Today's climate and energy headlines:
- El Niño: food shortages, floods, disease and droughts set to put millions at risk
- G20 leaders disappoint climate campaigners with weak statement
- France to limit UN climate summit to core talks
- Paris climate deal meeting still on as Republican leaders register opposition
- Wood-based fuels threaten health of refugees
- BBC Radio 4 - Uncertain Climate, Episode 1
- To find the energy to save the earth, shoot for the moon
- Projections for the duration and degree days of the thermal growing season in Europe derived from CMIP5 model output
Expected to push temperatures in the east central Pacific up a full 2C warmer than usual, this year’s El Niño is shaping up to be one of the strongest on record, scientists announced yesterday. Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation said that while it’s not possible to tell for sure yet whether this year’s ‘mature and strong’ El Niño will beat the 1997-8 event, it looks set to be in the top three, possibly top two. With a couple of months still to go before it peaks, BBC News, The Daily Mail, Reuters and Climate Home all focus on the impacts a strong El Niño is having around the world, including droughts in Southeast Asia, Australia and parts of Africa, and flooding in South America. In a press conference yesterday, Jarraud linked the strong El Niño to an active hurricane season in the Pacific that included the record breaking hurricane Patricia and peat fires that until recently raged across Indonesia, releasing the equivalent of Brazil’s annual emissions in just three weeks. While it’s not yet known whether climate change is influencing the frequency or severity of El Niño events, the impacts on top of long term warming put the event into ‘uncharted territory’, said Jarraud. The Telegraph says winter in the UK is likely to feel longer and colder because of the El Niño. Meanwhile, New Scientist takes a look at the phenomenon’s cooler counterpart, La Nina, which may be close behind.
Leaders gathering this week to discuss international issues facing G20 countries have failed to impress on the climate front, according to observers. Monday’s communique confirmed a commitment to a 2C limit to warming and to phase out fossil fuel subsidies “over the medium term” but made little ground on issues likely to be under the spotlight in Pairs, such as climate finance, the possibility of five-year reviews of national climate targets and a mechanism for countries to raise ambition after the talks. Also filed under “issues for further action” was a proposal by the for a climate risk disclosure task force to highlight how fossil-fuel intensive companies could lose value as countries curb greenhouse gas emissions. While the meeting failed to show the leadership many were hoping for, the G20 communique “underlines commitment to tackling climate change”, says BusinessGreen. India slowed progress at the talks by blocking a general reference to “periodic monitoring”, joining with Saudi Arabia in saying it did not want to prejudge what happens in Paris, reports The Financial Times.
Climate talks taking place in Paris in December are likely to be pared back following terrorist attacks in the French capital on Friday. French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, reacted quickly when asked if the talks themselves would be postponed, reports Climate Wire, adding that extra security measures would be put in place. Ségolène Royale, the French Energy Minister, said the conference is more important now than ever, reports Grist. Activist groups are pushing for demonstrations to go ahead as planned, reports AP. A campaigner for 350.org told Inside Climate News, “We can think of few better responses to violence and terror than this movement’s push for peace and hope.”
President Obama has confirmed he will attend the Paris climate talks, amid ongoing efforts at home by Republican leaders to repeal his clean power plan. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will also meet on Wednesday to ‘investigate’ the climate conference, reports The Hill. On both counts, Gina McCarthy, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that the American people were fed up with efforts by republicans and industry to derail a climate agreement and would not ‘tolerate a return to business as usual.’ The task of meeting domestic emissions targets will be even harder than it sounds, says Chris Mooney in the Washington Post, as more fires and pests mean forests will begin to absorb less carbon in the coming decades.
In the first report looking into energy use in refugee camps around the world, UK think tank Chatham House says that the health consequences of dependency of refugees on wood and charcoal-based fuels for cooking has been overlooked. More than 90% of families in refugee camps have no access to electricity and alternatives to wood burning, such as improved cookstoves and solar lamps, could save 20,000 premature deaths each year among displaced people each year as well as saving stretched humanitarian agencies millions of dollars, says The Guardian.
The first in a new three-part documentary on climate change aired on Radio 4 last night, in which Roger Harrabin meets “seminal characters in the climate change debate”. Last night featured “luke warmers” Matt Ridley, a hereditary peer with coal-mining interests on his Northumberland land, and Prof Richard Tol, an economist at the Univertsity of Sussex. Both are advisors to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate skeptic lobby group in the UK. Harrabin also talked to climate scientists Tamsin Edwards, Corinne Le Quere and Tim Lenton.
Progress in bringing down the costs of clean energy has been far too slow, says Richard Layard in the FT. So far the task has been largely left to the private sector, but here must also be a role for research and development work by publicly funded institutions: “Almost all the transformational scientific advances of recent decades — the computer, semiconductors, satellite communications, the internet, broadband, genetic sequencing and nuclear power — have been the product of research funded by the government.”
Under a high emissions scenario, the annual growing season in Europe could lengthen by 1.5-2 months by the end of the century, a new study suggests. Using more than 20 climate models, researchers projected how warmer temperatures could allow for longer periods that are suitable for growing crops. The annual number of days where enough heat accumulates for crops to grow could increase by 60-100%, the study says.
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