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Daily Briefing

18.07.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Environmental damage of tourism comes under MPs’ spotlight
Environmental damage of tourism comes under MPs’ spotlight

News.

Environmental damage of tourism comes under MPs’ spotlight

The environmental cost of tourism and its associated travel emissions is to come under scrutiny in a parliamentary inquiry, the Guardian reports. The House of Commons environmental audit committee will consider whether the UK should play a larger role in “offsetting” the impacts of Britons travelling abroad, the Guardian says: “It will also look at ways to reduce the negative consequences of the growing domestic tourism industry, including the hefty carbon footprint of aviation and cruise companies.” The UK is the seventh most popular holiday destination in the world, it adds, “which puts a substantial burden on the climate and calls into question the government’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050”. According to the committee, which launched the inquiry yesterday, global tourism is responsible for around 5% of greenhouse gas emissions, the Guardian says. [A study covered by Carbon Brief in 2018 found tourism is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.] Energy Live News also has the story.

The Guardian Read Article
‘Quite phenomenal’: Arctic heatwave hits most northerly settlement in world

The world’s most northerly human settlement is suffering from an “unprecedented” heatwave, the Independent reports. Temperatures in Alert, Nunavut, peaked at 21C at the weekend – far exceeding the July average for the area of around 5C, according to Canada’s weather agency, the Independent says: “Overnight temperatures on Sunday remained above 15C; again, well in excess of nighttime lows that usually hover around freezing in a settlement that lies less than 900km from the North Pole.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that a “dangerously hot” heatwave is to strike two-thirds of the US from Wednesday until the end of the weekend. “People in central and south central Kansas should expect to endure highs of about 102 degrees [38.9C]; the temperature in Des Moines was expected to hover around 100 [37.8C].” The New York Times article includes a subhead called “is this heatwave caused by climate change?”, under which it says: “the number of hot days is increasing, and the frequency of heatwaves in the United States jumped from an average of two per year in the 1960s to six per year by the 2010s. Also, the season for heat waves has stretched to be 45 days longer than it was in the 1960s”. NBC News also covers the heatwave. Elsewhere, the Washington Postreports that Arkansas has become the fifth state to set a new tropical rainfall record in the past two years.

The Independent Read Article
Manmade Antarctic snowstorm 'could save coastal cities from rising seas'

Several publications cover a new study looking at the feasibility of using artificial snow to “save” the rapidly melting West Antarctic ice sheet. Such a project could “halt the ice sheet’s collapse”, says the Guardian: “The colossal geoengineering project would need energy from at least 12,000 wind turbines to power giant seawater pumps and snow cannons, and would destroy a unique natural reserve.” The Guardian notes that “the scientists are not advocating for such a project, but said its apparent ‘absurdity’ reflects the extraordinary scale of threat from rising sea level”. Reuters reports that lead author Anders Levermann, a professor at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, “published the paper out of concern for the fate of low-lying populations”. “The sea level rise from Western Antarctica will eventually submerge Hamburg, Shanghai, New York and Hong Kong,” Levermann told Reuters. The Independent reports that other “scientists are divided as to whether such extreme measures would even work”. MailOnline and New Scientist also cover the study.

The Guardian Read Article
Climate change helps colourful creatures spread their wings

The Times reports on a study finding that climate change has caused dozens of species to colonise new parts of the UK in the past decade. “Researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) studied more than 100 scientific papers as well as sightings posted online and found that, since 2008, 54 species in Britain had moved to new areas because of rising temperatures,” the Times reports. “The black bee fly, a native of mainland Europe, was the only species to enter the country for the first time.” Other species that have colonised new parts of the country include the purple heron and the Jersey tiger moth – which was once restricted to Jersey but now can be seen in London.

The Times Read Article

Comment.

We sent a man to the moon. Now let's save our planet: Our view

“The same combination of determination and smarts that landed men on the moon can, and must, be deployed to avert the catastrophe of rising sea levels, extreme weather and other disastrous effects of the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,“ writes USA Today in an editorial. “Such a mission would, by necessity, involve putting resources into a variety of areas,” the article says, such as “advanced batteries for both vehicles and large-scale storage of electricity, carbon capture, solar arrays and nuclear energy”. “One of the bigger challenges would be in creating metrics of success,” the article warns: “With climate change there will be no singular, giant-leap moment. Instead, targets for global temperatures and CO2 levels in the atmosphere will have to be set, met and celebrated.”

Editorial, USA Today Read Article
It is likely too late to stop dangerous global warming

“Few things should make you as optimistic – or as pessimistic – as the rise of renewable energy. Optimism comes from a new sense of urgency as the UK, Germany and Spain set record highs for use of wind and solar power, and record lows for coal. Yet pessimism comes from the fact that all of this may not be enough,” writes Sam Arie, an analyst at UBS, an investment banking company, in an article for the Financial Times. He continues: “In our research at UBS, we estimate that to avoid a dangerous level of global warming, the world would need to commission an asset the size of New Jersey’s Ocean Wind every day for the next 30 years, without missing a day…In short, we have started too late on the investments that could have allowed us to live without global warming. So we must now make a faster, better start on the investments that could enable us to live with it.”

Sam Arie, Financial Times Read Article

Science.

Stabilizing the West Antarctic Ice Sheet by surface mass deposition

It may be possible to stabilise the retreat of the West Antarctic ice sheet by using ocean water to create snow and adding it to the surface, a new study suggests. Using a 3D ice sheet model, the researchers find that adding a minimum of 7400bn tonnes of additional snowfall over a decade could stabilise the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers. This would be equivalent to lowering global sea levels by around 2mm, the researchers note. However, they warn that “the precise conditions of such an operation are crucial, and potential benefits need to be weighed against environmental hazards, future risks, and enormous technical challenges”.

Science Advances Read Article
Climate change increases the potential for extreme wildfires

Climate change could increase the potential for “pyrocumulonimbus” wildfires in Australia, a new study warns. Pyrocumulonimbus wildfires are extreme wildfires that involve “a coupling between the fire and the atmosphere, which drives dangerous fire conditions that result in fatalities and considerable damage”, the study says. The researchers use high‐resolution regional climate data to assess future changes in the risk of these wildfires in southeastern Australia. The findings suggest that the extreme wildfire season could extend into spring as conditions associated with their development – such as the dryness of the atmosphere and the temperature of the land surface – “are projected to increase in frequency”.

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article

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