Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Democrats float 'Green New Deal' to end fossil fuel era
- Cottam closure to take UK coal power plant count down to six
- Ministers refuse to relax fracking rules as public opposition hardens
- Australia can meet Paris targets if government doesn't hinder progress, report claims
- The world needs rational American leadership on climate change
- The truth about big oil and climate change
- The Guardian view on teenage activists: protesters not puppets
- Recent increases in tropical cyclone intensification rates
A group of US Democrats have published a formal proposal for a “green new deal” that would eliminate US greenhouse gas emissions within a decade, report Reuters and many others. The document, a non-binding congressional resolution, is an effort to make climate change a central issue in the 2020 presidential race, Reuters says. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly elected congresswoman who drafted the resolution with veteran Democrat senator Edward Markey, plans to immediately start work on legislation to flesh out the details, Reuters adds. The resolution has “more breadth than detail”, says the New York Times, which notes that it is “so ambitious that Republicans greeted it with derision”. The paper adds that Ocasio-Cortez is not among a new special select committee of the House of Representatives on climate change, having been offered but turned down the position. Politico has the details on the committee’s membership. The proposal aims to create millions of jobs through a “10-year national mobilisation”, reports the Financial Times. Vox has a detailed rundown of what is in the Green New Deal resolution, including “a preamble, five goals, 14 projects, and 15 requirements”. It says the resolution is “matched to the problem as defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”. The resolution also “smartly avoids a few fights” such as calling for 100% “clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources” rather than a narrower 100% renewable goal, Vox notes, adding that Ocasio-Cortez has published a “factsheet” which contains some notable policy differences compared to the resolution. Not all Democrats are on board with the plan, reports the Washington Post. The Hill, Axios, Politico, npr, the Guardian, InsideClimate News, BusinessGreen, HuffPost UK and Climate Home News all cover the story. Carbon Brief has updated its detailed explainer on the Green New Deal, first published in December.
There is widespread coverage of the news that EDF Energy’s Cottam plant in Nottinghamshire – one of the UK’s seven remaining coal-fired power stations – is to close on 30 September this year. The firm said it would close the plant in Nottinghamshire, citing “challenging market conditions”, reports BusinessGreen. The 2 gigawatt (GW) plant opened in 1969 and is no longer economically viable, says the Times: “Like most UK coal plants, it has operated at full capacity only infrequently in recent years as environmental regulation, carbon taxes and the rise of subsidised renewables made it less competitive.” The Times adds that Cottam had failed to secure government subsidy contracts beyond the end of September, under the UK’s capacity market [this is currently suspended having been ruled illegal by an EU court, but is expected to be resurrected]. EDF says it will honour capacity contracts to keep open its other UK coal plant at West Burton in Lincolnshire until the end of September 2021, reports Reuters. The government has pledged to phase out coal power by 2025, notes the Guardian, which adds that the fuel’s share of UK electricity generation has fallen from 40% in 2012 to just 5% last year, citing Carbon Brief figures. It adds that 150 jobs are at risk. The 50-year-old Cottam plant was designed to run for just 30 years, reports the Daily Telegraph. The Press Association, BBC News, City AM, MailOnline and the Independent all have the story.
Meanwhile, Drax in Yorkshire, formerly Europe’s largest coal plant, has started capturing CO2 emissions from its biomass-fired units, report the Financial Times, BBC News and BusinessGreen. The pilot project will capture one tonne of CO2 per day, BBC News explains. It adds that if this CO2 were to be stored, the plant would be carrying out biomass energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Drax’s pilot is a “world first” that the firm hopes will lead to a large scale rollout of the technology, says the FT.
Public opposition to fracking has hardened, reports the Times, and ministers have confirmed that they will not give in to industry demands for looser rules on the size of tremors caused by the process. It adds: “Some 35% of the public now oppose fracking for shale gas, with fears over earthquakes increasingly cited as a reason. Support for the process has fallen to 13%.” The Independent says “fear of fracking-related earthquakes [has] ‘soar[ed]’”.Cuadrilla and Ineos, two of the UK’s biggest shale gas explorers, have this week publicly urged the government to relax rules on tremors caused by fracking, the Times notes, claiming that it will not be commercially viable to extract shale reserves without such a change. The Guardian calls ministers’ refusal a “major blow that could spell the end for Britain’s nascent shale industry”. It quotes a spokesperson from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy saying: “We set these regulations in consultation with industry and we have no plans to review them.” The Financial Times also says that the decision “potentially sound[s] the death knell for the exploitation of shale gas resources in the country”. Reuters and Climate Home News also have the story.
