Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate change: Scotland to set faster target for net-zero emissions
- House Democrats pass bill directing Trump to stay in Paris climate deal
- US ‘pushed to have climate change removed’ from international Arctic policy statement
- Achieving net-zero emissions is a realistic goal for Britain
- Comment: It’s a question of when not if we end our contribution to global warming
- An experimental examination of measurement disparities in public climate change beliefs
- Impacts of small-scale urban encroachment on air temperature observations
The Scottish government is to legislate a net-zero emissions target for 2045, BBC News reports. The move comes “within hours” of advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which recommended a 2050 net-zero target for the UK and an earlier 2045 date for Scotland, reports BusinessGreen. The Guardian says that the Scottish government is considering a “rethink” on its plan to cut taxes on air travel, as part of efforts to cut emissions. BBC News also reports comments from CCC chair Lord Deben, saying that Northern Ireland needs a new approach to climate change. It is the only devolved administration which does not have its own climate change legislation and targets, BBC News notes. The Daily Mail also carries remarks by Lord Deben in which he says that the UK should “stop building cr*p houses”. Meanwhile, Sky News reports on its own polling which it says shows: “The majority of Britons are unwilling to significantly reduce the amount they drive, fly and eat meat in order to combat climate change.” It adds that 28% say they would be willing to give up air travel or fly less, while 19% already do not fly. For meat, it says 35% would be willing to eat less meat and 5% would give it up entirely, while 8% already go without. Separately, the Guardian reports that the new international aid secretary Rory Stewart has defended UK spending on climate finance overseas, as well as its overall target to put 0.7% of GDP towards helping poorer countries. The Guardian notes: “While [Stewart’s predecessor Penny] Mordaunt was an aid budget sceptic who wanted to overhaul the way the Department for International Development (DfID) spends money, Stewart identified the foreign aid target as ‘hugely important’.”
A vote passed yesterday in the House of Representatives has directed president Donald Trump to keep the US in the Paris Agreement on climate change, report the Guardian and many others. “Only a few Republicans crossed party lines to vote for the measure,” the Guardian notes. The bill is the first on climate change to pass in the house in a decade, reports Reuters, gaining approval by a majority of 231 to 190. Vox also notes the decade-long absence of bills in the house. However, the move is unlikely to have practical impact as Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell has signalled the bill will not be taken up by the senate, reports the Hill. Democrats hope the bill will, nevertheless, help isolate Republicans on the issue of climate change, “which they believe is resonating strongly with voters”, reports the New York Times. The Washington Post, Hill, InsideClimate News, BuzzFeed News and Climate Home News all have the story.
The US government has tried to remove references to climate change from an international statement on Arctic policy, the Independent reports, picking up on coverage in the Washington Post. The Post says that US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is expected next week to endorse the statement from the Arctic Council, which meets every two years. The paper adds that the statement is non-binding, but that the US administration, nevertheless, objected to language that “could be read as a collective commitment to address the effects of climate change in the Arctic, diplomats said”. Separately, Reuters reports comments from a US official saying his country rejects attempts to influence policies in the region by countries that are not part of the eight-member Arctic Council.
