Today's climate and energy headlines:
- In a warming world, deluges like Louisiana's expected to increase
- BBC picks private weather forecaster as it ditches Met Office after 94 years
- Rising sea levels caused by global warming could be good news for coral reefs
- UK smart meter IT programme hit with further delays
- China to consider Paris climate deal this month
- Alaskan village votes in favour of relocating due to climate change
- Campaign to Protect Rural England adds to calls for green farming subsidy overhaul
- What it's like to take an Arctic cruise through the melting icebergs that could flood the world
- Hornsea 2 is a powerful signal the UK may be getting its low-carbon act together
- New energy minister, Lucy Neville-Rolfe, shares her thoughts on fracking
- The Guardian view on the heatwave: still hope on climate change
- Britain should leap-frog Hinkley and lead 21st Century nuclear revolution
- Donald Trump's lack of respect for science Is alarming
- The Model Intercomparison Project on the climatic response to Volcanic forcing (VolMIP): experimental design and forcing input data for CMIP6
- The record-breaking 2015 hurricane season in the eastern North Pacific: an analysis of environmental conditions
A number of publications examine the issue of whether recent extreme weather events in the US can be attributed to climate change. Inside Climate News says the devastating rainstorm that unleashed flooding last weekend in Louisiana comes in recent succession to similarly extreme and deadly storms across the country—in Texas, Maryland, West Virginia and South Carolina: “These intense storms have become seemingly commonplace, raising questions about climate change’s role. Of the two factors that made Louisiana’s storm so devastating, one (increased moisture in the air) wears the fingerprints of man-made climate change from mostly fossil-fuel burning, while the other (how slowly the storm was moving) is not so easily explained.” It carries the views of Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University: “This storm is a good example of why we care about a changing climate, because Louisiana is a place that is already at risk of flooding and climate change is taking the risk that we already face, and it’s exacerbating” the threat. In his Dot Earth blog of the New York Times, Andy Revkin puts the same question to a range of scientists and meteorologists: “What Fueled Louisiana’s Deadly Flood?” Meanwhile, Time Magazine says “don’t call the California wildfires ‘natural disasters’.” It lists both arson and “human-caused global warming”.
BBC weather forecasts will be provided from next year by a private company, replacing the Met Office after 94 years. The corporation said that London-based MeteoGroup would take over from next Spring and save the BBC millions of pounds over the next few years. The seven-year deal would give users a more personalised website and more information both on air and on the BBC weather app, it added. MeteoGroup, which already provides forecasts for Sky News and Channel 4 television, is Britain’s largest private sector weather business, with offices in 17 countries around the world. Others reporting the news include the Sun, BBC, Financial Times and Mail.
Global warming could do at least as much to protect the world’s coral reefs as it will to damage them, new research from Australia suggests. Climate change has long been believed to be disastrous for the fragile marine environments, but fresh modelling has predicted that oceanic changes caused by the phenomenon will also work to the reefs’ advantage. Rising sea levels, caused by melting polar ice caps, could help moderate the extreme and often damaging conditions found in many reef habitats, according to scientists at the University of Western Australia. However, Carbon Brief explains how some scientists think this could be “too little too late”.
An IT project involved in rolling out the UK’s national smart meter scheme has been delayed again. The Government has confirmed that the system, which will link smart meters to the energy suppliers, will now not be available until the end of September. The system was due to be switched on on 17 August. It was first expected to be operational in 2015, before it was delayed until April 2016 and then delayed until this August. The Government plans for most homes to have a smart meter by 2020, which will mean 53m meters being fitted in over 30m premises.
China’s lawmakers will consider approving the Paris climate deal at a National People’s Congress committee from 29 August to 3 September, reports the Xinhua news agency. The final decision will rest with President Xi Jinping, who is expected to coordinate China’s formal support for the deal with his US counterpart Barack Obama. A separate statement published on government-run Xinhua on Tuesday urged “all parties to accelerate ratifying procedures” and bring the deal into force “at an early date”. Separately, Climate Home reports that Japan and New Zealand have also signalled their intention to ratify the deal before the end of the year.
A tiny Alaskan village has voted to abandon their ancestral home to the rising seas, becoming possibly the first settlement in the United States forced to relocate due to climate change. Shishmaref’s 650 residents voted 89-78 in favour of a long-discussed proposal to move the entire village, to an as-yet-undecided new location, according to an unofficial count by the city clerk. Official results are expected on Thursday. Reuters adds that Shishmaref is one of dozens of indigenous villages in Alaska that face growing threats of flooding and erosion due to global warming, according to a report by the US Government Accountability Office.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has become the latest organisation to call on the government to use Brexit to instigate a major overhaul of farming subsidies in order to enhance environmental protection and boost the UK’s natural carbon stores. The group yesterday published a new report, entitled New Model Farming, which argues a more diverse farming sector in terms of farm size, demographics, and methods of production would result in a more resilient agricultural system, improved food security, and multiple environmental co-benefits.
