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Daily Briefing

09.11.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

09.11.2018 | 9:41am
DAILY BRIEFING Democrats plan to revive House climate committee
Democrats plan to revive House climate committee

News.

Democrats plan to revive House climate committee

Democrats are planning to bring back a House committee on climate change after winning back control of the House, “giving them a platform to spotlight an issue on which polls show President Donald Trump is out of step with the public”, Bloomberg writes, reporting on news that was first uncovered by the New York Times. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi will ask her colleagues to reconstitute the select committee, which was started by her 11 years ago. The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming was dissolved by Republicans in 2011 after the party gained control of the House, the Hillexplains. The committee as it was then was not authorised to advance its own bills, but it used dozens of hearings to evaluate advancements in renewable power and the consequences of climate change, Bloomberg writes, paving the way “for broad legislation to create a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide emissions”, although the legislation eventually faltered in the Senate. Elsewhere, analysis of the implications of the US mid-terms for the climate continues. Clean Technica says that New Mexico has elected a “potential climate hawk” as governor, while the Atlantic finds that “the GOP just lost its most important climate moderates”. InsideClimate News leads with: “Clean energy is a winner in several states as more governors, legislatures go blue”. In a feature for Grist, Eric Holthaus writes: “Most of the climate-related coverage of this week’s midterm elections was pretty pessimistic. But if you dig down to the state level…the results were much brighter, even hopeful”. Holthaus identifies six states where the election has cleared the way for “bold climate policy”.

Bloomberg Read Article
UK close to ditching plan for Cumbria nuclear plant

The future of a new nuclear power station in Cumbria has been left in doubt after Toshiba announced that it is winding up its UK nuclear business, in news reported by the Times, the IndependentBusinessGreen, the Guardian, and others yesterday. Today, the Financial Times reports that ministers are close to abandoning efforts to find an alternative to Toshiba. Industry experts told the paper that China’s state-owned nuclear group would be interested in the Moorside project, but some figures in the British government are wary of bringing in the Shenzhen-based group. Toshiba said it had taken the decision to close down its NuGen subsidiary after failing to find a buyer for the business, in what it described as an “economically rational decision”. Toshiba bought into the Moorside project – a proposed multibillion-pound plant on the Cumbrian coast – in 2014. Phillip Inman, the economics editor of the Observer, argues in a comment piece for the Guardian that “it was always clear that the private market could never deliver” on boosting the UK’s nuclear industry, and that Toshiba’s decision “is a case in point”. He concludes: “it is clear huge commitments of time, resources and political capital are necessary for infrastructure projects of this scale to get off the ground and through to completion.”

Financial Times Read Article
New wind and solar generation costs fall below existing coal plants

The cost of new solar and wind power generation has dropped below the cost of running existing coal-fired plants in many parts of the US, according to new estimates published yesterday by the investment bank Lazard. The Financial Times says that the calculations threaten “to wreck president Donald Trump’s hopes of reviving the mining industry”, and that the news suggests that the closures of coal-fired plants are “likely to continue”. US coal power output has fallen by more that 40% since 2007, and retirements of US coal-fired plants are expected to hit a record high this year, the Financial Times adds.

Financial Times Read Article
Judge blocks Keystone XL pipeline

A judge in Montana halted the construction of the “controversial” Keystone XL oil pipeline yesterday, the Hill reports, in a “major victory for environmentalists and indigenous rights groups”. Judge Brian Morris said that the Trump administration’s justification for approving it last year was incomplete, and blocked the pipeline on the grounds that the US government did not complete a full analysis of the environmental impact of the TransCanada Corp project, Reuters reports. Reuters described the ruling as a “major setback” for the company, that “could possibly delay the construction” of the 1,180 mile (1,900 km) pipeline. Associated Press also covered the news.

