Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate protesters storm Garzweiler coalmine in Germany
- NYPD arrests 70 people at a climate protest outside the New York Times offices
- John McDonell pledges to use might of Treasury to deliver climate change targets
- Right-wing ‘militia threat’ shuts down Oregon Capitol as Republicans flee climate bill vote
- The Guardian view on Heathrow expansion: stop it to save the planet
- Abdicating, again, on climate
- Greenpeace delivered the truth about the climate crisis and Mark Field couldn't cope
- Climate change leads to a doubling of turbidity in a rapidly expanding Tibetan lake
There is widespread international coverage of protests at a German coal mine over the weekend. BBC News says “activists broke through a police cordon on Saturday to get into the Garzweiler mine, in a campaign against fossil fuel use”. It adds: “Germany has vowed to go carbon neutral by 2050 but activists say this is not soon enough. Recent surveys have shown that climate change tops a list of concerns in Germany, with the Green party polling alongside the governing Christian Democrats.” Associated Press says “hundreds of climate activists called an end to their protest Sunday inside one of Germany’s biggest open-pit mines after police repeatedly ordered them to leave, citing life-threatening danger and authorities pulled some protesters out”. Deutsche Welle reports that “the site could be an idyllic stretch of countryside, were it not for the giant Garzweiler lignite strip mine”. France24 says that when the demonstration begun on Friday at the same time “in the city of Aachen, some 20,000 students from 16 countries were massing for what was billed as the first big international ‘Fridays for Future’ demonstration in the school-strike movement started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg”.
Seventy people were arrested outside of the New York Times building in Manhattan on Saturday, reports CNN, during a “protest to call attention to the way news outlets cover the climate crisis”. The protesters said they were affiliated with Extinction Rebellion and their spokesperson Eve Mosher told CNN that the protest was meant to call attention to how news outlets cover climate change. Mosher is quoted by CNN as saying: “The New York Times can take the lead reporting on the climate emergency.” She added that the newspaper does “good reporting”, but it’s “not treating it in the manner they should be…They should be treating it like World War II, where there were headlines every day.” In a statement sent to CNN, a New York Times spokesperson said: “There is no national news organisation that devotes more time, staff or resources to producing deeply reported coverage to help readers understand climate change than the New York Times.” The newspaper published nearly 800 articles in 2018 about the climate and the effects of climate change, the statement said. “We fully support this group’s right to express their point of view,” it added, “even when we disagree with it as it relates to our coverage.” The Guardian and the New York Post are among the other outlets carrying the story.
The Daily Mirror reports that Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell is pledging to use the “might of the Treasury as a sledgehammer to deliver climate change targets”. It adds: “He will warn banks he will stop dodgy unregulated lending and redirect it into measures to combat global warming when he becomes chancellor. And Mr McDonnell will invite climate change activists to advise on how to do it.” The Mirror says he will tell City financiers: “I am preparing a programme that will harness the full might of the Treasury to make tackling climate change a key priority. We want to be fully prepared to roll out this emergency programme as soon as we take over.” The Observer also carries the story, adding: “It is the latest sign that Labour is responding to the threat from the Greens, who earned more than two million votes at last month’s European elections, just 300,000 votes behind Jeremy Corbyn’s party…However, while Labour has upped its rhetoric on green issues, there are still few details of what the party would actually propose to do should it win the next election.”
Meanwhile, Sky News reports that Chris Stark of the Committee on Climate Change, the government’s chief advisor, “has warned that the prime minister’s plan to eliminate Britain’s contribution to global warming will fail unless cuts to greenhouse gases are dramatically stepped up”. Stark tells Sky News: “I am concerned. The present set of policies we have in the UK, the present reaction from government, isn’t enough. We absolutely recommend a tougher target because the science demands it. But unless there is a plan alongside that to meet it, one that ups the ambition in every sector of the economy, in every department of government, at every layer of government, that target is unachievable.” Earlier this month, the UK government said it was going to adopt a “net-zero” target for 2050, as covered by Carbon Brief.
