Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate is changing for Old King Coal
- Trump Lays Plans to Reverse Obama’s Climate Change Legacy
- Unfinished business: Coal miners in South Africa walk away from clean up
- 5 ways to think about the remarkable slowdown in global CO2 emissions
- My smart meter's so 'dumb' I have to press seven buttons to get a reading
- Future CO2 emissions and electricity generation from proposed coal-fired power plants in India
- Contribution of temperature and precipitation anomalies to the California drought during 2012-2015
- Satellite-observed drop of Arctic sea-ice growth in winter 2015-2016
The number of coal-fired power stations under development worldwide has almost halved over the past year, according to a new study by environmental groups Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Coalswarm. This stemmed from “a dramatic clampdown on new coal plant projects by Chinese central authorities and financial retrenchment by coal plant backers in India”, said the report. The amount of new coal power being built around the world fell by nearly two-thirds last year, the Guardian says. Meanwhile, a record amount of capacity has been shut in the past two years, mainly in the EU and US reports the Financial Times. “This is good news. It’s not what any of us were expecting,” said Paul Fisher, a senior associate at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. The report argues the dramatic turndown means the world could now hope to keep global warming to within two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, adds the Independent. Climate Home, Bloomberg, Vox, Energydesk, BusinessGreen, BBC News, Grist and Time all ran stories on the report.
US President Donald Trump is set to dismantle the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, while also gutting several smaller policies aimed at curbing global warming, the New York Times reports. While the timing and exact form of the announcement remain unsettled, the New York Times says the moves are intended to send “an unmistakable signal to the nation and the world” that he intends to rip apart every element of what he has called Mr. Obama’s “stupid” policies to address climate change. A report in Reuters quotes a government official as saying the Trump administration is not considering a carbon tax. Meanwhile The Hill reports a new wave of backlash against Trump’s proposed cuts to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including opposition from manufacturing companies and environmental groups alike to the elimination of an energy efficiency program. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) also launched a six-figure ad campaign against the proposed EPA cuts, another article in The Hill reports.
Documents obtained by Climate Home from South Africa’s government show that while a small minority of mining companies hold the majority of the country’s funds for rehabilitation, these big miners rarely apply for closure certificates, instead leaving junior miners with the remnants of mines and insufficient funds to properly clean up when the resource is exhausted.
Over the past three years, global CO2 emissions from energy have stayed flat, even as the economy has grown. If the world wants to act on climate, this is something to build on, says Brad Plumer at Vox. Yet it is wrong to say that emissions have decoupled from economic growth, he writes, and progress is mostly confined to electricity. What’s more, he notes that encouraging recent progress is still a far cry from the deep decarbonisation needed. While president Trump might not stand in the way of some progress, he is likely to block the changes needed for deeper progress, Plumer says.
Technical flaws in smart meters could mean that they stop working for hundreds of thousands of households when they switch energy supplier, reports the Telegraph. The issue, which has been known about for several years, mean the “smart” function of transmitting accurate usage information is lost when households switch provider. Three years ahead of the government’s 2020 deadline for every house to have a smart meter, only 4.9 million out of a total of 53 million smart meters have been installed, the story adds.
If India follows through on the 65 GW of coal-fired electricity generation under construction and the additional 178 GW of proposed capacity, this would increase the coal capacity of India’s power sector by 123%, according to new research. Combined with the country’s goal to get 40% of its power from non-fossil sources by 2030, the authors warn this would either leave the new coal-fired plants as “stranded” assets or risk “locking-out” new, low-carbon infrastructure.
Rainfall shortages have been largely responsible for driving the extreme drought in California, while warmer temperatures have only marginally intensified the problem, according to new research. The authors add that warm temperatures in high areas have contributed to the shrinking snowpack at least as much as the drop in rainfall, however. The paper serves as an overview of the complex interplay of temperature and rainfall in causing, and prolonging, extreme drought.
A new study suggests that during the smallest winter maximum extent in the Arctic in March 2016, sea ice thinned by 10cm on average across the region. The data, obtained by merging CryoSat-2 radio altimetry and SMOS radiometry, reveal the loss of ice volume was associated with a 13% decline of March first-year ice volume. Having suffered loss of multi-year ice in past melt seasons, Arctic ice cover has become more sensitive to high temperatures, say the authors.
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