Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Climate strikes expected to be largest environmental protest in history
- More than 100 countries applied for UN climate summit, half were rejected
- Offshore wind costs tumble to new record lows
- Amazon vows to meet goals of Paris climate agreement by 2040
- Airlines' CO2 emissions rising up to 70% faster than predicted
- The climate issue – A warming world
- The Guardian view on the school climate strike: protests that matter
- Locked in the ice, this ship will study an Arctic hit hard by climate change
- Decline of the North American avifauna
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions of Amazon hydropower with strategic dam planning
Millions of people are set to take to the streets all over the world today in what could be the largest climate protest in history, reports the Press Association and many others. “As world leaders begin arriving for a summit at the United Nations on accelerating action to address climate threats, adults are planning to join students in an unprecedented wave of youth-led climate protests,” says Reuters. Thousands of strikes will be taking place across the world, says another PA piece. “Protests inspired by the 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, are planned in some 150 countries,” reports Reuters. Thunberg posted a message on Instagram saying “soon the sun will rise on Friday the 20th of September 2019. Good luck Australia, The Philippines, Japan and all the Pacific Islands. You go first!”, adds the newswire. School students walked out of their classrooms and onto Australian streets this morning to kick off the global strike, says the Daily Telegraph. And a Guardian report from Australia says more than 250 academics at Australian universities have written an open letter to the government declaring support for the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement and its global week of non-violent civil disobedience in October. No protests were authorised in China, reports Reuters, but “Zheng Xiaowen of the China Youth Climate Action Network said Chinese youth would take action one way or another”. More than 200 young people in Thailand “stormed into the environment ministry and dropped to the ground feigning death as they demanded government action on climate change”, says another Reuters piece. The Guardian has a feature in which global environment editor Jonathan Watts speaks to some of the young activists in Nigeria.
In the US, New York City public school system have told its 1.1 million students that their absences will be excused if they participate in the strike, says InsideClimate News, which means “there is no telling how large the protest could be in New York alone”. However, teachers have been “barred from attending”, says the New York Times. On Monday, climate campaigners in Washington DC are expected to bring the city to a standstill in protest to the lack of action of Donald Trump’s administration, reports Climate Home News.
“Trade unions representing hundreds of millions of people” globally are supporting the strike, says the Guardian. This includes the Fire Brigades Union in the UK, says the Daily Telegraph, and the “head of one of Britain’s biggest NHS Trusts has said that she would support staff taking action”. “Dozens of companies, including Patagonia, Ben and Jerry’s and the Guardian, will support striking staff”, reports… the Guardian. The Daily Telegraph also notes that the UK Department for Education has warned that while they “encourage constructive engagement” in schools, it shouldn’t “come at the expense of our children’s education or excessive disruption”.
A separate piece by the Press Association says that XR activists are planning to blockade the Port of Dover this weekend as part of their protest movement. The Guardian reports that the Metropolitan Police “are planning to impose restrictions on the global climate strike in London, warning that anyone who does not comply risks arrest”. And BBC News reports that XR protestors have “left the scene of their protest which blocked three entrances to one of the biggest oil refineries in Europe”, which is in Pembrokeshire.
In a short film with Guardian columnist George Monbiot, Greta Thunberg stresses the need to “protect, restore and fund” natural climate solutions, such as afforestation, reports the Guardian. (Carbon Brief has previously published an analysis piece on natural climate solutions.) The Guardian also has 10 charts to explain why people are striking about climate change. Finally, the Guardian also reports that “global campaign backed by 450 activist groups and celebrities, including actors Emma Thompson and Mark Ruffalo, is calling on the UN to endorse a global end to fracking”.
More than 100 countries applied to address Monday’s UN climate action summit in New York City, but “only half were deemed ambitious enough to take to the stage”, reports Climate Home News. “The summit is a moment for political leaders to show their willingness to increase their climate plans,” the website says, “with only the boldest and most transformative action being presented on stage on Monday”. This will include “small island states most vulnerable to sea level rise and European nations such as France and Germany”, says Reuters, which has seen a draft schedule. “This is not a regular meeting of the UN,” Luis Alfonso de Alba, special envoy for the summit, tells the Washington Post. “This is a sounding of the alarm at the highest level.” The “US is not on the list” to give a speech, says E&E News, which has “four things to watch” at the summit. Axios also previews the summit.
The UK government has agreed record low-cost contracts for offshore below £40 per megawatt hour of electricity, Press Association reports. Some 12 renewable energy projects were awarded “contracts for difference”, it says, including offshore and remote-island wind schemes. PA adds that the prices mean that “for the first time, renewables are expected to come online below market prices and without an additional subsidy on bills”. BusinessGreen also has the story.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos yesterday pledged to make the company net carbon neutral by 2040, reports Reuters and others. At a press conference in Washington, Bezos said Amazon will meet the neutrality goal 10 years ahead of the target set out in the Paris Agreement and it will use 100% renewable energy by 2030, up from 40% today, says Reuters. “To meet its pledge, Amazon said it had ordered 100,000 electric delivery vehicles to reduce its fuel consumption,” says BBC News. Amazon said the deal was the “largest order ever of electric delivery vehicles” and said the vans would begin delivering packages to customers in 2021, reports the Daily Telegraph, with all 100,000 on the road by 2030. Bezos said that climate change had outpaced even the serious predictions the scientific community made five years ago, notes the New York Times. “Those predictions were bad, but what is actually happening is dire,” he said. Amazon will become the first signatory of a newly formed “Climate Pledge”, says the Washington Post, which will require companies to implement decarbonisation strategies in line with the Paris agreement and calls on signatories to be at net zero carbon across their businesses by 2040. Axios and the Hill also have the story.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that Google has “struck 18 wind and solar energy deals across the US, Europe and Latin America” in what the company is calling the “biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history”. Google says the deals would secure a total of 1,600 megawatts of renewable energy for its facilities around the world and spur $2bn in new investment in wind and solar infrastructure around the world, the FT notes. “Companies are racing to burnish their green credentials ahead of widespread employee walk-outs on Friday,” says another piece in the FT, with “Google, Microsoft and Facebook and Amazon all expecting employee protests” today.
