Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Every weekday morning, in time for your morning coffee, Carbon Brief sends out a free email known as the “Daily Briefing” to thousands of subscribers around the world. The email is a digest of the past 24 hours of media coverage related to climate change and energy, as well as our pick of the key studies published in peer-reviewed journals.
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate crisis reducing land’s ability to sustain humanity, says IPCC
- US power generators reporting savings, other benefits from phasing out coal
- Ricardo Galvao: Amazon monitor fired in Bolsonaro’s Brazil speaks out on deforestation
- Climate change is already increasing clear air turbulence above the North Atlantic
- Germany may introduce 'meat tax' to protect the environment
- Climate-proofing the UK's infrastructure must be a government priority
- No-deal Brexit would be a disaster for the climate
- Increased shear in the North Atlantic upper-level jet stream over the past four decades
- Climate change and overfishing increase neurotoxicant in marine predators
There is widespread coverage of the IPCC special report on land and climate change, which was published at 9am this morning. [Carbon Brief delayed this email to include this coverage; look out for our in-depth summary of the report and its underlying chapters later.] The Guardian says the report warns that: “The climate crisis is damaging the ability of the land to sustain humanity, with cascading risks becoming increasingly severe as global temperatures rise.” It says climate change is increasing droughts, soil erosion and wildfires, while reducing crop yields in the tropics and thawing permafrost near the poles, according to the report. Associated Press explains how the IPCC report tries to untangle a web of feedbacks and interactions between land and climate change: “A new United Nations scientific report examines how global warming and land interact in a vicious cycle. Human-caused climate change is dramatically degrading the land, while the way people use the land is making global warming worse.” A second Guardian article says the impacts of climate change on land “threaten civilisation” and offers options to tackle the problem. These include “revolutionising the way we use land”, it says. The New York Times covers the report with a headline saying that “climate change threatens the world’s food supply”. BBC News says that according to the report, a shift to “a plant-based diet can help fight climate change”. It adds: “scientists and officials stopped short of explicitly calling on everyone to become vegan or vegetarian”. Many other publications also lead their coverage on diet, with the Times headline reading: “Eat less meat to save the Earth, urges UN.” [As BBC News notes, the IPCC does not prescribe policies, instead offering its diagnosis of the situation and options to tackle the challenges presented.] The Times says cutting food waste and eating less meat could reduce climate change by saving large ares of land from being “degraded by farming”, according to the report. NPR begins its coverage of the IPCC findings by saying: “Humans must drastically alter food production in order to prevent the most catastrophic effects of global warming, according to a new report.” Reuters also reports that “farming and eating need to change to curb global warming”, according to the IPCC, with the Washington Post and the Hill taking a similar line. The Financial Times runs its coverage under the headline: “Climate report warns of rising air over land temperatures,” noting that the air over land is warming roughly twice as fast as the global average. It says reducing emissions from food and agriculture will be “essential” to meeting global warming targets, according to the IPCC, with land playing a central role in absorbing – and emitting – greenhouse gases. Mother Jones’scoverage says “climate change is taking a bigger toll on our food, water and land than we realised”. The Straits Times says the world can “feed itself [and] fight climate change if it adopts the right recipe for farming”, citing the IPCC report. Other coverage includes the Independent, Stuff and Fast Company.
Electricity generators in the US are “touting the cost savings” of retiring coal-fired power stations while “pushing a further transition away from the fuel”, writes S&P Global reporter Taylor Kuykendall. He continues: “Retiring coal plants and investing in other forms of generation is helping utilities across the country hit their own emission reduction targets while mitigating some of the risks coming from increased scrutiny around climate change, a review of power generators’ second-quarter earnings calls so far suggests.” In other coal-related news, the Guardian reports that mining giant BHP is facing “fresh calls to quit” the Minerals Council of Australia “after it was revealed the lobby group is directly involved in an upcoming multimillion-dollar pro-coal advertising blitz”. The advertising campaign is led by research organisation Coal21, which the Guardian says shares a chief executive with the council. The paper says the campaign is designed to “invoke national pride” in coal. ABC News also covers the advertising push, reporting: “Coal21 denies the advertising blitz is part of a back-door lobbying effort to swing public sentiment in favour of continued use of coal-fired power and expanded coal use, which would put it at odds with BHP, one of Coal21’s major funders.” Meanwhile Reuters reports that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia has become the latest company with plans to phase out its exposure to thermal coal mines and power plants by 2030. Separately, Reuters reports that Henan province in China is to switch more homes away from coal-fired heating, in accelerated air quality push. Finally the Wall Street Journal covers a lawsuit filed at the EU Court of Justice in March that is says: “charged that the EU policy [on biomass energy] will increase greenhouse-gas emissions and damage forests”. The piece is headline: “Wood pellets draw fire as alternative to coal.”