Many outlets are reporting the ongoing situation in Oregon where Republican state senators have, according to the Independent, “fled the legislature” — and, in some cases, the state — in order to deny the majority Democrats enough votes to take up the climate bill, which would dramatically reduce fossil fuel emissions by 2050. The state’s capitol building was closed over the weekend after armed “right-wing militia” threatened to support the Republican politicians. Association Press says the politicians “continued to engage in a high-stakes game of brinksmanship”, adding: “The minority GOP [Grand Old Party] caucus wants the plan to be sent to voters instead of being instituted by lawmakers — but negotiations with Democrats collapsed, leading to the headline-grabbing walkout.” GQ explains further: “Since fleeing, the Oregon GOP has been defiant. Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr said, ‘We will not stand by and be bullied by the majority party any longer.’ Another senator, Brian Boquist, was much more explicit, saying of the police, ‘Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner.’”
The demand for air travel “needs to be damped”, says an editorial in the Guardian. “This is easier than one might imagine. Frequent flying is a minority sport: 75% of all flights in the United Kingdom come from 15% of the population. It is the better-off who can afford to fly all year round. They are behind the 40% rise in holiday flights in the last decade – an astonishing 11m extra trips.” It adds: “If the UK government was serious about the climate emergency it would think again about a third runway at Heathrow. Pressing ahead with it, or any runway, would make a mockery of Theresa May’s promise to reach net-zero emissions by the middle of this century.”
The New York Times has no time for the Trump administration’s new “Affordable Clean Energy” rule, which it published last week in an attempt to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. In an editorial, it says: “To put it simply: The Obama plan would have encouraged imaginative thinking and new approaches. The Trump plan plugs leaks. (Perversely, it could also in some cases increase emissions by making power plants more efficient and therefore able to run longer.)” It continues: “The demolition job on the Obama climate legacy continues: the rules limiting methane emissions from oil and gas wells, the climate agreement in Paris, now the clean energy plan. Next on the hit list? Probably Mr Obama’s fuel economy standards. A rule now in the making would essentially freeze those standards at about 37 miles per gallon, well short of the 54.5 miles per gallon Mr. Obama ordained near the end of his administration.”
There has been continuing reaction to the suspension of the UK minister Sir Mark Field for violently grabbing a climate protestor by the neck and pushing her out of a Mansion House event last week. Green MP Caroline Lucas writing in Metro says: “This was clearly a peaceful protest. The women protesters were all wearing long red evening dresses, with sashes identifying them as climate protesters from Greenpeace. They posed no threat to the Mansion House diners. Yet they were greeted with violence by Mark Field and – later – disdain by the chancellor, Philip Hammond…If Mark Field cannot respond constructively when faced with Greenpeace activists trying to deliver the truth, one wonders how he is going to cope when confronted with the harsh realities of the climate crisis.” An editorial in the Guardian says: “It is more important than ever to respect people’s democratic right to use their voices. Mr Field’s decision to overpower an activist, rather than listen to her, reflects badly on him. Even more worrying is what it says about the state Britain is in.” Writing in the Daily Telegraph, protestor Anna Vickerstaff says: “No amount of threats or aggression will put me off; in fact it makes me double down. Mark Field’s actions should be dealt with as an assault, but beyond that they should be viewed as a mirror to the violence of the government’s clampdown on the right to protest.” An editorial in the Daily Mirror says: “The image of Field in a dinner jacket grabbing a woman by the throat could be a metaphor for all that is wrong with this arrogant government. It’s the sense of entitlement, contempt for those outside their gilded circle and disdain for those who dare to protest.” Meanwhile, Camilla Long in the Sunday Times is critical of the climate protestors: “These people cannot be allowed to get away with such contemptible behaviour.”
A new study assesses the impact of human-caused climate change on the water quality of lakes in Tibet. Using remotely-sensed data from a case study site of Siling Lake, the researchers analyse changes in “turbidity” – a measure of how cloudy, or opaque, the lake is because of particles suspended in the water. The findings reveals “a persistent increasing trend that doubled the average lake turbidity between 2000 and 2017”, the authors say. The evidence suggests this rise is caused by a “climate-driven increase in sediment supply” into the river, the study says, and greater erosion from the lakes shorelines that were “recently submerged during the rapid expansion of the lake”. The authors conclude: “Our results highlight the vulnerability of the Tibetan Lakes’ water quality to climate change.”
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