Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Ditch cars to meet climate change targets, say MPs
- Igniting global outrage, Brazil's Bolsonaro baselessly blames NGOs for Amazon fires
- Trump plans to skip UN climate summit, officials say
- Lancashire fracking: 1.55 magnitude tremor halts work
- Climate change fears gripping Britain: Poll reveals 85% are worried about warming – the highest figure on record
- Jay Inslee, governor centered on climate change, drops out of presidential race
- Russia to launch floating nuclear reactor
- Blackout raises alarms on UK energy resilience
- The Guardian view on Trump and Greenland: no sale
- Increasing wildfires threaten historic carbon sink of boreal forest soils
- Water scaling of ecosystem carbon cycle feedback to climate warming
A new report from MPs on clean growth for meeting the UK’s climate targets finds that “widespread personal vehicle ownership does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation”, reports BBC News. The report from the Science and Technology Select Committee says technology alone cannot solve the problem of greenhouse gas emissions from transport, says BBC News, and merely swapping existing vehicles for cleaner versions would not achieve sufficient emissions cuts. The Guardian describes the report as “scathing”, noting that the committee warns that “government action is needed to reverse the current policy trend of cutbacks and slow progress”. The report identifies 10 areas where the government has failed to make low-carbon technologies the most attractive option, says the Daily Telegraph. Cutbacks have included reducing “grants for low-emission cars, the freezing of fuel duty while train and bus fares have risen, and the restriction and removal of policies to improve the energy efficiency of homes”, says the Press Association. The report warns of “dire consequences for the environment and generations to come” of the UK and other governments failing to act, says the Independent. Committee chair Norman Lamb said the UK is currently not on track to meet its goals into the 2030s, let alone net zero, notes the Indy. “Throughout our inquiry, it was worrying to hear that although the government may be ambitious when it comes to reducing carbon emissions, it is not putting the policies in place which are needed to achieve those targets. We need to see the government put its words into actions,” he said. The Sun says the government has been “slammed for refusing to reveal cost of Theresa May’s legally-binding pledge to make Britain carbon neutral by 2050”. And in an editorial, the paper points the finger at the former prime minister, saying the the net-zero target was “signed into legislation without a Parliamentary debate and we remain in the dark about how much ordinary families are going to have to cough up in taxes or in their bills”. “Another fine mess Theresa May has got us into,” it concludes. Responding to the report, a government spokesperson said: “From transport to heating, electricity to agriculture, we are working to put in place the right measures to help us tackle global warming,“ reports the Times.
Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro yesterday accused non-governmental organisations (NGOs) of burning down the Amazon rainforest to hurt his government, reports Reuters. “Everything indicates” that NGOs were going to the Amazon to “set fire” to the forest, Bolsonaro said in a Facebook Live broadcast yesterday morning. When asked if he had evidence to back up his claims, he said he had “no written plan,” adding “that’s not how it’s done”, says Reuters. Bolsanaro suggested the slashing of NGO funding by his government could be a motive. “Crime exists,” he said. “These people are missing the money.” Greenpeace Brazil’s public policy coordinator, Marcio Astrini, described the statement as “sick” and “pitiful”, adding: “Increased deforestation and burning are the result of his anti-environmental policy”. The Washington Post, Times, Vox and the New York Times all have continued coverage of the fires. The Hill delves into “what we know about the fires” and the “impact they’re having”. Smoke from the blazes have “spread over swaths of the country”, says the Wall Street Journal, “with darkness descending on São Paulo by mid-afternoon Monday, two hours earlier than normal”.
President Trump plans to skip the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York in September, reports the Hill. The news agency McClatchy reported the news yesterday after they spoke with three senior White House officials. A spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will lead the US delegation “to highlight America’s environmental progress”. The objective of the summit is to boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement.
Fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool has been halted after the largest tremor yet recorded at the site, says BBC News. Seismic activity with a magnitude of 1.55 was detected last night, topping the previous high of 1.5. Cuadrilla said it had suspended activity for 18 hours after the “small” tremor, and was monitoring the site. It added that the shale gas well was intact. Cuadrilla said the latest tremor would not have been felt by most locals and likened it to “a large bag of shopping dropping to the floor”. “The shutdown comes less than a week after Cuadrilla started fracking its second well on the site after abandoning the first well following multiple shutdowns because of tremors,” says the Guardian. The Press Association and Reuters also have the story.
An “exclusive poll” by the Evening Standard reveals that “fears in Britain about climate change have hit a record high”. “The Ipsos MORI survey showed 85% of adults are now concerned about global warming, the highest figure since the pollster started asking the question in 2005,” says the paper. The proportion of people who say they are “very concerned” about climate change has jumped to a record 52%, up from just 18 % five years ago, the poll suggests. “When asked about the recent hot weather, just over a quarter thought it was mainly caused by climate change due to human activity, 15% said it was mainly down to natural weather processes, and 57% believed that both factors were to blame,” the paper notes. BusinessGreen and MailOnline also cover the poll.