Bawden joins a cruise ship off Svalbard: “But I’m an environmental journalist, and I’ve always written off cruises as being frankly horrific, so I was going to take some convincing…In short, my environmental cravings were well and truly satisfied – and with the fantastic food, convenience and comfort one might expect from an upmarket cruise. My only problem with the trip was that my fellow passengers were a little old for me, being predominantly over 70, while I’m a mere 44 – and quite immature for my age.”
Marshall, an energy analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), says the awarding of planning permission to the 1.8GW Hornsea Project Two development in the North Sea is a “vital signal from the UK government, showing at last the beginnings of an industrial strategy based around low-carbon technology”. He adds: “Now, nobody is seriously claiming that wind alone can replace Hinkley Point. There will always be a few winter days when wind speeds are low and even an arsenal of turbines can’t fully supply the grid. However, instead of piling unfathomable amounts of money into a white elephant, the UK should look to a range of technologies instead.”
The new energy minister sets out why she supports fracking for shale gas: “It could have an extraordinarily positive effect on our economy similar to the US experience, creating a large number of jobs for local people, as well as benefits to a wide range of other businesses throughout the community…However, I am determined to ensure that a burgeoning fracking industry goes hand in hand with protecting the environment as we move to lower carbon emissions and greater energy security.”
The Guardian’s editorial joins others in going cold on Hinkley: “Europe has doubled its power generation from green sources; in the UK it has almost quadrupled. Last year, it accounted for more than a quarter of power. But George Osborne’s attack on ‘green crap’, along with the eurozone crisis, hit investment hard. China and the US are the big new forces in green energy production. So this is the challenge: we need nuclear to keep the lights on. But not from Hinkley C. Instead, redirect the £30bn of subsidies into making the UK a good place for green investment again.”
In his continuing series examining the UK’s energy options, Evans-Pritchard turns his attention to nuclear power and highlights alternatives to the “old” technology being proposed for Hinkley C, such as Molten salt reactors: “We have rare chance to go back to the drawing board. Britain still has a superb stable of nuclear scientists and talent but no longer faces a fortress of vested interests with horrendous sunk costs. It could leap frog the field. The British state can borrow for twenty years at 1.2% and it should do so with zest to break out of the austerity cage, launching a blast of fiscal stimulus to carry the country through the post-Brexit adjustment while at the same time giving our engineering industries a shot of adrenaline. A gamble on the untested technology of advanced reactors might prove a costly flop but it is hard to see how it could be worse than a blank cheque for an obsolete nuclear model that will bleed us into the 2060s. At least we can take back our energy destiny.” Separately in the Telegraph, Jillian Ambrose has an analysis article titled, “Why the UK is using less energy, but importing more – and why it matters”. She says: “Although the rise of renewables has been considerable the gains have not been enough to keep the UK’s electricity system from becoming worryingly tight when demand is high; the number of older, larger power plants closing down has far outstripped the amount of renewable projects being built. With so little slack in the system, the threat of a power shortfall is increasing, raising the risk of blackouts while making electricity more expensive on the wholesale power markets.”
In an unusual move, Scientific American has published an editorial denouncing someone running for political office: “Scientific American is not in the business of endorsing political candidates. But we do take a stand for science—the most reliable path to objective knowledge the world has seen—and the Enlightenment values that gave rise to it…The current presidential race, however, is something special. It takes antiscience to previously unexplored terrain. When the major Republican candidate for president has tweeted that global warming is a Chinese plot, threatens to dismantle a climate agreement 20 years in the making and to eliminate an agency that enforces clean air and water regulations, and speaks passionately about a link between vaccines and autism that was utterly discredited years ago, we can only hope that there is nowhere to go but up…We encourage the nation’s political leaders to demonstrate a respect for scientific truths in word and deed. And we urge the people who vote to hold them to that standard.”
When volcanos erupt and release plumes of particles into the stratosphere, it can have far-reaching and local consequences for climate. To better understand why different climate models simulate different responses to volcanic eruptions, scientists have set up a new programme called the Model Intercomparison Project on the climatic response to Volcanic forcing (VolMIP). A new paper describes how the perturbation experiments have been designed to enable comparison across models, and the common aerosol dataset to be used in the project.
A new study examines the factors that aligned to cause a near record breaking hurricane season in the eastern North Pacific in 2015. A strong El Niño and the positive phase of a natural cycle known as the Pacific Meridional Mode provided extraordinarily warm background sea surface temperatures, say the authors. Historically, strong hurricane seasons in an area known as the the Western Development Region are characterised by El Niño conditions in May and June, an observation the scientists hope might improve forecasts of hurricane activity in future.
Expert analysis directly to your inbox.