Rapid rates of renewable energy addition mean Australia would be able to meet its economy-wide targets under the Paris Agreement five years early if politics “doesn’t derail the trend”, reports the Guardian, citing research from the Australian National University (ANU). The study suggests the net cost of this transition will be zero “because renewables are now cheaper than fossil fuels”, the Guardian says. It adds: “The lead researcher, ANU professor Andrew Blakers, says Australia is currently installing renewable power four or five times per capita faster than the European Union, Japan, China and the US.” Reuters also covers the research. The Guardian carries a comment piece that argues: “Waiting for coal power plants to naturally retire and be replaced with cleaner alternatives will take too long.”
Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that a state minister has said that the impacts of climate change on farming are “undeniable” and that the “sands were shifting” in the debate. The minister is deputy leader of the New South Wales National party and says his views on climate change differ from “many of my colleagues”. The paper adds: “The NSW Nationals – and their state Liberal counterparts – have been attempting to distance themselves from some of their federal colleagues [in government] on climate change in the lead up to the March election.” Separately, the Sydney Morning Herald, Reuters and the Guardian report that a court has blocked a new coal mine in New South Wales on climate change grounds.
“As more and more of their predictions have come true, scientists have become more confident in their models – and more alarmed,” says an editorial in the Washington Post. Yet the president did not mention climate change in his state of the union address, the paper says, and he still plans to take the country out of the Paris Agreement. Meanwhile, it decries the “green new deal” announced by some Democrats “whose goal seems to be radically reshaping US society and vastly expanding government rather than simply addressing the climate problem, which is hard enough”. It concludes: “Though not nearly as harmful as Mr. Trump’s rank denialism, engaging in this sort of fantasy also hurts the cause of practically addressing the issue. The world needs rational US leadership. Unfortunately, global warming will not stop in the meantime.” An opinion piece in the Washington Post says the green new deal could “dramatically alter [US] political debate”. In the Guardian, a comment argues: “A green new deal can give us the freedoms to allow humanity to flourish.” The Economist says the “bold new plan ignores economic orthodoxy”, adding: “…for the moment, economists have lost the chance to lead the fight against climate change.”
“Even as concerns about global warming grow, energy firms are planning to increase fossil-fuel production,” says an editorial in the Economist. It continues: “Demand for oil is rising and the energy industry, in America and globally, is planning multi-trillion-dollar investments to satisfy it. No firm embodies this strategy better than ExxonMobil…[This] shows that the market cannot solve climate change by itself. Muscular government action is needed.” This need not involve a “bloated role for the state”, it adds.
Politicians and other adults should focus on the message of child protestors rather than their age, says an editorial in the Guardian. It points to the recent resignation of a Belgian minister who had suggested protestors were directed by hidden forces. It concludes: “We should respect and welcome efforts by children and teenagers to make their voices heard and influence decision-making. After all, they will be living with the consequences for longer than the rest of us. Nothing throws all of this into sharper relief than the accelerating climate crisis…If children want to take to the streets and demand tougher action to avert disaster, who can blame them?” Meanwhile, Joe Sandler Clarke writes in Viceabout the “climate deniers trying to discredit [teenage climate activist] Greta Thunberg”. And BuzzFeed News carries a feature about the “huge climate change movement” in Europe that is “led almost entirely by teenage girls” and “coming to the US next”.
Tropical cyclones that rapidly intensify are the hardest to accurately forecast and cause a disproportionate amount of death and financial loss. Therefore, it is crucial to understand if, and why, there are observed upward trends in tropical cyclone intensification rates. This paper utilizes two observational datasets to calculate 24-hour wind speed changes in tropical cyclones over the period from 1982–2009. They compare the observed trends to natural variability in high-resolution climate models. Both observed datasets show significant increases in tropical cyclone intensification rates in the Atlantic that are highly unusual compared to model-based estimates of internal climate variability. Their results suggest a detectable increase of Atlantic intensification rates with a contribution from human activity.
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