Worldwide CO2 emissions from commercial flights are rising up to 70% faster than predicted by the UN, according to new analysis reported by the Guardian. Emissions increased by 32% from 2013 to 2018, according to a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation. The researchers said the rate of growth is “70% higher” than that used to develop projections for CO2 emissions by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization. “Airlines, for all intents and purposes, are becoming more fuel efficient. But we’re seeing demand outstrip any of that,” Brandon Graver, who led the new study, told the New York Times. “The climate challenge for aviation is worse than anyone expected” Graver added. A second Guardian piece, also by transport correspondent Gwyn Topham, says the question of whether aviation has “a greener future” grows “more urgent”.
In an editorial, the Economist explains the reasons behind its special issue on “the carbon-climate crisis…and what can be done about it”. “The stripes on our cover represent the world’s average temperature in every year since the mid-19th century,” the magazine says. “The cumulative change jumps out. The world is about 1C hotter than when this newspaper was young.” Climate change “is not a problem that can be put off for a few decades. It is here and now”, the editorial says. “Delay means that mankind will suffer more harm and face a vastly more costly scramble to make up for lost time.” However, to “many of the millions of young idealists…preparing for a global climate strike”, decarbonising the economy “requires nothing less than the gelding or uprooting of capitalism”, the Economist says, arguing that “in fact, to conclude that climate change should mean shackling capitalism would be wrong-headed and damaging”. Nonetheless, climate change could be “the death knell for economic freedom, along with much else”, it concludes. “If capitalism is to hold its place, it must up its game.” The special issues includes articles on climate modelling, “climate capitalists”, the importance of China in mitigating global warming, and how Asian cities are rethinking their flood defences. The climate stripes, created by Prof Ed Hawkins from the University of Reading, also appear on the front page of the Guardian this morning.
Today’s school strike – the “largest mobilisation yet attempted by the youth climate movement launched last year” – “is an event of international significance”, says a Guardian editorial. It continues: “Their aim is to force us to confront a problem that, for far too long, we have found it convenient to ignore.” “Without the lost decades of inaction and denial, global heating need never have become the emergency it now is,” the editorial says, and “Friday is an opportunity to take action – as the Guardian is doing by declaring a climate emergency”. Despite the efforts and knowledge of campaigners, scientists and others, “we are nowhere near where we should be”, the Guardian concludes. “The freshness and seriousness of the school strike movement is a reason to hope.” Elsewhere, an editorial in the Daily Mirror says the global strike “will inevitably cause some disruption but the cause deserves our support”. It continues: “It should be a matter of shame that we are failing our children and grandchildren by bequeathing them an uncertain future on a sick and polluted planet. This is an international catastrophe and today’s demonstrations will send the message that it requires an international response.”
The New York Times’ Henry Fountain reports from Tromsø in Norway where the German icebreaker Polarstern is about to set sail on the “most ambitious climate-change research expedition the Arctic has ever seen”. This evening, the ship will head off into the Arctic, intent on intentionally trapping itself in Arctic ice. There it will drift where the ice takes it for more than a year, becoming “an itinerant research hub”, writes Fountain. This is all part of the “Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate”, or “Mosaic”, research project. “The ice, the ocean, the atmosphere, even the wildlife – all will be sampled,” says BBC News science correspondent Jonathan Amos. “The year-long investigations are designed to give more certainty to the projections of future change.” Daisy Dunne, Carbon Brief’s science writer, will be aboard a Russian icebreaker – which is accompanying the Polarstern – for the next six weeks to report on how climate change is affecting the Arctic.
Species extinctions have defined the global biodiversity crisis, but extinction begins with loss in abundance of individuals. Using multiple and independent monitoring networks, this study reports population losses across much of the North American birds over 48 years, including once common species and from most biomes. They estimate a net loss approaching 3 billion birds, or 29% of 1970 abundance. A continent-wide weather radar network also reveals a similarly steep decline in biomass passage of migrating birds over a recent 10-year period. This loss of bird abundance signals an urgent need to address threats to avert future bird collapse and associated loss of ecosystem integrity, function and services.
Hundreds of dams have been proposed throughout the Amazon basin, one of the world’s largest untapped hydropower frontiers. While hydropower is a potentially clean source of renewable energy, some projects produce high greenhouse gas emissions. This study finds that carbon intensities of proposed Amazon upland dams (at 39 kg CO2eq per MWh) are often comparable with solar and wind energy, whereas some lowland dams (133 kg CO2eq per MWh) may exceed carbon intensities of fossil-fuel power plants. Basin-scale dam planning that considers GHG emissions along with social and ecological externalities will be important for sustainable energy development where new hydropower is contemplated.
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