Washington governor Jay Inslee, who entered the 2020 contest by putting climate change as a central issue, has dropped out of the Democratic presidential race, reports the Washington Post and many others. Inslee announced he was bowing out last night, saying “it’s become clear that I’m not going to be carrying the ball, I’m not going to be the president, so I’m withdrawing tonight from the race”. Inslee said he believed his campaign had been a success by prompting other candidates to take the issue of climate change seriously, notes the Post. Writing to his supporters, Inslee said that many other candidates started out “with little attention to climate, but since our campaign began, we’ve seen almost every serious candidate put out a climate plan; we’ve seen climate come up in both debates; and we now have two networks hosting nationally-televised climate forums in September”. Inslee “released half a dozen policy plans to address climate change during his run, on everything from a massive spending and investment plan to banning fracking and killing US coal”, says BuzzFeed News. He only released his latest plan – to tackle climate change in the agricultural sector – yesterday, notes the Hill. The Guardian, Bloomberg, Vox, New York Times, CNN, Associated Press, HuffPost, Reuters, Politico and Axios all cover the story.
On Friday, Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom will tow a new floating nuclear reactor to a remote part of Russia’s Arctic coast, reports the Financial Times. The portable power plant, which has taken a decade to design and build, will supply electricity to areas disconnected from the grid, says the FT. Rosatom insists the unit is safe, and “virtually unsinkable” in case of natural disasters. The plant will also be guarded by the Russian guard, Moscow’s internal military force, the FT notes. In other nuclear news, Reuters reports that South Africa’s energy and mineral resources minister has said the country will look into adopting modular nuclear technology “at a pace and price that the country can afford”.
The Financial Times is the latest UK publication to take a view on the widespread blackout that hit the UK earlier this month. In an editorial, the FT says “the incident raises loud alarms about the resilience of Britain’s energy system”. “Lessons need to be learnt from the incident,” says the FT, particularly “in the light of an ever more sophisticated economy and demands to shift to renewable energy sources – and provide more power to charge electric vehicles – to help reduce carbon emissions”. “The shift away from coal and gas as baseload suppliers towards multiple smaller and more intermittent renewable sources also makes the task of managing the power system more complex,” the editorial notes. “Bolstering network resilience will require government, regulators and power companies to work together,” the FT says, yet “the collapse of two nuclear power station projects within the past nine months makes adoption of a new energy strategy even more pressing”. It concludes: “A white paper has been delayed but should be given high priority by the new government. The country could pay a high price if it is not.” Elsewhere, a Reuters column by market analyst John Kemp says National Grid may “need to purchase more frequency regulating reserves and sources of inertia to reduce the risk of rapid frequency changes, unacceptable excursions, and blackouts”. And the Guardian reports that the National Grid is working on a series of software agreements with major companies to improve the way the stability of the grid is monitored.
“Greenland is important to the whole world, not just the superpowers, at the moment,” says a Guardian editorial, commenting on President Trump’s speculation about the US buying the Danish territory. “This is because its ice sheet, miles thick in parts, is melting at historically unprecedented rates. That’s one of the central mechanisms of our climate crisis,” the Guardian says. Yet, “all that some Republicans can see is that this might expose still more reserves of fossil fuel to burn, and so to accelerate the catastrophe”. “As the seriousness of the climate crisis becomes more and more obvious, so does the fact that it can only be solved by coordinated international action,” the editorial notes, and “competing nationalisms can only exacerbate it and make the easily foreseeable end worse for all the competitors”. Separately, the Guardian also has a photo feature that tracks the melt of Greenland’s ice sheet.
A new study explores the risks of wildfires to “legacy carbon” – soil carbon that has previously escaped being burned in a boreal forest fire. The researchers use soil radiocarbon dating to assess legacy carbon loss in the 2014 wildfires in the Northwest Territories of Canada. They estimate that “0.34m hectares of young forests (<60 years) that burned in the 2014 fires could have experienced legacy carbon combustion”. This result implies a shift “in which these forests become a net source – instead of a sink – of carbon to the atmosphere over consecutive fires”, the researchers say. They conclude: “As boreal wildfires continue to increase in size, frequency and intensity, the area of young forests that experience legacy carbon combustion will probably increase and have a key role in shifting the boreal carbon balance.”
A warming climate stimulates either a net carbon uptake or release from the land surface, leading to negative or positive carbon cycle–climate change feedback, respectively. “Combining a field experiment with a global synthesis”, a new study explores the role that water availability plays, finding that “warming stimulates net carbon uptake (negative feedback) under wet conditions, but depresses it (positive feedback) under very dry conditions”. The authors conclude that “this switch in carbon-climate feedback direction arises mainly from scaling effects of warming-induced decreases in soil water content on net ecosystem productivity”.
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