There is continued reaction to the Committee on Climate Change advice that the UK should reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. An editorial in the Financial Times says: “The net-zero report should be applauded as a blueprint which does not shy away from addressing the costs of transition. The government should seize the opportunity to put Britain on the right path on climate change.” The FT adds: “The report lays out a clear moral case for the UK reaching net-zero by 2050”, noting the UK’s large historical responsibility for climate change. It concludes: “The Committee on Climate Change has offered the government an opportunity to set a path for the UK as a global pioneer. Although the 2050 deadline will require sustained government focus, it is by no means unworkable. It is a lot more credible than Extinction Rebellion’s proposed 2025 cut-off…Here is an opportunity for a rudderless government, looking to chart a new path for Britain in the world post-Brexit, to write a place in history.” In the Guardian, an editorial says “science dictates” that the UK reach net-zero “as fast as we can”. It argues: “[T]he extraordinary success of protesters over recent weeks, both in raising awareness and materially altering the climate debate, makes it more likely that targets will be further strengthened, as they have been before and should be again. The 2050 target is not ambitious enough.” An editorial in the London Evening Standard says: “The committee’s report is no guarantee we will get there. But it could be a step towards preventing climate crisis.” Writing in the Times Red Box section, Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Soames writes in support of a net-zero target. He argues: “The government should accept the committee’s advice and set a net-zero target in law before the end of the summer. We have no excuse for not finishing the job.” A letter to the Daily Telegraph, from a range of religious leaders, also backs an earlier net-zero target for the UK. They write: “The urgency and scale of action required necessitates a legally binding target of net-zero emissions by 2045…We readily recognise that this means changing our lifestyles and behaviours. Indeed, we welcome the benefits that will follow, including cleaner air and warmer homes.” Writing in the New Statesman, Laurie Layborurn-Langton concurs, saying: “[T]he arguments for an earlier target are persuasive. Other countries are exploring or setting more ambitious targets, including Sweden, which has committed to reaching net zero by 2045.” [Unlike the proposed UK goal, Sweden’s target is to cut domestic emissions by 85% and offset the rest. It also excludes international aviation and shipping.] In the Conversation, Aled Jones discusses when the UK could and should reach net-zero, concluding: “It depends how you think politics works.” In a full-page comment in the Daily Mail, Ross Clark writes: “Suddenly, the government is falling over itself in order to make gestures on climate change.” He responds to the “orders” in the CCC advice [the clue is in the name], which he incorrectly claims include “giving up red meat”. Clark continues: “Of course, climate change is a problem that needs to be addressed, and the public is generally supportive of efforts to cut carbon emissions…But if the government just leaps aboard every passing bandwagon, without thinking through what it is doing, it is in danger of imposing huge costs on the economy and causing considerable public resentment – while making emissions worse.” Clark’s column includes a string of inaccurate assertions, including that the “only way” to cut emissions from steel and cement is to “drive them abroad” [the CCC outlines various options to cut emissions from these and other hard-to-decarbonise industries at home] and that “only thanks to the emigration of heavy industry” to date has the UK cut its emissions since 1990 [as Carbon Brief analysis has shown, cleaner sources of electricity have been the largest driver]. City AM carries an article by Kate Andrews of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a right-wing free-market thinktank, which attacks the recent climate protests saying they will “quite literally send us back to the dark ages”. In a blog, BusinessGreen editor James Murray reflects on the positive reaction to the CCC report from business (“staggeringly effusive”) and some commentators, before warning of the scale of the challenge ahead: “This is a blueprint for transforming every home, every street, every office, every factory, every school, every car, every diet, every policy, every job, every aircraft, every farm, every forest, in some cases unrecognisably, and all before people under 40 retire.”
Writing in the Times Red Box section, climate minister Claire Perry says she “understand[s] [the] fears” of climate change protestors. She defends the UK’s record on tackling warming, saying the country is “leading the world”. Perry continues: “But the question being asked by those who camped out in Marble Arch and the thousands of school children who have taken to the streets over the last few months is: what more can and should we be doing to tackle climate change?” On this, Perry points to the CCC advice on reaching net-zero by 2050. She says: “We must seriously consider the CCC’s detailed advice, and the costs and opportunities of adjusting our long-term target. Since 2016 we’ve been clear that we will legislate for a net-zero emissions target, and I hope we will become the first major economy to do so.” Perry adds that long-term targets “only have a value if they are driving real action”. In a speech at the launch of the CCC report yesterday republished by BusinessGreen, secretary of state Greg Clark says: “We want to be the first major economy to legislate for net-zero.”
The extent to which Americans — especially Republicans — believe in anthropogenic climate change has recently been the subject of high-profile academic and popular disagreement. This study uses a large (N = 7,019) and demographically diverse sample of US adults to compare several widely used methods for measuring belief in anthropogenic climate change. The authors find that seemingly trivial decisions made when constructing questions can significantly alter the proportion of the American public who appear to believe in human-caused climate change. They find that some common measurement practices may nearly double estimates of Republicans’ acceptance of human-caused climate change.
The encroachment of buildings and the built environment on weather stations can be a potential source of bias in climate measurements. To test how big an influence built-up areas might have on temperatures, towers were set up at distances of 4, 30, 50, 124, and 300 metres from a built-up area. Stations were aligned in such a way to simulate the impact of small-scale encroachment on temperature observations. As expected, temperature observations were warmest for the site closest to the built environment with an average temperature difference of around 0.3C. Differences were greater during the evening than day. The impact of the built environment on air temperature diminished with distance with a warm bias only detectable out to the tower located 50 meters away. These results suggest that small-scale urban encroachment within 50 meters of a station can have important impacts on daily temperature extremes with the magnitude dependent upon prevailing environmental conditions and sensing technology.
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