Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Confidential UK government report lowers fracking expectations
- Nationalising energy grid will help fight climate change, says Jeremy Corbyn
- All diesel trains should be scrapped by 2040, Jo Johnson tells rail bosses
- Government warned not to drop manifesto pledge to block onshore wind farms after ministers suggest rules could be relaxed
- Scots homes and roads at risk from rising sea
- Coral reefs require ‘radical interventions’ to save them from destruction, say top marine scientists
- The EU wants to fight climate change – so why is it spending billions on a gas pipeline?
- Fixing cities' water crises could send our climate targets down the gurgler
- Electric vehicles provide spark for Johnson Matthey’s next big idea
- Regional climate impacts of stabilizing global warming at 1.5K using solar geoengineering
- Vulnerability of the Great Barrier Reef to climate change and local pressures
- Was the cold European winter 2009-2010 modified by anthropogenic climate change? An attribution study
Confidential Cabinet Office projections seen by Unearthed show the British government does not expect a fracking boom on the scale predicted by the shale gas industry. The government’s unreleased Implementation Unit Report on Shale Gas foresees only 155 wells drilled by 2025. Meanwhile the shale gas industry would have to deploy 550 wells a year in order to reach its 2032 target, a figure far higher than even the industry’s ‘high activity scenarios’ suggest is possible, says Unearthed. The information was obtained by Unearthed through a Freedom of Information request. Dan Lewis, senior adviser at the Institute of Directors, which produced the analysis behind the 4,000 well figure, told Unearthed: “The 2013 projection that, at peak, the UK’s drilling schedule could see 400 new laterals installed hasn’t come to pass, for a variety of reasons. The report shows the promise of a UK shale gas boom has been dramatically exaggerated by government and fracking companies, the Telegraph reports. The Independent also has the story. In related news the Guardian reports that energy secretary Greg Clark has put plans to begin fracking for shale gas in Kirby Misperton, in rural North Yorkshire, on hold pending an investigation into the “financial resilience” of the company, Third Energy.
Bringing Britain’s energy system back under public ownership is the best way of tackling climate change, Jeremy Corbyn has said. Speaking at a conference in London on Saturday on alternative models of ownership, the Labour leader said: “The greenest energy is usually the most local but people have been queuing up to connect renewable energy to the national grid… With the national grid in public hands we can put tackling climate change at the heart of our energy system, committing to renewable generation from tidal to onshore wind.” The speech was Corbyn’s most “pro-green speech to date”, according to the SundayTimes. The Ecologist reports further comments by Corbyn in his speech: “The challenge of climate change requires us to radically shift the way we organise our economy. In 1945, elected to govern a country ravaged by six years of war, the great Attlee Labour government knew that the only way to rebuild our economy was through a decisive turn to collective action. Necessary action to help avert climate catastrophe requires us to be at least as radical.” Corbyn’s speech was also covered by the MailOnline, Business Insider, ITV News, Belfast Telegraph, and the Independent.
The rail industry should reduce its emissions by “aspiring” to remove all trains that run only on diesel by 2040, new rail minister Jo Johnson has said. In a speech at the British Museum today, Johnson said: “I would like to see us take all diesel-only trains off the track by 2040. After all, we’re committed to ending the sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040. If we can achieve that, then why can’t the railway aspire to a similar objective?” Around a third of Britain’s trains run on diesel. Johnson did not announce any new funding for the policy but asked the rail industry to report back by the autumn on its vision for decarbonising. However campaigners are sceptical over the government’s commitment to reducing rail emissions, pointing out it cancelled the electrification of key routes last year.
Several backbench MPs have warned the Government not to drop its manifesto pledge to block onshore wind farms after ministers suggested the rules could be relaxed, the Telegraph reports. Energy minister Claire Perry “raised eyebrows” late last year after saying that onshore wind “is absolutely part of the future” and that she is working on ways “to see how we might bring forward onshore wind, particularly for areas of the UK that want to deploy it,” says the Telegraph.
