Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate change: US-Canada heatwave 'virtually impossible' without warming
- Britain must engage the public on net-zero climate goals –lawmakers
- China to launch carbon trading for electricity sector in July
- Australian government must protect young people from climate crisis harm, court declares
- The G20 must invest in a healthier, greener post-pandemic world
- How the BBC let climate deniers walk all over it
- Ranking local climate policy: assessing the mitigation and adaptation activities of 104 German cities
- Arctic Drilling in the United States energy revolution context: An accumulated story in environment vs energy contradiction
There is extensive media coverage of new analysis showing that the extreme heatwave that scorched western Canada and the US at the end of June was “virtually impossible” without climate change. BBC News says: “In their study, the team of researchers says that the deadly heatwave was a one-in-a-1,000-year event. But we can expect extreme events such as this to become more common as the world heats up due to climate change. If humans hadn’t influenced the climate to the extent that they have, the event would have been 150 times less likely. Scientists worry that global heating, largely as a result of burning fossil fuels, is now driving up temperatures faster than models predict.” Inside Climate News quotes Dr Fredi Otto, a University of Oxford climate researcher and co-author of the study released by the World Weather Attribution: “I think it’s by far the largest jump in the record that I have ever seen. We have seen temperature jumps in other heatwaves, like in Europe, but never this big.” Bloomberg notes that the scientists stress that the heatwave would not have reached the highs it did “in a world without greenhouse gas pollution”. Climate Home News says that the rapid attribution analysis was undertaken by an “international team of 27 leading climate scientists that worked around the clock” and that they were “shocked” by the findings. The New York Times says: “If the world warms another 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, which could occur this century barring drastic cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions, similar events would not be so rare, the researchers found. The chances of such a severe heatwave occurring somewhere in the world would increase to as much as 20% in a given year.” Reuters also quotes Otto: “People need to realise that heatwaves are killers and they are by far the deadliest extreme event…Heatwaves are really changing so much more and so much faster than all other extreme events. Heat preparation and preventing death during heat waves need to be a No 1 priority for every city authority.” The Guardian adds: “The authors of the new study said the latest warming surge exceeded even the worst-case scenarios of climate models. This is forcing them to revise their understanding of heatwaves and consider the possibility that other parts of the world, including the UK, could suffer similar temperature jolts.” The Independent quotes Dr Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a co-author of the analysis: “Within our knowledge, this [heatwave] is basically impossible. It’s surprising and shaking that our theoretical picture of how heatwaves behave has been broken so [dramatically].”
The Independent also carries a news feature by climate correspondent Daisy Dunne under the headline: “The link between our fossil fuel addiction and worsening extreme heat is undeniable.” Dunne says: “It is rumoured that the IPCC’s next major assessment report – due later this year – will set new ground by taking aim at entities, including ExxonMobil, that have sought to delay action on the climate crisis through lobbying and disinformation campaigns. ‘Climate change is no longer a future issue,’ Prof Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy, told the Independent. ‘Its impacts are here and now, and its costs are being measured not just in dollars, but in human lives.’” The Daily Telegraph also carries a news feature looking at how “record-breaking heatwaves have dominated the news recently, affecting large parts of North America, Eastern Europe and even the Arctic, and bringing with them headlines of infrastructure collapse, suffering and death more commonly associated with major natural disasters such as floods or wildfires”.
Meanwhile, in related news, the Guardian reports that “North America endured the hottest June on record last month, according to satellite data that shows temperature peaks lasting longer as well as rising higher”. A separate Guardian article covers a 20-year study which concludes that “more than five million people die each year globally because of excessively hot or cold conditions…and heat-related deaths are on the rise”.
Reuters reports that a committee of MPs has urged the UK government to “swiftly publish proposals on how it plans to meet a 2050 net-zero emissions target and do more to engage the public on the lifestyle changes needed to meet the goal”. The newswire adds: “The committee said the government should publish its net-zero strategy as soon as possible. It should also launch a net-zero engagement strategy and use the international climate talks to be held in Glasgow in November to motivate Britons in the fight against climate change.” It quotes Darren Jones, chair of the business, energy and industrial strategy committee, who says: “The government’s failure to engage the public means we risk people viewing the net-zero transition in a negative light and perceiving policy measures as being imposed.” The Sun also covers the committee’s report, saying “MPs have warned Boris Johnson that he must not hit struggling Sun readers hardest with his expensive plans to go green”. It also quotes Jones: “We can’t let Sun readers and thousands of people on low incomes across the country be forced to pay for these changes they can’t afford. Otherwise, the changes we need to make to get to net zero just won’t happen.”
The Sun also has an accompanying editorial, which says: “It is absurd that it took the Sun to winkle out from Whitehall the gargantuan cost of the eco revolution for hard-up households. But at least Boris Johnson – and other MPs – are now waking up to the potentially crushing bills for the low-paid…Sun readers back a greener Britain, even though our contribution to the global effort can only be tiny. They simply cannot pay thousands for it. Boris admits net-zero will prove difficult but doesn’t want our bills to rise. Great. So how will this vast cost be met?”
