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Daily Briefing

23.11.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

23.11.2018 | 9:20am
DAILY BRIEFING Climate-heating greenhouse gases at record levels, says UN
Climate-heating greenhouse gases at record levels, says UN

News.

Climate-heating greenhouse gases at record levels, says UN

Many publications report on the news that levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached record levels not seen for three to five million years, according to a report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization. The Guardian reports that levels of CO2 in the atmosphere rose to a global average of 405.5 parts per million last year – which is 46% higher than levels before the industrial revolution. BBC News reports that the increase in greenhouse gases from 2016 to 2017 was lower than from 2015 to 2016, but is close to the average rate observed over the last decade. The slower rate of increased could have been caused by the impact of El Niño, the natural weather phenomenon, BBC News says: “This triggered droughts in some parts of the world, which in turn reduced the ability of forests and vegetation in these areas to soak up CO2, hence more of it stayed in the atmosphere.” However, El Niño years usually see “a big slowdown in the growth of CO2 concentrations,” according to the Daily Telegraph, which was not observed this year. The Independent adds that, according to the report, there has also been a resurgence in ozone-depleting CFCs. Bloomberg reports that the last time such high atmospheric CO2 concentrations were seen, “seas covered Manhattan”. BBC News carries a second story on the role that China is playing in global warming, with a focus on the country’s plans to build new coal power plants beyond its borders. Press AssociationReutersMailOnline and New Scientist also cover the news.

The Guardian Read Article
Anti-global warming atmospheric spraying programme ‘possible’, say engineers

Several publications report on a new study looking at the feasibility of plans to lower Earth’s temperature by releasing reflective aerosol particles high in the stratosphere. The study finds that this technology – which is known as stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) – could be “relatively inexpensive if purpose-built high-altitude aircraft were manufactured”, the Independent reports. The research focuses specifically on whether it would be possible to deliver the aerosols to the stratosphere – using a scenario starting 15 years from now with the goal of halving the projected increase in warming, according to the Independent. The Guardian, which describes the study as “the most detailed engineering analysis to date” (of SAI), adds that the research finds that previous fears that SAI schemes could be hijacked by rogue states are “unfounded”. This is because “the many thousands of high-altitude flights needed to affect global temperatures could not escape detection,” the Guardian says. Reuters adds that the research finds that the hypothetical SAI deployment programme would cost $2.25bn a year over a 15-year period. The research is published in Environmental Research Letters. Carbon Brief previously published a detailed explainer on SAI and other forms of “solar geoengineering”.

The Independent Read Article
Fracking: Councils oppose 'exploratory' drilling plans

A plan to permit “exploratory” shale gas drilling to go ahead without planning permission has been blocked by a number of councils, BBC News reports. Opposition was raised during a consultation on whether to allow shale gas exploration under “permitted development” rules – the same rules that cover the building of small conservatories. Lancashire, Bolton, Brighton and Surrey are among the councils who have opposed the proposed change, BBC News says.

BBC News Read Article
More megastorms will smash Brit holiday spots like Majorca and Tenerife as climate change ‘fuels fire’ of destructive weather, expert warns

Popular destinations such as coastal Spain, France, Italy and the Canary Islands could be “lashed by fiercer and more frequent storms as climate change ‘fuels the fire’ of extreme weather”, according to the Sun Online. Following severe coastal flooding in Tenerife and Costa Blanca in recent days, the Sun Online spoke to Prof Peter Stott, a science fellow at the Met Office Hadley Centre. He tells the Sun Online: People imagine going to places like Tenerife the weather will be nice. Instead we see these images of massive waves. Tenerife is vulnerable to storms, of course, but these are things people aren’t expecting. Climate scientists have been saying for a long time we do expect a rapid increase in the frequency of extreme weather.”

The Sun Online Read Article

Comment.

Democrats and a climate-change dilemma

A long read in the Economist explores the recent drivers of decarbonisation in the US and asks: “Should Democrats pursue the best policy, or the one that does them least political damage?” The article reads: “The best policy to rectify this would be a carbon tax, yet carbon taxes are easily denounced as energy taxes, which voters do not much appreciate. That leaves Democrats, soon to take power in the House of Representatives, in a bind.”

The Economist Read Article
An international mission to ends of the Earth to seek answers to climate change: why the Thwaites Glacier matters to me

The energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry writes in Business Green explaining “how a pioneering new UK-US research project to Antarctica will help inform domestic climate resilience efforts”. Perry says: “Just as the UK led the way in Antarctic exploration, so I hope we will remain at the forefront of efforts to protect its environment with this latest international collaboration.”

Claire Perry, BusinessGreen Read Article
A zero-carbon economy is both feasible and affordable

“A zero-carbon economy is both feasible and affordable,” writes Adair Turner, former chair of the Committee on Climate Change and current chair of the the Energy Transitions Commission. “The issue is whether governments, industry and consumers are willing to do what is required.” There are several technologies that are “essential” to achieving net-zero emissions, he says, including renewable power, hydrogen power and bioenergy. In a second article for Project Syndicate, Turner writes on “climate change, markets and marxism”. He says: “The belief that climate change is a hoax is comforting to anyone who thinks that government must play no role in the economy. But combating climate change threatens neither prosperity nor private enterprise.”

Adair Turner, Financial Times Read Article

Science.

The different stratospheric influence on cold-extremes in Eurasia and North America

A new study helps uncover how weakness in the stratospheric polar vortex – a low-pressure weather system that sits over the Arctic – can cause very cold winters in North America, Europe and Asia. Analysing daily stratospheric data in the polar region from 1979 to 2017, the researchers identify two patterns of how a weak polar vortex – often associated with “sudden stratospheric warming” events – can influence circulation patterns in the troposphere over the northern hemisphere. One pattern is well-known and often leads to “cold-air outbreaks over northern Eurasia”, the researchers say, while the second is linked with “cold-spells in Central Canada and the Great Lakes region”

npj Climate and Atmospheric Science Read Article

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