hat action goes far beyond simply mobilising increased levels of climate funding, Trevelyan argues. Shoring up economies and infrastructure in the face of worsening climate shocks will also involve embedding climate risks into insurance markets in order to ensure that the changing climate is factored into major investment and planning decisions, as well as encouraging nations around the world to make climate adaptation a core priority for all parts of government, not just environment ministries, she says.” BusinessGreen also quotes Trevelyan saying “we are encouraging those who are able to make contributions [towards international climate finance] to do so”.
Meanwhile, the Sun reports that UK pensions minister Guy Opperman has “urged [‘Brits’] to pump pensions into eco-friendly wind farms and solar panels to get bumper returns”. It adds: “He called on Sun readers to put their cash into new tech firms creating wind farms and projects to slash pollution, safe in the knowledge their funds will soar as Britain gets closer to net-zero by 2050.”
An editorial in the Washington Post says the US, under president Joe Biden, has “another chance” to tackle climate change. It says: “The danger is imminent. The world cannot afford another round of nice-sounding proposals followed by inaction. Congress must go big on climate change.” It argues that Democrats should try to find Republican support in the Senate to enact legislation and if this doesn’t work they “must find another path”, concluding: “One way or another, this Senate must approve a strong climate policy.”
In the Financial Times, economics editor Chris Giles has a comment piece on the need to address the UK’s draughty homes. He notes that the “green homes grant” was a “flop” because it was “highly restrictive” and because “the government still gives me a carrot to keep burning gas”. This carrot, Giles says, is in the form of environment and social policy costs being “loaded weirdly on to electricity but not gas bills”. He writes: “When gas is subsidised and electricity is five times as expensive, it is not just economists who will keep burning fossil fuels and do nothing about their inefficient windows.” Giles concludes: “If [the UK government ahead of hosting COP26] wants to show it can be serious, energy efficiency grants need to be much less restrictive and ministers should ban the sale of new gas boilers from 2030 – similar to the prohibition of new internal combustion-engine powered cars from then. The government should add the costs of environmental and social obligations to gas not electricity bills. And it should plan now to beef up electricity supply networks to cope with additional demand.”
Writing for BusinessGreen, shadow business minister Alan Whitehead looks at the fate of the green homes grant and other policies he says are “in danger of being cut back and watered down”.
An editorial in the Sun reacts to news that grants for plug-in cars are to be cut by £500 and says: “Drivers will not shift to electric cars if the government makes them even pricier…Sun readers ARE worried about the environment. But they will baulk at new green measures they cannot afford…A government whittling away incentives is going fast in the wrong direction.” In the Independent, associate editor Sean O’Grady says he “can understand” why the grants have been cut but adds it “is a bad move”. He says: “The UK has to be a place where we buy and make the cars of the future. It is a transformative technology, but it needs investment and incentives.”
Understanding both current and future climate risks is needed for adaptation planning. This study looks at case studies of “compound hazard events” that impact the UK’s agricultural sector, comparing the frequency of events today to those in 50 years time under the RCP8.5 scenario. They find that by 2070, potato blight occurrences may increase by 70% in East Scotland and between 20-30% across the East of England, the Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber. Dairy cattle heat stress is projected to increase by nearly 1000% in South West England, the region with the most dairy cattle. The annual probability of cold spring/warm summer conditions will decrease in future, but the annual probability of longer dry/warm summers will increase. The agricultural sector should consider suitable climate adaptation measures to minimise the risk of dairy cattle heat stress, increased potato blight, and longer dry/warm summer conditions.
The transition between glacial and interglacial cycles in the Earth’s climate is a well-known feature of the past million or so years. However, its exact causes are still poorly understood. Pinpointing the relevant mechanisms behind these cycles will not only provide insights into past climate dynamics, but also help predict possible future responses of the Earth system to changing CO2 levels. This paper analyses paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic records to determine which mechanisms proposed in the literature play an important role in glacial-interglacial cycles. They find strong links between ocean ventilation, biological productivity, benthic isotopes and dust, consistent with some but not all of the mechanisms proposed in the literature. Most importantly, they find evidence for a potential feedback loop from ocean ventilation to biological productivity to climate back to ocean ventilation. This feedback loop of connected mechanisms could be the main driver for the glacial-interglacial cycles.
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