The Hill Read Article
Group warns over a third of US nuclear power plants could retire

More than a third of US nuclear power plants could shut for economic reasons over the next decade, according to a study released yesterday by the Union of Concerned Scientists. In their report, they highlight the risk that emissions will rise if old nuclear power stations are replaced with natural gas, which could have “serious consequences for the climate”. Nuclear power currently provides about 20% of US electricity, but cheap gas from record shale production and rising use of renewable energy has kept electric prices low in recent years, hurting nuclear operators, CNBC explains. Axios and the Hill also have the story. Earlier this year, Carbon Brief mapped the US nuclear plants that are at risk of shutting down.

Reuters via CNBC Read Article
National Grid welcomes a Viking raider

The UK’s National Grid has approved a project to build the world’s longest subsea power cable between Britain and Denmark. The £1.7bn Viking Link interconnector between Bicker Fen in Lincolnshire and Revsing in Jutland is scheduled to be completed by 2023, the Times reports. It will transport up to 1.4GW of electricity – enough to power 1 million homes.

The Times Read Article
Climate change promises Champagne lifestyle for UK growers

The UK could become “the hot new wine producer” as rising temperatures turn parts of the country into prime grape-growing land, Reuters reports. New research – published in the Journal of Land Use Science – identified Kent, Sussex, East Anglia and Wales as emerging hotspots that could produce enough wine to rival France’s Champagne region. Using computer models, historical climate records and terrestrial data, researchers found that a total of 33,700 hectares of land in the UK could be productive for wine-making. Steve Dorling from the University of East Anglia said in a statement: “This summer’s heatwave has led to a record grape harvest and a vintage year for English and Welsh wine, prompting great interest in investment and land opportunities.” The MailOnlineand iNews also carry the story. Back in 2016, Carbon Brief published an explainer on climate change and the UK wine industry.

Reuters Read Article

Comment.

Why Brazil’s New President Poses an Unprecedented Threat to the Amazon

“A new leader has emerged on the world stage who is poised to do even more global environmental damage than Trump”, writes Philip Fearnside, an ecologist at the National Institute for Research in Amazonia. “He is Jair Bolsonaro, the recently elected president of Brazil…known as the ‘tropical Trump.'” In an in-depth feature for Yale Environment 360, Fearnside explains how Brazil’s new leader could effect deforestation: “If Bolsonaro’s scenarios play out, the deforestation rate in the Amazon — already on the rise in recent years — could nearly triple.” The piece continues: “This environmental disaster would unfold at a time when climate change and diminishing rainfall already pose a serious threat to the Amazon, whose vast stores of carbon could be released to the atmosphere”. Fearnside concludes that “the impact of Bolsonaro’s policies on the Amazon could be irreversible.”

Philip Fearnside, Yale Environment 360 Read Article

Science.

Global streamflow and flood response to stratospheric aerosol geoengineering

Flood risk is projected to increase under future warming climates due to an enhanced hydrological cycle. Solar geoengineering is known to reduce precipitation and slow down the hydrological cycle and may therefore be expected to offset increased flood risk. This study uses streamflow and river discharge responses in climate models to examine this issue. They find that, in general, stratospheric aerosol injection – a form of solar geoengineering – does appear to reduce flood risk in most regions, but the overall effects are largely determined by large-scale geographic patterns. Although stratospheric aerosol geoengineering helps limit Amazon drying, with a weak increase in soil moisture, the decreased runoff and streamflow with geoengineering leads to an increased flood return period.

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Read Article
Compositional response of Amazon forests to climate change

Most of the planet’s diversity is concentrated in the tropics, which are undergoing rapid climate change. This study investigates whether the composition of Amazon forests have been changing by evaluating records from 106 long‐term inventory plots spanning 30 years. They find that tree communities have become increasingly dominated by larger trees, but to date there has been no detectable change in wood density or water deficit despite most forest plots having experienced an intensification of the dry season. However, among newer trees, dry‐affiliated genera have become more abundant, while the mortality of wet‐affiliated genera has increased in those plots where the dry season has intensified most. A slow shift to a more dry‐affiliated Amazonia is underway, with changes in forest composition consistent with climate‐change drivers. The Amazon observational record suggests that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is driving a shift within tree communities and that climate changes to date will impact forest composition, but long lifetimes of tropical trees mean that biodiversity change is lagging behind climate change.

Global Change Biology Read Article

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