Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Drastic changes needed to alleviate climate crisis, says IEA
- Boris Johnson promises 'clean energy revolution' once Brexit is done
- Australia fires could be out of control for months, says fire chief
- Climate change to ‘double risk of flooding by 2050’
- The Mail is calling on its army of readers to back drive to plant up to a million majestic new trees
- The Guardian view on the floods: global heating and British soaking
- Northern hemisphere greening in association with warming permafrost
- Decision making in contexts of deep uncertainty - An alternative approach for long-term climate policy
- Assessment of the cost of climate change impacts on critical infrastructure in the circumpolar Arctic
Emissions are set to rise up until 2040 even if governments manage to meet their existing climate targets, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) annual World Energy Outlook, reported in the Financial Times. The report notes the world’s reliance on fossil fuels is still “stubbornly high”, with a “gap between expectations of fast, renewables-driven energy transitions and the reality of today’s energy systems”. According to the Guardian, carbon emissions from the global energy industry reached a new record last year, despite progress in renewables, and the IEA warned a “grand coalition” of governments and investors will be required to end this upwards trend. Press Association coverage says that current trajectories would leave hundreds of millions of people still lacking access to electricity, early deaths due to pollution remaining at today’s raised levels, and carbon emissions would lock in severe impacts of climate change, according to the IEA. However, the agency also lays out an alternative under its “sustainable development scenario”, in which electricity would overtake oil by 2040 as the leading source of energy, according to PA. City AM’s coverage of the report focuses on the IEA’s view that the “US shale boom is set to continue”, while Bloomberg notes that the report shows that “world’s attempts to quit coal are failing”, with demand rising for a second consecutive year in 2018.
Reuters, meanwhile, has a piece stating that critics are accusing the agency of “undermining” the climate change battle. It quotes Andrew Logan from the US-based NGO Ceres, who says: “The IEA is effectively creating its own reality. They project ever-increasing demand for fossil fuels, which in turn justifies greater investments in supply, making it harder for the energy system to change”. Coverage in Climate Home News also highlights criticisms, including warnings from experts that the IEA’s “sustainable” projection is “inconsistent with the world’s long-term sustainable development needs” and, specifically, the 1.5C warming target laid out in the Paris Agreement.
In other energy news, Reuters reports on a draft law in Germany, designed to implement the country’s planned phaseout by 2038, and expected to be approved by the cabinet next week. The law would mean no forced closures for hard coal plants over the next seven years, Reuters says.
On its frontpage, the Daily Telegraph previews a speech by Boris Johnson set to take place at an electric car plant in which the prime minister will lay out his government’s plans to tackle climate change. The paper says a “clean energy revolution” will be one of the prizes of Brexit as leaving the EU will “truly unleash Britain’s potential”, according to Johnson. The piece notes that the Conservative leader has “so far revealed little about his likely manifesto pledges”, but in this speech he will make clear that climate change and the environment will be “one of the major topics of the campaign”.
Elsewhere, BusinessGreen reports that the Green Party is set to unveil plans for a “major re-organisation of Whitehall”, including the appointment of a “carbon chancellor” to head up both the Treasury – rebranded the Department for Economic Transformation – and a new Department for the Green New Deal.
Following last week’s announcement of a moratorium on fracking, a piece by Roger Harrabin for BBC News asks if the Conservatives have “left open the back door” to restart the controversial practice.
Eastern Australia may have to endure “catastrophic” bushfires covering more than a million hectares for months before they are brought under control, according to comments by the New South Wales fire chief reported by the Guardian. Reuters notes there are now more than 150 bushfires raging across the country’s east coast. BBC News reports that the fires had reached the suburbs of Sydney, as the country’s conservative government “refused to be drawn on whether climate change could have contributed to the fires”.
Prime minister Scott Morrison urged people to “take it down a few notches” as politicians argued about the connection to climate change, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The comment came after Greens senator Jordon Steele-John said Coalition and Labor climate policies made the two main parties “no better than a bunch of arsonists”. The same paper reports that former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has attracted criticism after incorrectly suggesting the sun’s magnetic fields are, in fact, to blame for the fires, as well as speculating that two people who died in the blaze voted for the Green Party. Meanwhile, an “exclusive” story in the Guardian reports on an email sent to New South Wales bureaucrats attending a conference on adaption to climate change directing them not to discuss the link between climate change and bushfires.
A comment piece in the Guardian by Richard Denniss, chief economist for the Australia Institute, states unequivocally that “climate change makes bushfires worse” and that denying the truth “doesn’t change the facts”. Support for this comes from a Guardian piece previewing the results of a scientific paper, set to be published next month, which found climate change made the extreme heat before 2018 Queensland bushfires four times more likely.
In other Australia-related news, the Brisbane Times has an opinion piece stating that climate change means air conditioning is “no longer a luxury” in New South Wales schools. Another piece in the Sydney Morning Herald reflected on the burning areas of rainforest in the region: “We thought we had protected these living relics from the distant past for all time, though we had not counted on climate change,” conservationist Dailan Pugh writes.