Meanwhile, several outlets covers prime minister Boris Johnson’s remarks made yesterday before a panel of MPs. Bloomberg notes that Johnson said heat pumps are “still too expensive” for homeowners. “Let’s be frank, these things cost about 10 grand a pop,” it quotes him saying. “This is a lot of money for ordinary people…There are some big bets that we may need to place. Some bets that we may need to place on hydrogen, but also on ground-source and air-source heat pumps.” The Evening Standard adds that Johnson “insisted householders will not have to pay ‘unreasonable’ costs as old gas boilers are ditched in favour of cleaner heating systems”. It adds: “Mr Johnson said: ‘Before COP26 you will be getting a plan on the decarbonisation of the domestic market in this country.’ He said the government is ‘determined to keep bills low, that is a priority’ and ‘the only way to do that is to build the market in a very systematic way, to make sure we have the technology and make sure that it’s affordable’.”
The Daily Express notes the comment of international trade secretary Liz Truss who claimed yesterday that “Britain is slashing carbon emissions by striking environmentally friendly trade deals with other countries”. The newspaper adds: “[Truss] pointed to a zero-tariff deal with Australia, due to be finalised by the end of the year, which will pave the way for cleaner shipping.”
In other UK news, the Press Association reports that the government has published its list of “key themes” that will feature at COP26: “After kicking off with the World Leaders Summit on 1 and 2 November, each day will focus on a different theme, beginning with finance, energy and then youth and public empowerment, throughout the two-week event in Glasgow. Others include discussions on cities of the future, zero-emission transport and protecting nature, to ensuring the inclusion of women, girls and young people is at the centre of climate action.” BusinessGreen notes that “youth climate activists will have the opportunity to interview government ministers on a day dedicated to youth and public empowerment”. The Guardian says the government is claiming that COP26 will be the “most inclusive ever”.
Meanwhile, a new investigation by Unearthed has revealed that “a group of America’s leading oil companies told a UK minister that the British government should champion natural gas as a ‘necessary compromise’ in the effort to prevent climate breakdown”. Channel 4 News also covers the scoop. And the Press Association reports that a “raft of new projects that store carbon and restore habitats have been unveiled by the Wildlife Trusts as part of efforts to tackle the climate and nature crises”.
Finally, there is widespread coverage of the news that, as the Guardian reports, “the north-east of England is in line for a green jobs windfall thanks to private investment in the offshore wind industry backed by a grant of undisclosed size from the government’s £160m support fund”. BBC News says: “More than 1,000 jobs are to be created following investment in two sites manufacturing offshore wind farm equipment, the government has said. A South Korean company will create 750 new jobs in North Lincolnshire by building a £117m factory to make supports for turbines. In Newcastle, a site in Wallsend will see a £70m investment safeguarding 325 jobs and creating some more.” The Times describes the news as a “breath of fresh air for wind turbine industry” and the Daily Telegraph says it will create a “jobs bonanza”. Bloomberg also covers the news. Separately, the Times says: “Communities blighted by power lines for offshore wind farms should receive millions of pounds in compensation from a new government-backed fund, two former Conservative energy secretaries have said. Dame Andrea Leadsom and Amber Rudd are calling on ministers to require offshore wind farm developers to pay into a new fund to bankroll better community facilities in places affected by new underground cables, electricity substations, power lines and pylons.”
China’s cabinet has said that the country will launch its national carbon emissions trading scheme (ETS) for the electricity sector in July, reports Reuters. The decision was made during an executive meeting of the State Council, the state administrative authority, yesterday, says state broadcaster CCTV. A CCTV news clip says that the meeting had announced that the ETS for the electricity sector would be launched at “an appropriate time” this month. The next step would be to cover more sectors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through market mechanisms, it reports. S&P Global Platts says that Beijing is preparing the “groundwork” for including the refining and petrochemical sector in the national ETS. The outlet cites “a source with knowledge of the matter”.
Meanwhile, state news agency Xinhua says that the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has set up a research centre for “Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilisation”. An inaugural meeting for the institute yesterday described the ideology as the “scientific guide” and a “powerful thought weapon” for “building a socialist ecological civilisation”. [“Ecological civilisation” refers to a civilisation form in which human beings and nature “coexist harmoniously” – a notion highly promoted by Xi.] The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, focuses on a previous Bloomberg report of China’s largest bank abandoning its plan to finance a coal-fired power plant in Zimbabwe. It says the move contributes to the “green progress” of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Elsewhere, China Energy News reports that the National Development and Reform Commission has ordered all regions and party-run enterprises to promote the establishment of a flexible-yet-stable coal-reserve system. The outlet also reports that “resource-rich” Xinjiang has transferred more than 59bn kilowatt hours of electricity to 20 provinces around the country during the first six months of 2021 under a national resource-sharing strategy. The figure, a 34% year-on-year increase, means that the receiving provinces had burnt more than 18m tonnes of standard coal equivalent (Mtce) less during the period.
