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Daily Briefing

22.11.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

22.11.2018 | 9:15am
DAILY BRIEFING David Attenborough takes ‘people’s seat’ at climate change talks
David Attenborough takes ‘people’s seat’ at climate change talks

News.

David Attenborough takes 'people's seat' at climate change talks

Sir David Attenborough has announced he will give a people’s address at the opening sessions of the UN climate change talks in December in Poland. In an interview with BBC News, Attenborough says he will take up the newly established “people’s seat” at the conference opening, from which he will give a speech made up of comments about climate change from members of the public. “The people’s seat is meant to represent the hundreds of millions of people round the world whose lives are about to be affected or have already been affected by climate change,” Attenborough says, adding: “People know that the world is changing; they are behind politicians taking action.” The Guardianand the Press Association, via the Belfast Telegraph, also have the news, while BBC News has a video of the interview. Separately, the Times also speaks to Attenborough, who says he has become “increasingly outspoken on climate change, but it’s been in proportion to the degree to which we’re certain”.

BBC News Read Article
Low-lying Vanuatu threatens to sue culprit countries for climate change

The Pacific Island state of Vanuatu is considering suing fossil fuel companies and industrialised countries for their role in causing climate change, reports Reuters. In a video message to the Climate Vulnerable Forum – an international summit on the risks of climate change – Vanuatu’s foreign minister Ralph Regenvanu said his government “is now exploring all avenues to utilise the judicial system in various jurisdictions – including under international law – to shift the costs of climate protection back on to fossil fuel companies, the financial institutions and the governments that actively and knowingly created this existential threat to my country”. Regenvanu tells the Guardian that “there is a moral argument to say that to address our loss and damage bill we should be getting that from the people who are profiting off it”. Vanuatu will be looking for other countries to join forces, Regenvanu adds, and will be discussing this at the next climate change talks in Poland next month. Speaking at the same summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “climate change is moving faster than we are and we cannot afford any more delays”, reports AFP via France 24 . “The world counts on all nations to ensure that next month’s climate conference in Poland is a success,” he added.

Reuters Read Article
Scientists slam Trump's clueless climate change tweet: 'He's a clown'

President Donald Trump has again cast doubt on the scientific consensus behind climate change as the US faces one of the coldest Thanksgiving Day’s on record, reports the HuffPost. Trump tweeted last night from his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida that “brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS – Whatever happened to Global Warming?”. Responding to the tweet, climate scientist Prof Michael Mann tells HuffPost that “this demonstrates once again that Donald Trump is not an individual to be taken seriously on any topic, let alone matters as serious as climate change”, adding “He is a clown – a dangerous clown”. DailyMail.com also has coverage of the story from the Press Association and Reuters. Meanwhile, USA Today reports that the US government will release a major climate change report – Volume II of the National Climate Assessment – on “Black” Friday, “typically one of the slowest news days of the year”. National Wildlife Federation president Collin O’Mara accused the government of attempting “to bury the truth about climate impacts in a year that saw hundreds of Americans die during devastating climate-fueled megafires, hurricanes, floods and algal blooms”. The report was “long scheduled for release in December”, notes CNN, and it is “unclear why the date was moved up”.

HuffPost Read Article
UK advised to look at hydrogen heating to hit 2050 emissions targets

A new report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) spells out the potential role that hydrogen could play in the UK energy system. The findings suggest that millions of gas boilers will need to be replaced with hydrogen alternatives and coupled with air-source heat pumps if the UK is to hit its carbon targets at the lowest cost, says the Guardian. This could cost at least £28bn a year, or 0.7% of GDP, by 2050. “I’ve been cautious about the hydrogen story, because it’s often portrayed as a panacea,“ Chris Stark, the chief executive of the CCC, tells the Guardian, adding: “But I’ve been surprised how well it’s come out of our modelling when it’s accompanied by energy efficiency and electrification from heat pumps”. The report also recommends that “hydrogen-powered cars that emit just an occasional splash of water need to be a more common sight on the UK’s roads if the government is to meet its climate change targets”, says Sky NewsBloomberg and BusinessGreen also cover the report, as does Carbon Brief.