Finally, the same paper reports that NSW planning minister Rob Stokes says he was not influenced by the powerful mining lobby after a controversial greenhouse gas emissions bill was delayed until next year.
Meanwhile, Channel 4 News has a lengthy feature on “how coal mining threatens Australia’s Great Barrier Reef”, which includes interviews with various scientists.
An analysis piece in the Times considers the drivers behind the floods currents afflicting swathes of northern England, where a month’s worth of rain fell in 24 hours last week. While the article reports that farmers “blame lack of dredging of the nearby River Don”, it also contains comment from Richard Black, director of thinktank the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, who explains: “While there’s been no scientific study done yet linking these particular floods to climate change, the severity of the rains, with a month’s worth falling in a single day, certainly fits in with trends and projections from climate science”. The Guardian also explores the drivers behind the floods, concluding that poor management of the rural landscape, building on floodplains and climate change “are the main factors”. It notes that, according to the Committee on Climate Change, increased flooding is the “the biggest impact on the UK of the climate crisis”, due in part to warmer air containing more water vapour. A BBC News article on the topic highlights the need to retrofit homes to make them more resilient to future floods.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the Met Office has warned flooding could cut off more villages this week, “as locals questioned the slow response in tackling the growing crisis” and with over 100 flood warnings in place. The Press Association has comments from National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters, who says farms have suffered “unprecedented damage” from the recent flooding.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters, the mayor of Venice has declared a disaster as the city is hit by its second worst ever high tide, taking to Twitter to declare “this is the result of climate change”.
A major new campaign by the Daily Mail sees the paper calling on “our army of loyal readers” to plant thousands of trees “for a greener Britain”. “At a time when we traditionally gather around a tree, we are urging readers to ‘Be a Tree Angel and Make Britain Greener’”, it says. A piece introducing the campaign says trees “contribute to beating some of the alarming threats facing the UK: global warming, pollution and flooding”, noting their ability to soak up CO2 and air pollution in their leaves. In an editorial which notably uses the term “climate crisis”, the Daily Mail explains that it will raise funds with the Tree Council for hundreds of thousands of new trees, and support local planting projects “including a chance for every reader to claim a free tree”.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror has launched its “climate crisis issue”: “The Mirror believes the climate crisis is everybody’s crisis – so this week we’re going to be highlighting the threat posed by global warming”.
An editorial in the Guardian warns that the “drama and loss” playing out in the north of England as flood waters engulf people’s homes should focus politicians minds on the need to prepare for climate change. It notes that spending on flood defences was cut by the Conservatives under David Cameron, “despite research showing that increased flooding is the greatest threat to the UK from global heating”, and that in 2013 the number of officials working on national adaptation was cut from 38 to six. “Since then, climate scientists’ predictions appear to have come true with the frequency of floods increasing, and the two wettest winters on record in 2013-14 and 2015-16,” it says, noting that funding has now been increased and adaptation strategies rolled out, “although not yet on the scale that will be needed if future disasters are to be averted”. “The only rational response to these floods is to redouble every effort to treat increasing climate chaos as the global emergency it is,” the editorial concludes.
An editorial in the Daily Telegraph also alludes to the threat posed by climate change, noting that while floods are difficult to predict “it is also possible that changes to the climate, accompanied by building on flood plains, will make flooding more common in future”. However, it also notes the possibility that “the fact of climate change has become an excuse for not doing the basic things necessary to protect people and property from environmental damage”. An Independent editorial, meanwhile, predicts Boris Johnson’s response to the floods “could change the tide of votes in the north”.
Northern hemisphere permafrost regions have seen “greening” of its vegetation between 1982-2015, a new study says, and this has a positive relationship with warming permafrost. The study identifies a “higher thawing index, greater active layer thickness, higher soil temperature, and also increased precipitation” across the region, which are “linked with the observed greening”. The researchers conclude: “These findings underscore the sensitivity of vegetation to warming permafrost.”
A new paper looks at the potential pitfalls of relying on Integrated assessment models (IAMs) as “objective science, capable of defining ‘optimal’ goals and strategies for which climate policy should strive”. The researchers “identify a number of features of IAMs that favour selection of BECCS [bioenergy with carbon capture and storage] over alternative strategies”. The authors argue that “this model-centric decision making philosophy is highly sensitive to uncertainties in model assumptions and future trends, and tends to favour solutions that perform well within the model framework at the expense of a wider mix of strategies and values”.
A new study assess how thawing permafrost in the Arctic could “pose a risk to infrastructure, impacting the accessibility and development of remote locations and adding additional pressures on local and regional budgets”. Using a collection of climate models, the researchers project changes in permafrost from 2006-15 to 2050-59 under the high emissions RCP8.5 scenario. The results show “a 27% increase in infrastructure lifecycle replacement costs across the circumpolar permafrost regions”, the authors say, with more than 14% of fixed infrastructure assets “at risk of damages due to changes in specific environmental stressors, such as loss of permafrost bearing capacity and thaw subsidence due to ground ice melt”.
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