Today's climate and energy headlines:
- COP24: UN science panel chief calls for more action to curb warming
- COP24: US accused of obstructing talks at UN climate change summit
- Warming in Arctic raises fears of a 'rapid unraveling' of the region
- Fracking paused in Blackpool after biggest tremor to date
- London mayor unveils plan to tackle 'climate emergency'
- One suspected driver of the 'caravan': climate change
- Climate change: Protecting the poor from green taxes
- Global CO2 emissions from cement production, 1928–2017
- Retreat of Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, over the next 100 years using various ice flow models, ice shelf melt scenarios and basal friction laws
- Bioenergy cropland expansion may offset positive effects of climate change mitigation for global vertebrate diversity
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) chair Hoesung Lee told delegates at the COP24 climate summit in Katowice that the world needed to “do more and faster” to avoid dangerous climate change, reports the Associated Press. He said: “The report shows that not just action, but urgent action is needed,” according to AP. His speech “threw down the gauntlet for political leaders”, says the Guardian. Carbon Brief has an exclusive interview with Saudi Arabia’s senior negotiator at the talks and asks him why his country refused to “welcome” the IPCC’s 1.5C report. A new study covered by Reuters says current climate pledges put the world on track for 3.3C of warming. Lee’s comments came as ministers from more than 130 countries arrived in Poland for the final stretch of talks, though another Reuters story notes that only four national leaders were among the politicians attending COP24. BBC News and EurActivreport on Poland’s efforts to restrict protests during the talks. Meanwhile, Climate Home News reports that the Polish presidency has “take[n] control” of the talks, with negotiators lamenting their lack of sleep and insufficient progress. It quotes Michał Kurtyka, president of the summit, saying: “The current approach to negotiations is exhausted. Many texts are stuck. From now on we will move under the authority of the Polish presidency.”
On the technical side of the talks, EurActiv reports that “loss and damage” has emerged as a crunch item at COP24, with disagreement over how to acknowledge the existing impacts of climate change in the “rulebook” being finalised in Katowice – and how or whether to compensate poor countries for the effects. The Sydney Morning Herald and the Guardian report that New Zealand has ruled out using carbon credits carried forwards from the Kyoto Protocol’s “Clean Development Mechanism” to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement, whereas Australia is, in the words of the Guardian, “likely to use [the] controversial Kyoto loophole”. [The draft rulebook still contains an option that would disallow this.] Businesses are demanding an ambitious “rulebook” be agreed at the talks, reports BusinessGreen. Indigenous peoples have gained a foothold in the UN’s climate talks process, reports Climate Home News.
There is continued coverage of the US approach to COP24, with the Guardianreporting that Vanuatu’s foreign minister Ralph Regenvanu has accused the US of “obstructing” the talks. He tells the paper: “Their professional negotiators are here at COP24 putting red lines through any mention of loss and damage in the Paris guidelines and square brackets around any possibility for truthfully and accurately reporting progress against humanity’s most existential threat.” According to Politico, the US is taking an “America First approach” to the summit, while the Washington Post says the US is “not the only country downplaying climate change”. Agence-France Presse reports comments from Al Gore, saying the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait “insulted” the IPCC’s work by blocking efforts to “welcome” its report on 1.5C in a COP24 text adopted on Saturday night. Meanwhile, Reuters and the Independent report that Brazil’s future environment minister has said his country should remain in the Paris Agreement.
Publications around the world cover scientists’ findings presented at the AGU meeting in Washington, saying that the Arctic is being pushed into “uncharted territory” by climate change. The “Arctic Report Card” says that the region has been warmer in the past five years than at any time since records began in 1900, reports the New York Times. As a result, the oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has declined by a “stunning” 95%, says the Washington Post. Changes in the Arctic may be “dramatically changing the planet’s weather patterns, says Reuters’ coverage, while the Hill notes that 2018 was the second-warmest year on record in the region. The Associated Press also has the story. BBC News covers the report card’s finding that Arctic reindeer numbers have “crashed by more than half in the last two decades”, while MailOnline reports findings suggesting that thawing permafrost will put around 3.6 million people at risk, with “collapsing buildings” and “crumbling roads”. Meanwhile, the Press Association and others report on a new art installation in London, where 24 giant blocks of ice will slowly melt on the banks of the Thames.
