Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Rapid decline of coal use leads to drop in UK emissions
- Paris Climate Treaty: 'Significant step' as US and China agree to sign
- US shareholder votes on climate change hit record
- Climate predicts bird populations
- Trump proposes national carbon tax to fund US-Mexico wall
- Green levy scape-goating will do nothing to save UK steel
- The Danger of a Runaway Antarctica
- Exxon struggles to navigate increasing levels of scrutiny over climate change
- Tracking ocean heat uptake during the surface warming hiatus
- Consistent response of bird populations to climate change on two continents
The UK’s carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 4% in 2015, thanks to declining coal use, according to new government statistics. Coal consumption dropped by 22% compared to 2014, with the decline set to continue through 2016. Renewables also surged in 2015, with electricity generation increasing by 29%, claiming a 25% share of all UK electricity. Most of this came from wind and bioenergy. Reuters and Carbon Pulse covered the statistics, and Carbon Brief also took an in depth look.
The US and China have issued a joint statement confirming they will both sign the UN Paris deal on climate change at a ceremony on 22 April. At least 55 countries representing 55% of emissions have to sign to bring the new deal into force. The hope is that the commitment of these two major players will make it easier to get other countries to sign as well, says the BBC. The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Hill and Climate Home all cover the news.
As investors and regulators become increasingly concerned about climate change, US companies are facing a record number of shareholder votes on the topic at this year’s annual meetings, reports the Financial Times. Both ExxonMobil and Chevron, the largest US oil groups, are facing proposals to lift limits on returning capital to shareholders, rather than investing in projects that could be hampered by restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. Other oil and gas groups, including Chesapeake Energy and Devon Energy, face proposals to break the link between executive pay and the growth in their reserves. However, the paper notes that climate change resolutions are often used by environmentalists to raise awareness of the issue, despite gaining often very few votes.
Climate change is having an impact on the most common bird species in Europe and the US, according to a new study published in Science. The study used population prediction models and three decades of field data gathered by bird watchers. The models were able to predict whether a species had improved or declined depending on the climate, and the findings were backed up by the real-world data. The Guardian also covers the story.
Donald Trump has proposed funding an anti-immigration wall between the US and Mexico with the revenues generated by a carbon tax. The move is a surprise shift on climate change, in which Trump has previously declared himself “not a big believer”. That position hasn’t changed, but he claims to have realised the benefits of acting nonetheless: “Really, it’s a no-brainer. We make the left-wing tree-huggers happy by introducing a price on carbon, and we make my right-wing supporters happy by closing the funding gap for my wall.” Carbon Brief has suspicions this article may be an April’s Fool joke…
Citing Carbon Brief analysis, BusinessGreen editor James Murray says that blaming the UK steel crisis on environmental policy is “bizarre and cynical”, and that the answer lies in building a coherent green industry rather than in scrapping environmental policies. This means combining energy levy exemptions with a credible plan to develop new low carbon technologies, he says.
News that the West Antarctic ice sheet could begin to disintegrate and cause sea levels to rise by five to six feet by the end of the century is the latest in a series of scary announcements on climate change, says the New York Times in an editorial. The good news is that it is still avoidable. It means that the US must continue to exercise leadership, at a time when this has been cast into doubt by the presidential campaign and the Supreme Court.
Exxon is struggling to cope with the scrutiny that has followed allegations that it misled investors and the public over the risks of climate change, write two Greenpeace campaigners. Their article follows on from the news that the US Securities and Exchange Commission has ruled that Exxon must put a climate change resolution to shareholder vote at its annual meeting in May. With every additional threat of scrutiny, Exxon has shown itself more incapable of dealing with the political, legal and societal shifts associated with climate change, the authors write.
The Pacific and Indian Oceans are the key regions to track ocean heat uptake during the so-called surface warming hiatus, says a new study. While heat penetrating into the Atlantic and Southern Oceans is a characteristic of anthropogenic warming in general, heat distribution in the upper 350m between the Pacific and Indian Oceans – a response to intensified trade winds in the equatorial Pacific – is more closely tied to hiatus periods.
Despite very different population sizes and ecological conditions, birds on both sides of the Atlantic respond in a predictable way to climate change. A study of breeding birds in Europe and the United States consistently found populations increased in species that were expected to do well while in those predicted to suffer, numbers declined. Typically, previous studies have looked at changes to birds’ geographical ranges rather than population size, say the authors.
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