Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Corbyn launches bid to declare a national climate emergency
- Fracking tsar resigns after six months over 'ridiculous' rules
- Britain should eat less red meat, plant millions of trees and build wind turbines, government advises
- Climate change being fuelled by soil damage - report
- Activists ensure climate change is centre stage
- Loss of fracking tsar is another sign the government is in thrall to the environmental lobby
- Climate change and variability impacts on grazing herds: Insights from a system dynamics approach for semi‐arid Australian rangelands
The Observer’s frontpage splash breaks the news that “Labour will this week force a vote in parliament to declare a national environmental and climate change emergency as confidential documents show the government has spent only a fraction of a £100m fund allocated in 2015 to support clean air projects”. It adds: “Jeremy Corbyn’s party will demand on Wednesday that the country wakes up to the threat and acts with urgency to avoid more than 1.5C of warming…The move will place Conservative MPs under pressure to back the plan, or explain why they refuse to do so.” It continues: “On Saturday night Corbyn said the recent wave of protests were ‘a massive and necessary wake-up call’ that demanded ‘rapid and dramatic action, which only concerted government action and a green industrial revolution can deliver.’ He said that if parliament backed the move and became the first national legislature to declare a climate emergency it would ‘trigger a wave of action from governments around the world’.” Writing in the Observer, Labour’s shadow energy secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey says: “Labour is calling for a green industrial revolution. Just as a new generation of democratic socialists in the US are calling for a green new deal, we too must draw on our history for inspiration, and appeal to the collective achievements of the past to find a way through to what will be our greatest achievement.” The Sunday Mirror also carries the news as an “exclusive”, saying: “Labour will force a vote on Wednesday to try to make the UK the world’s first country to declare a climate emergency. Senior party figures confirmed they will use their opposition day in the Commons to move the environment to the top of the agenda.” Also in the Sunday Mirror, Labour’s shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman writes: “We face an environment and climate emergency. The Tories refuse to accept it, but that’s no surprise. This reckless government has some warm words for our planet, but the reality is that they are making an already desperate situation worse.” In Scotland, BBC News reports that Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has declared a “climate emergency” in her speech to the SNP conference.
Meanwhile, the Extinction Rebellion protests continue to make the news. The Independent says “environmental activists who participated in the recent Extinction Rebellion protests have announced they are standing in next month’s European elections. Nine candidates are running to be MEPs under the banner of Climate and Ecological Emergency Independents.” The Guardianreports on a further wave of “die in” protests around the world. Separately, the Guardian also reports that Sir David Attenborough has endorsed the school strike climate protestors saying “outrage is justified”. The Times reports that Lord Stern, author of the influential Stern Review on the economics of climate change a decade ago, says that “political leaders in Britain are not strong enough to tackle the climate change crisis”. The Times also reports that the school climate strikers are planning more protests this summer because they are “not about skiving”. The Independent notes that the climate protests have sparked a “five-fold” surge in online interest in climate change. Another article in the Independent say there has been a “row” over whether the XR protestors should “water down” their “hippy” language.
There is widespread coverage in the UK media of the resignation of the government’s “fracking tsar” Natascha Engel. BBC News says she resigned yesterday after just six months, saying fracking “is being throttled by rules preventing mini earthquakes”. Current government rules mean fracking must be suspended every time a 0.5 magnitude tremor is detected. Engel, a former Labour MP and consultant for fracking firm Ineos, said the cautious approach to tremors had created a de facto ban on fracking. BBC News adds: “She claimed campaign groups ‘were driving policy’ – but the groups say fracking damages the environment.” The Guardian says that “in her resignation letter, she said environmental activists had been ‘highly successful’ in encouraging the government to curb fracking”. The letter continues: “A perfectly viable and exciting new industry that could help meet our carbon reduction targets, make us energy secure and provide jobs in parts of the country that really need them is in danger of withering on the vine – not for any technical or safety reasons, but because of a political decision.” The Times says that “Ms Engel’s resignation from her £500-a-day role was celebrated as a victory by anti-fracking campaigners and opposition politicians”. The Mail on Sunday says she argues that the government is “caving into green zealots”. But a number of papers, such as the Guardian, report how Engel has previously worked for Ineos and has also been accused of deleting emails and notes following meetings. Greenpeace’s Unearthed, which has been investigating Engel for months, says: “The British government’s recently-departed shale gas commissioner admitted to routinely deleting correspondence and throwing away notes from meetings with fracking companies in a move that may have violated transparency requirements.” Meanwhile, HuffPost reports that “a cross-party group of MPs has written to Theresa May to demand an ‘immediate moratorium’ on fracking. The Lib Dem, Labour, Independent and Green MPs said the exploration of shale gas would not help tackle climate change.”