“Our data should never be curbed by political interests,” says Ricardo Galvão, the recently sacked head of Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, in an interview with the Washington Post. Galvão was last week fired as head of the agency charged with monitoring deforestation using satellite data, following a public dispute with president Jair Bolsonaro over figures showing a surge in rainforest loss. Responding to Bolsonaro’s claim that “the data is a lie”, Galvão tells the Washington Post: “It was insulting…And more than that, it was a charge of criminal doing. Saying that this research is a lie is a very serious charge, and we cannot take that and stay quiet.” The paper adds: “Galvão expressed confidence that the agency will continue to accurately describe the status of the Amazon without him.” Meanwhile Reuters reports that the Brazilian government does not expect to see an international boycott of its products due to increasing rates of deforestation, citing a spokesman for the president.
Incidents of flight turbulence are becoming more common above the North Atlantic, reports the Washington Post, picking up the findings of a new study that it says links the increase to changes in “wind shear” to human-caused climate change. The paper says: “The study is the first to document a significant increase in wind shear associated with the North Atlantic jet stream, which is a primary cause of clear air turbulence. It lends support to forecasts of increased turbulence on trans-Atlantic flights.” It quotes the study’s lead author saying: “[C]limate change is having a larger impact on the jet than previously thought.” The rate of serious injuries due to in-flight turbulence globally has doubled since 1979, says the Daily Telegraph. It adds that the new study found wind shear over the North Atlantic had increased by 15% over the same period. One of the study authors wrote a Carbon Brief guest post in 2017 explaining why turbulence was expected to increase as a result of climate change. The new research, published yesterday, documents actual changes in turbulence.
German’s Social Democrats and Greens are advocating an end to the reduced rate of VAT for meat, the Independent reports, with some in the ruling Christian Democrats saying they are open to the idea. The proposal would help protect the climate and improve animal welfare, reports Reuters. The current reduced rate of 7% VAT for meat is in contrast to the standard 19%, it adds.
“Today climate change is our biggest challenge. It demands we overhaul the systems we rely on to go about our daily lives,” writes National Infrastructure Commission chair Sir John Armitt, in a comment for BusinessGreen. This is needed, he says, to reach net-zero emissions and to protect families and businesses from “increasingly frequent extreme weather”. Armitt adds: “[E]vents, which would have been considered exceptional in the past, will soon be recognised as the new normal”. The commission is carrying out an in-depth study into the resilient of the UK’s infrastructure, he says, with the findings due to be reported next spring. In order to transform this infrastructure and reach net-zero emissions, Armitt says, the government must make the transition a priority. He concludes: “[The government] needs ambition, leadership and action. We don’t want vague promises or a restatement of existing commitments. The strategy should set out clear goals with a timeline for achieving them. It has to take a long-term perspective, looking beyond the immediate Spending Review period all the way to 2050.” BusinessGreen also carries a news story on Armitt’s comments.
“The repercussions of a no-deal Brexit for the UK’s domestic climate policy – and its global climate leadership – could be disastrous,” writes Joseph Curtin, senior fellow at the Institute of International European Affairs, Dublin, in a comment for Climate Home News. Whereas the UK has played a central role in the EU and has “consistently align[ed] itself with the green grouping of member states”, its exit from the bloc “will be a major blow to European climate solidarity…tilting the balance of power towards less ambitious member states”. In the case of a no-deal Brexit, Curtin continues, a “bonfire of the regulations” – including on climate change – no longer seems as unlikely as it did two years ago. He adds: “Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, recently met with two US-based think tanks, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. These two libertarian think tanks are fervently opposed to the Paris Agreement and any form of climate action, and have proposed a UK-US trade deal based around radical deregulation. It is true that the UK’s climate ambition is copper fastened by its Climate Change Act. However, cutting climate regulations, such as environmental standards for buildings, cars, and appliances, is a clarion call for many of the hard Brexiters now sitting around the cabinet table.”
“Climate change may be having a larger impact on the North Atlantic jet stream than previously thought,” a new study suggests. A “tug-of-war” of competing impacts of climate change at different levels of the atmosphere is increasing the “vertical shear” – the change in wind speed with height. The researchers show that vertical shear has increase by 15% since satellite observations began in 1979. This increase is “consistent with the intensification of shear-driven clear-air turbulence expected from climate change, which will affect aviation in the busy transatlantic flight corridor by creating a more turbulent flying environment for aircraft”.
Warming oceans are leading to an increase in the potent neurotoxic substance methylmercury (MeHg) in seafood, including cod, Atlantic bluefin tuna and swordfish, a new study warns. Using 30 years of observed data and an ecosystem model, the researchers show that levels of MeHg concentrations in Atlantic cod “increased by up to 23% between the 1970s and 2000s as a result of dietary shifts initiated by overfishing”. The model also estimates a 56% increase in tissue MeHg concentrations in Atlantic bluefin tuna “due to increases in seawater temperature between a low point in 1969 and recent peak levels”. As human-caused emissions of mercury are reduced – with the first global treaty entering force in 2017 – “ocean warming and fisheries management programmes will be major drivers of future MeHg concentrations in marine predators”, the authors conclude.