Fracking firm Cuadrilla has halted work at its site near Blackpool, Lancashire, after a tremor of magnitude 1.5, reports the Guardian. This was the biggest tremor since fracking restarted this year, the paper says. It came after a month-long break and was “on par with one in 2011 that led to [a] moratorium” on fracking, the Guardian adds. According to the Times, “the strongest earthquake to date caused by [Cuadrilla’s] operations was felt over a wide area”. Its story quotes several nearby residents describing having felt the tremor. The Financial Times, Sky News, BBC News, Reuters and the Independent all cover the story.
London mayor Sadiq Khan has declared a “climate emergency” as he outlined a new plan to tackle the problem, reports an exclusive Guardian story. Khan has accused the UK’s central government of “dragging its feet” on climate, the paper adds. It quotes Khan saying: “City Hall is doing everything in our power to mitigate the risk in London but the stark reality is that we need urgent government action and funding.”
One “overlooked” factor driving migrants from Central and South America towards the US is climate change, writes John Sutter in a CNN feature. He explains: “The ‘dry corridor’ of Central America, which includes parts of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, has been hit with an unusual drought for the last five years. Crops are failing. Starvation is lurking. More than two million people in the region are at risk for hunger, according to an August report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.” Sutter adds that this drought has been longer and more intense than those seen before and, while studies “have not definitively tied this particular drought to climate change…computer models show droughts like the one happening now are becoming more common as the world warms”.
BBC News’s environment analyst looks at the impact of France’s aborted fuel tax and what it could mean for carbon taxes in general: “Of course, it’s more complicated than that, because it depends on what sort of carbon taxes and how they are imposed. Green economists say carbon taxes are a good idea – but they insist that governments must protect the poor from the side-effects…Academics have figured out over the years how to protect the poor from green taxes, but Mr Macron appears to have missed their research, or ignored it…Green taxes are complicated and can be hard to communicate.”
Global production of cement in 2017 emitted around 1.5bn tonnes of CO2, equivalent to about 4% of emissions from fossil fuels, a new estimate suggests. The study produces a new analysis of global process emissions from cement production for 1928-2017 using a variety of available datasets, including official data and emission factors, estimates submitted to the UNFCCC, and new estimates for China and India. Cumulative emissions from 1928 to 2017 amounted to approximately 37bn tonnes of CO2, the author says, “70 % of which have occurred since 1990”.
Melting of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica over the next 100 years could contribute as much as 42mm to global sea levels, a new study suggests. The researchers simulate the evolution of Thwaites using “ice sheet models of varying levels of complexity, different basal friction laws and ice shelf melt to quantify their effect on the projections”. All simulations indicate the glacier “will undergo an accelerated retreat” once it shrinks past the western subglacial ridge, the study says. Combining all the simulations, the findings suggest that meltwater from Thwaites will add around 5mm to sea levels over the next 30 years, increasing to 14–42mm over the next 100 years.
The impact of large-scale bioenergy crop expansion on biodiversity could outweigh the benefits of using bioenergy to mitigate climate change, new research suggests. The authors combine climate-based species distribution models for the world’s amphibians, birds, and mammals with land-use change simulations. The findings suggest that while meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement would reduce direct climate change impacts on biodiversity, the land use changes associated with “massive expansion of bioenergy” would mean that “biodiversity will suffer as severely” as it would under a high emissions scenario. The authors call for “an immediate and significant reduction in energy consumption for the benefit of both biodiversity and to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement”.
Get a Daily or Weekly round-up of all the important articles and papers selected by Carbon Brief by email.