The Guardian Read Article
Trump thanks Saudi Arabia for lower oil prices

US President Donald Trump has praised Saudi Arabia for helping to reduce oil prices and added pressure on the kingdom to maintain the decline, reports the FT. Trump tweeted yesterday: “Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World.” Before adding: “Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!”. The tweets come a day after Trump hinted that one of the main reasons he values the US-Saudi relationship is a fear that sanctions against them could cause oil price spikes, says the Hill. “If you want to see oil prices go to $150 a barrel … all you have to do is break up our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. Trump’s actions have left “market experts puzzled”, says the Daily TelegraphAxios speaks to experts about how Trump’s comments could affect the next meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) in early December. After reaching the lowest levels for months, oil prices rebounded yesterday following US government data showing strong demand, notes Reuters; however, “concerns remained over rising global crude supply”.

Financial Times Read Article
Polish government split over coal ahead of UN climate summit

Poland’s energy ministry has defended the country’s heavy reliance on coal, which generated 78% of its electricity in 2017, Climate Home News reports. In a statement published on Monday, Krzysztof Tchórzewski’s ministry declared its opposition to raising EU ambition on climate change, arguing this would harm the Polish economy, CHN adds. However, a spokesperson for the COP24 presidency, Poland is set to host the annual UN climate conference next monthA spokesperson for the C4 presidency, which sits in the environment ministry, said in a terse email that did not represent the Polish government position.

Climate Home News Read Article
EDF seeks to charge customers upfront for UK nuclear plants

The energy firm EDF is looking at plans to fund nuclear investment in the UK by charging customers up front, the FT reports. The approach is commonly used in utilities such as water, airports and power distribution – such as the £4.2bn project to build a “super sewer” under the River Thames, the FT notes, but it has “never been tried for a project as technically complicated and lengthy as a nuclear power station”. The idea would help limit the cost of borrowing money to fund construction, which “represents roughly two-thirds of the lifetime costs of building and operating a nuclear power station”, says Humphrey Cadoux Hudson, managing director of nuclear development at EDF’s UK subsidiary. This means it is “actually a much better deal for consumers…they get to buy electricity at far cheaper cost”, he adds.

Financial Times Read Article

Comment.

A Thanksgiving meditation in the face of a changing climate

On Thanksgiving Day, climate scientist Dr Kate Marvel writes in her Scientific American blog that she feels “grief, guilt, anger, determination, hope, and sadness all at the same time” on global warming. “Our climate is changing because of our actions,” she says: “We can already see the impacts: changes in the range and behaviour of animal species, coastal cities smashed by hurricanes and inundated by floodwaters, a haze of unseasonal wildfire smoke.” Nonetheless, what Marvel feels “more than anything is gratitude for what we have”. She concludes: “We live on a medium-sized rock that goes around a garden-variety star in a galaxy that exists only because of a flaw in the smooth perfection of the early cosmos. Science says there is nothing special about our place in the Universe. I have to disagree”. Meanwhile, writing in New York Times, science writer John Schwartz discusses how to respond when you “get an earful from Uncle Walter over your turkey and stuffing about how global warming is just a hoax”. Schwartz speaks to Carbon Brief US analyst Zeke Hausfather about how a spell of cold weather over northeastern US could bring a “high probability of climate denial” over the holidays.

Kate Marvel, Scientific American Read Article
Scott Pruitt’s environmental rollbacks stumbled in court. His successor is more thorough.

New York Times reporter Lisa Friedman looks at how the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Andrew Wheeler, has been “quietly cleaning up the mess” left by his predecessor Scott Pruitt. While Pruitt’s attempts to rollback environmental regulations have been largely been blocked by the courts, says Friedman, “Wheeler has taken a far more deliberative approach, immersing himself in the legal intricacies — a strategy that could make Mr Wheeler one of the most effective drivers of the Trump administration’s ambitious plan to rewrite the nation’s rule book on the environment and climate”.

Lisa Friedman, The New York Times Read Article
Climate denial made madness mainstream

“Imagine if the taoiseach went on television and announced that he was asking Ireland to pray for a resolution to our problems in healthcare and housing,” writes Jason O’Mahony in the Irish edition of the Times. “He’d be mocked for the most part. Now imagine if he gave a press conference and said he was serious….He’d be gone in a week – but why? Most of the Irish profess to believe in God, right?”O’Mahony says there is typically a point where “rationality takes over from belief”, but that irrationality has “moved into the mainstream”. He goes on to argue that “what happened with climate change is the definitive case in point of how irrationality got mainstream.”

Jason O’Mahony, The Times Read Article

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