Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Diesel and petrol car ban: Clean air strategy 'not enough'
- ‘Big Oil’ fights back
- 50% Rise in Renewables Needed to Meet Ambitious State Energy Standards
- Google enters race for nuclear fusion technology
- Electric cars numbering 9m will need to be powered somehow
- Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming from Inside the White House
- The government's air pollution plan is a beautiful smokescreen
- Climate change: Al Gore gets inconvenient again
- Unmasking the climate change deniers
- Adaptation to flood risk – results of international paired flood event studies
- Leakage risks of geologic CO2storage and the impacts on the global energy system and climate change mitigation
The government’s £3bn clean air strategy, which includes plans to scrap new diesel and petrol cars by 2040, does not go “far enough or fast enough”, campaigners have said, arguing that measures need to be implemented now to tackle environmental and health problems. Professor Neena Modi, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told the BBC that air pollution “is a public health emergency”. The Telegraph has claimed that a planned car ban was “unravel[ing] as 10 new power stations needed to cope with electric revolution”, while a separate article claims that the plan “would require 10,000 new wind turbines”. However a Carbon Brief factcheck assessing the impact that electric vehicles will have on the UK’s grid, shows that this is an extreme scenario that assumes car charging is completely unmanaged, rather than a prediction of what is likely to happen. National Grid has welcomed the plan, the Guardian reports, although says that the government now faces “big decisions” on how the extra power is provided. Meanwhile Ireland is concerned that the ban could exacerbate a “diesel dump” of second-hand vehicles that it receives from the UK, the Times reports. The Hill, Reuters, Grist, and the Daily Mail also has the story.
Oil and gas companies are approving new projects at the fastest rate since the oil price crash three years ago, in a sign that the industry is recovering, the Financial Times reports. Average development costs have fallen 40% since 2014, according to Wood Mackenzie, encouraging companies to revive investment despite the continuing low cost of oil, with with crude prices yo-yoing around $50 per barrel. In this environment, the most risky or economically marginal projects are being cancelled, leaving billions of barrels of untapped resources “stranded”, the Financial Times writes. Meanwhile, Shell’s profit’s have “surged”, the Telegraph reports, as it “embarks on an ambitious cost-cutting drive”.
US renewable electricity generation will have to increase by 50% by 2030 to meet ambitious state requirements, according to a new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The research looked at Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs)—commitments set by states to increase their percentage of electricity generated from sources of renewable energy – and found that they had driven about half of all growth in renewable electricity generation since 2000, Inside Climate News reports. No states weakened their RPS policies during the period studied in the research.
The tech giant Google has teamed up with a leading nuclear fusion company to develop a new computer algorithm that significantly speeds up experiments on plasmas, the “ultra-hot balls of gas at the heart of the energy technology”, BusinessGreen reports. The “Optometrist algorithm” enables high-powered computation to be combined with human judgement to find new and better solutions to complex problems – and nuclear fusion is “exceptionally complex”. The algorithm has revealed unexpected ways of operating the plasma, according to research published in the journal Scientific Reports.
An op-ed in the Daily Mail attacks what it calls the “irresponsibly confusing messages from government ministers and the motor industry”, following the Volkwagen emissions scandal and mixed messages about diesel. “It is not surprising that we motorists are deeply distrustful of any environmental initiative involving politicians”, he writes. “Government policies [regarding the plan to switch to electric vehicles] seem to be woefully thought-out and I fear the true economic (and environmental) costs of this new Nirvana will be enormous” he says, continuing: “this is pie-in-the sky politics with little thought given to where the extra electricity will come from”. The Sun (“Tory Government needs to wise up and sort out its moronic transport revolution on diesel and petrol motors”) and the Telegraph (“The Government’s plan to scrap diesel and petrol cars does not inspire confidence”) were similarly disparaging of the UK government’s plan to ban electric cars.
An in-depth feature in Vanity Fair examines the Trump administration’s handling of the Department of Energy, whose budget is now of the chopping block, getting the perspective of a range of experts and employees of the department. Most worryingly, “the Trump people didn’t seem to grasp, according to a former D.O.E. employee, how much more than just energy the Department of Energy was about”, Lewis writes, such as maintaining a nuclear arsenal. Trump’s budget eliminates all research on climate change, and halves the work to secure it from attack or natural disaster. “All the risks are science-based,” said John MacWilliams, who joined the D.O.E. in 2013, told Vanity Fair. “You can’t gut the science. If you do, you are hurting the country. If you gut the core competency of the D.O.E., you gut the country.” “What a horrible risk it would be to ignore [the department’s] extraordinary, life-or-death responsibilities”, Lewis concludes.
Commentary in the Guardian describes the UK ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 as “a great vision for the future”, but a policy that does nothing to address the toxic air that is a public health emergency today. The Times has taken a similar stance to the Guardian, arguing that 2040, the date chosen to phase out internal combustion engines, “is not soon enough”. “Adopting it more quickly would end a situation in which 38 of the 43 areas where air quality is measured tolerate illegal levels of toxic particulate pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx). Most important by far, these pollutants represent a public health emergency leading to 40,000 premature deaths a year”, the Times writes. The Guardian also has an editorial on the subject (“too little, much too late”).
The US climate scientist Michael Mann reviews Al Gore’s new documentary: “For those fearing a preachy PowerPoint lecture on climate science, be assured: An Inconvenient Sequel isn’t that. Rather, it largely takes the scientific evidence as a given, not least because Gore has already done a whole film on that. This instalment is an attempt to show us how striking climate impacts have become in the decade since his first movie…Those expecting Gore to rip into US President Donald Trump will be disappointed. Ever even-handed, he does his best to engage with Trump constructively. But it is clear where he stands. He runs a clip of Trump explaining that we should be worrying about ISIS rather than climate change. Anyone drawn to this film will already know that that’s a fallacious dichotomy.”
Stanford University researcher Benjamin Franta traces the history of the climate denial movement, investigating what he describes as the “insidious forces shaping the movement to obstruct genuine action on the climate crisis”. “The same arguments – and people – used by the fossil fuel industry to block climate policies decades ago are back”, he says. Nevertheless “we must not let the industry continue to obstruct climate policy. That means following the money that funds the pseudo-science of delay, and exposing the co-opted scholars who feed false images of debate to the public”, he concludes.
Reducing vulnerability plays an essential role for successful adaptation in communities that have been flooded, a new study says. Researchers studies eight paired floods around the world – i.e. consecutive flood events that occurred in the same region, with the second flood causing significantly lower damage. Across all case studies, they find that lower damage caused by the second event was mainly due to significant reductions in vulnerability – via raised risk awareness, preparedness and improvements in emergency management.
The risks and costs of leaks of CO2 injected deep into rock as part of carbon capture and storage (CCS) schemes “will likely not interfere with the effectiveness of policies for climate change mitigation,” a new study suggests. Using a “leakage risk monetisation model”, researchers estimated the costs of leakage for different CO2 injection scenarios, and simulated the impact on global mitigation efforts. Even in worst-case scenarios of CO2 leakage risk, the costs of monitoring, treatment, containment, and remediation resulted in only minor shifts in the global energy system, the researchers say. Leaked CO2 is assumed to stay trapped “in geologic strata above the storage reservoir,” rather than reach the surface, the authors note.
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