Several publications preview the forthcoming report on “net zero” by the Committee on Climate Change, which is due to be published on Thursday. The Daily Telegraph claims it will say that “Britain should eat less red meat, plant millions of trees and build a new generation of onshore wind turbines under radical plans to hit ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2050”. The paper says that the CCC is “expected to recommend abandoning the existing target to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by then. It will instead recommend that all greenhouse gases, including carbon, methane and nitrous oxide, are eradicated or offset by that date.” Saturday’s Times claims that “ministers will be urged next week to encourage homeowners to replace domestic gas boilers with more environmentally friendly alternatives”. It adds: “The committee, chaired by Lord Deben…is expected to set a date between 2040 and 2060 by which Britain should reach ‘net zero emissions’ of carbon.”
Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reports that “Britain’s cities have become global hotspots — but not in a good way. Oxford, Sheffield and Durham have seen annual temperatures rise by up to 1.6C, meaning many UK areas now exceed the 1.5C target for limiting global warming set at the 2015 Paris climate talks.” The report is a preview of a lecture being given tomorrow at the Royal Society by the University of Reading’s Prof Ed Hawkins.
BBC News previews a new report due out a week today following a plenary meeting of IPBES – the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. BBC News says: “Climate change can’t be halted if we carry on degrading the soil, a report will say. There’s three times more carbon in the soil than in the atmosphere – but that carbon’s being released by deforestation and poor farming. This is fuelling climate change – and compromising our attempts to feed a growing world population, the authors will say.” Speaking to the BBC, Prof Sir Bob Watson, who chairs IPBES and who used to lead the IPCC, says that around 3.2 billion people worldwide are suffering from degraded soils: “We are losing from the soil the organic carbon and this undermines agricultural productivity and contributes to climate change. We absolutely have to restore the degraded soil we’ve got.”
There has continued to be a wave of commentary assessing the impact of the Extinction Rebellion protests and Greta Thunberg’s UK visit last week. An editorial in the FT says: “While Ms Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion will not solve the crisis they have identified, they have still served a useful purpose by injecting new urgency into public discourse. This sense of urgency is not purely the preserve of a younger generation.” An editorial in the Guardian argues: “What has been heartening is that the climate protests have been rooted in facts taken from UN reports, official statistics and government papers. The demonstrations worked because their supporters had arguments that resonated and could be easily understood. Whether this translates into votes for XR candidates in European elections will be worth watching. Meanwhile, the school strikers have made their own set of uncompromising demands, with a youthful energy that could not be written off. Theirs too is a reasonable reaction to an emergency that politicians are staring at but seem unable to see.” In a “dear Greta” letter, Nick Butler writes in the FT that “your next objective should be the creation of a fund to translate what are now just possibilities and experiments into full-scale practical solutions. The fund should be managed by the scientific academies — the Swedish Academy, the Royal Society and many others — that have already done serious work on the reality of climate change and the associated risks”. In the Guardian, Simon Jenkins says he “groaned when Greta Thunberg told how she handled those who disagreed with her on global warming: ‘I don’t.’” Gary Younge in the Guardian says: “XR, like Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street and the anti-war movement before it, has shown that there are significant constituencies for global campaigns that have humanism and international solidarity as their core.” In the Sun, Trevor Kavanagh dismisses the protestors and wants the UK to frack instead: “It is also a fact, courtesy of the respected Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, that global warming is not about to roast us all alive or drown us beneath stormy oceans. Polar bears are multiplying, not disappearing. Walruses are thriving, not throwing themselves off rocks. None of this washes with single-issue, black-and-white zealots who regard all inconvenient truth as the work of the Devil.” In the Mirror, Saira Khan writes: “I understand the frustrations of these eco warriors. For years, our politicians have been paying lip service to our planet and we all end up slipping into a false sense of security.” In the Daily Express, Nick Ferrari says he saw “the unedifying spectacle of a gaggle of