Coastal erosion will lead to more than 3,000 homes and 100 miles of road and railway near Scotland’s coast being swallowed by the sea within a few decades, a new study from the University of Glasgow has warned. The study also finds that the wealthiest members of Scottish society will be largely immune from the threat, while the poorest will be most at risk. Almost £4bn worth of infrastructure could be damaged. The study used geological surveys to produce an “erodibility” map, which was combined with socio-economic data to identify the resilience of groups to coastal erosion. The Times also runs the story.
A new committee made up of the US’s top coral researchers are considering “radical interventions” to save the world’s coral reefs. The committee, formed by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and MedicineIt, will consider a range of solutions to the crisis of coral bleaching, which has been linked with rising global temperatures. “The dire situation is here now,” Dr Mark Eakin, coordinator of the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch, told the committee at its first meeting last week. Research covered by Carbon Brief in January found mass coral reef bleaching events have become five times more common worldwide over the past 40 years, with climate change playing a significant role in the rise.
“Over the past few years there has been exponential growth in clean energy investment – while fossil fuel assets are increasingly considered to be risky,” writes Aled Jones, director of the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University. “Yet, on February 6, the European Investment Bank, the EU’s long-term lending institution, voted to provide a €1.5bn loan to the controversial Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).” While gas might be cleaner than coal, it’s still a fossil fuel, says Jones, adding that “a gas pipeline is not a technology of the future”. By funding TAP, the EU’s investment bank is hardly signalling to the private sector that governments are committed to a green energy transition, argues Jones. The pipeline project may even represent a risk to public finances, he adds, if Europe really was to follow through and successfully switch to green energy.
“Two cities on opposing continents, Santiago and Cape Town, have been brought to their knees by events at opposing ends of the climate spectrum: flood and drought,” writes Peter Fisher RMIT University in Australia. Many other cities around the world are grappling with impending water crises… But while providing clean water is a non-negotiable necessity, these strategies also risk delivering a blowout in greenhouse emissions.” Fisher goes on to detail other ways climate change puts new pressures on water quality, including temperature increases boosting evaporation and promoting the growth of toxic algae. He also suggests how cities making the energy transition can avoid a “carbon blowout” as they transition to clean water too.
Robert MacLeod, the chief executive of chemicals firm Johnson Matthey, is planning to bet big on electric battery technology, which he believes represents the company’s future, according to an interview with The Times. The decision comes after the firm’s share price sagged nearly 1.2% since Matthey was appointed in 2014. This came after investors grew skittish about the future of the market for chemicals used by the car industry to make catalytic converters, an area which generates about 60% of Johnson Matthey’s sales, as the motor industry prepares for a shift to electric vehicles and sales of diesel cars in Europe have collapsed. “Mr MacLeod believes that it’s time for a change of strategy and is placing a big bet on electric battery technology, which he believes represents the company’s future,” the Times reports.
New research investigates the climate impacts of using stratospheric aerosol injection to stabilise global temperature rise at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels for the duration of the 21st century. The findings suggest that this solar geoengineering could counteract increases in extreme storms in the North Atlantic and heatwaves in Europe, but would be less effective at counteracting hydrological changes in the Amazon basin and changes in the North Atlantic storm track. Solar geoengineering “may reduce global mean impacts but is an imperfect solution at the regional level, where the effects of climate change are experienced, ” the researchers say, concluding that their results “should galvanise research into the regionality of climate responses to solar geoengineering”.
The combination of climate change and local pressures could see coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) decline to just 3% of its current area by 2050, a new study warns. Using a coral model, the researchers assessed six different scenarios of changes in climate, cyclones and “local stressors” such as nutrient run-off on coral coverage in the GBR. Management strategies that alleviate cumulative impacts have the potential to reduce the vulnerability of some reefs in the central GBR, the researchers say, but only if combined with strong mitigation of CO2 emissions.
A new study analyses the degree to which the unusually cold European winter 2009-10 was affected by human-caused climate change. Using two different approaches, the researchers concentrate on two variables: the coldest day in winter and the largest continuous area with temperatures colder than twice the standard deviation. The results of both methods suggest that the likelihood of experiencing a winter as cold as 2009-10 has been reduced by around a factor of two because of climate change.
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