Australia’s federal court has formally declared the nation’s environment minister has a “duty to take reasonable care” that young people will not be harmed or killed by carbon dioxide emissions if she approves a coalmine expansion, reports the Guardian, adding that the judgment that “could have wider implications for fossil fuel projects”. The newspaper continues: “In the federal court case, brought by eight schoolchildren and an octogenarian nun, Justice Mordecai Bromberg on Thursday also ordered the minister pay all costs. The judge had indicated he would make a declaration during the case in May, when he rejected a request by the children to issue an injunction blocking Whitehaven Coal’s plans to expand its Vickery coalmine project near Boggabri, New South Wales. Climate campaigners said there should be ‘no moral, legal or rational way’ environment minister Sussan Ley could now approve the project.” Bloomberg also covers the story, saying “it is the latest legal challenge to the fossil fuel industry as climate campaigners seek to use courts to press companies to accelerate efforts to address global warming”.
In other Australian news, the Guardian reports that “a call from a Pacific island neighbour to phase out coal power is one of 55 recommendations the Morrison government has rejected ahead of a UN session focusing on Australia’s human rights record”. And a further Guardian story says “pledges from major companies to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions are driving up prices for Australia-based climate offsets to levels not seen since the 2014 repeal of the carbon pricing scheme”.
The Financial Times carries an opinion piece by the director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who writes: “Extreme heat is ravaging North America, leaving hundreds of people dead. This is the climate crisis in action, powered by our addiction to fossil fuels, and with real and devastating consequences for our health. Despite the now undeniable impact, however, G20 governments have committed close to $300bn in stimulus funding to support fossil fuel energy since January 2020. As finance ministers from the Group of 20 gather in Venice this week to advance the G20’s green agenda, the need for their collaboration has never been more vital…Cutting all permits, subsidies and financing for fossil fuel use is a crucial first step. This would free up significant budgets that could be redirected to healthy, green recoveries. The G20 can send a clear, aligned signal on greening their own recoveries, while providing significant funds and incentives to other governments to do the same.”
Meanwhile, in the Guardian, the US climate scientist Peter Gleick says the “climate crisis will create two classes: those who can flee, and those who cannot”. He concludes: “How bad will it get? I don’t know because I don’t know how long our politicians will dither before finally dealing with the climate crisis. I don’t know because there are natural factors that could slightly slow or, more likely, massively speed up, the rate of change, causing cascading and accelerating disasters faster than we can adapt. But we know enough now to invest in reducing the emissions of climate-changing gases and to begin to adapt to those impacts we can no longer avoid. These changes are coming and the costs, especially to those left behind, will be beyond anything our disaster management systems have had to deal with in the past.”
The Independent has a comment piece by Peter Läderach, who leads CGIAR’s climate security programme and says the complex links between climate, food and peace are too poorly understood: “COP26 is a chance for leaders to rethink security threats.”
Finally, the Daily Telegraph‘s chief City commentator Ben Marlow has a comment piece under the headline: “The City won’t back new nuclear power stations – so why should we?” He writes: “We are importing more and more nuclear power from France. But is this really the way to go about it? It is eight years since the influential energy and climate change committee called for the government to come up with a plan B because of repeated problems with building new nuclear power. Yet we seem no closer to having one. Nuclear reactors come with outdated technology, vast upfront costs and obvious safety concerns, so no wonder outside investors are reluctant to take part. But there are searching questions to be asked about the role of ESG red tape too, particularly if it means the consumer is left to carry the can. If the City’s ability to invest is being increasingly constrained by wider ethical concerns, then is it in danger of losing its purpose?”
Guardian columnist George Monbiot notes his recent success in getting the BBC to pull a webpage aimed at schoolchildren which highlighted the “positives” of climate change and then takes a fresh swipe at the broadcaster: “The frontier of denial has now shifted to the biggest of all environmental issues: farming. Here, the BBC still gives lobby groups and trade associations sowing doubt about environmental damage (especially by livestock farming) more airtime than the scientists and campaigners seeking to explain the problems…The BBC continues to confuse mainstream with respectable, and respectable with right. The lesson, to my mind, is obvious: if we fail to hold organisations to account for their mistakes and obfuscations, they’ll keep repeating them. Climate crimes have perpetrators. They also have facilitators.”
New research ranks the climate change mitigation and adaptation activities of 104 cities in Germany. The researchers identify six “clusters” of cities: “climate policy leaders, climate adaptation leaders, climate mitigation leaders, climate policy followers, climate policy latecomers and climate policy laggards”. The study finds that a city’s position on climate policy depends on “structural factors”, including “city size, the pathways of local climate policies since the 1990s and funding programmes for both climate mitigation and adaptation”.
A new paper explores the policy of Arctic drilling – “one of the controversial issues in United States (US) politics regarding oil and environmental policies”. The potential for Arctic drilling was “triggered by the tightening global and US oil market at the beginning of the millennium”, the authors say, but environmental concerns have led to an “environment versus energy” debate. The study finds that “oil politics, domestic politics and foreign policy orientations of the US are interrelated to determine the perception of Arctic drilling between policymakers, private industry, local people, environmental groups and lobby groups”.