desperate MPs queuing up to be berated by that Princess of the eco-activists, teenage Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg… this modern day Joan of Arc”. Peter Hitchens in the Daily Mail says Thunberg “has little that is of any use to say, whether you believe that human action is causing climate change or can moderate it, or not”. Janet Daily in the Sunday Telegraph says: “To the climate change campaigners and the liberal cosmopolitans who condemn populist movements, hoping to wind back the progress of mass prosperity and the self-determination that goes with it, I offer a warning: just try it and see what happens.” Stewart Lee in the Guardian says that “you would have to be dead inside to ridicule the teenage environmentalist Greta Thunberg and yet the usual grindingly algorithimic alt-right controversialists have done just that”. James Murray in BusinessGreen asks about what comes next: “The challenge now for those dismissing XR is are they willing to use their considerable political influence to back a bold net zero emission plan as a matter of urgency, or are they happier pretending to care about the greatest challenge of the age while sitting on the sidelines and sniping at those who are understandably fearful for their futures.” In the Daily Telegraph’s City pages Tom Rees argues that “capitalism and the power of price signals in markets are proving to be the solution, not the problem” in response to climate change. In Project Syndicate, Adair Turner, the former head of the CCC, says that “once investors know that the non-negotiable end point is zero carbon in 2050, they will indeed desert any company whose plans are incompatible with that objective. Only clear targets can transform rational self-interest from a potentially catastrophic force into a powerful driver of beneficial change.” In Scotland’s National, Robert Matthews, a visiting professor of science at Aston University, Birmingham, says: “Sceptics typically seize on such gaps in knowledge to cast doubt on the whole issue of global warming. Thunberg may be wrong about the omniscience of scientists, but the risk of sudden climatic change makes her plea for action compelling.” In his Noise of the Crowd blog, Leo Barasi argues that “past climate change protests have had little direct effect on public debate, but Extinction Rebellion protests in London seem to have directly influenced politics, the media and the public”. In a video for the Guardian, columnist Owen Jones meets with the XR protestors. In the US, Vox takes a look at the XR protests saying they “skilfully used civil disobedience to sound the alarm on the climate emergency”.
A number of publications react to the resignation by the UK government’s “fracking tsar” Natascha Engel. The Telegraph’s editorial says it is “the latest blow to a burgeoning industry that held out such promise just a few years ago…given that they have made fracking almost impossible, has the government now abandoned its policy of exploiting shale reserves? If so, it should admit as much.” An editorial in the Sun says: “Natascha Engel is right to warn that Britain’s energy revolution is now at risk, with the government in thrall to eco-warriors and their immature stunts…Cowardly business secretary Greg Clark is squandering this windfall by giving in to the green lobby. As Engel says — listen to the science, not just to those who shout the loudest…It is time the government ignored leftie posturing and turned on the shale gas taps.” An editorial in the Independent says: “It is a moment, then, to appreciate that public opinion, once mobilised, is sovereign. Sentiment is all, and it’s moving the right way. The resignation of the so-called fracking tsar came because she found the restrictions on shale gas extraction too difficult to justify. Her job was pointless, she claims, and she made herself redundant. That in itself shows the effect of public pressure on this new source of fossil fuels. There now seems little chance that ministers will relax the rules so people in Lancashire can suffer more earthquakes and we can generate more CO2. Just imagine the protests if they did.” In the Daily Mail, Dominic Lawson says: “Who do you think will be most delighted by news that the UK’s commissioner for shale gas has quit in dismay at the government’s craven surrender to lobbying by so-called environmentalists? Vladimir Putin, that’s who.” Writing in the Times, Engel seeks to justify her resignation: “If environmental groups really cared about reducing carbon emissions quickly, they would be fracking’s biggest supporters.”
Climate change could be driving down the size of grazing herds, according to a study conducted in semi-arid rangelands in Australia. The study finds long-term changes to rainfall as well as increases to extreme events such as drought has negatively affected herd size. “After a drought event, herd size recovery times ranged from years to decades in the absence of proactive restocking through animal purchases,” the authors say.
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