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Daily Briefing

13.02.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

13.02.2018 | 9:52am
DAILY BRIEFING EU to refuse to sign trade deals with countries that don’t ratify Paris climate change accord
EU to refuse to sign trade deals with countries that don’t ratify Paris climate change accord

News.

EU to refuse to sign trade deals with countries that don't ratify Paris climate change accord

The Independent reports that the European Union will refuse to sign trade deals with countries that do not ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change and take steps to combat global warming, under a new Brussels policy. Cecilia Malmstrom‏, the EU’s trade chief, said a binding reference to the Paris Agreement would be “needed in all EU trade agreements” from now on, noting that it had been included in a deal with Japan. She said upcoming deals with Mexico and the South American trade bloc Mercosur would also include the clause. The Independent adds: “A European Commission spokesperson confirmed that the new EU policy would also apply to a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK – meaning Britain would risk its trade deal with the bloc were it ever to try to back out of the accord. The move effectively means the 500-million-citizen bloc is throwing its trade might behind tackling climate change. But the policy also means a future trade deal with the US as long as Donald Trump is in office is off the table for now.”

The Independent Read Article
Trump’s budget wants the US to stop watching the planet

The Trump administration has released a proposed budget that calls for massive cuts to science research across the federal government, reports Ars Technica: “But Trumps’s budget was accompanied by a second document that rescinded some of the cuts, even while complaining that doing so was a bad idea. Meanwhile, drastic cuts to environmental and renewable energy programs remain in both budget versions.” It adds that “the cuts here are heavily biased toward climate and environmental programmes”. Associated Press says “for the second straight year, the Trump administration proposes killing five missions that study Earth, especially its climate and the effects of carbon dioxide. The president also plans to end education programs in the space agency.” Gristreports that “Trump’s new budget would eliminate nearly all EPA climate change programmes”. The Washington Post focuses on how “Trump seeks to shift Energy Department priorities with clean energy cuts [and] $2bn boost to nuclear spending”. Separately, Reuters and the Hill both report that Trump’s new infrastructure plan would “speed up the permitting of US natural gas pipelines, including by cutting Congress out of the process for allowing them to cross national parks”.

Ars Technica Read Article
Global sea levels are going up at a faster rate each year, study shows

Sea levels are increasing at an accelerating rate that could see them rising by a whole centimetre per year by 2100, finds research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The end-of-century surge rate would put many low-lying regions of the world at risk of flooding, including major coastal cities such as Miami and Shanghai. Scientists analysing 25 years of satellite data discovered that global sea level is not rising at a steady 3mm per year, as previously thought. Instead, the rate of increase is speeding up, adding an extra 0.08mm with every passing year. If the trend continues, it is likely to lead to an annual average sea level rise of at least 10mm per year by 2100. The paper is covered widely, including by MailOnline and the Independent.

Press Association Read Article
1,000 onshore wind turbines built in rush to beat deadline

The Times reports that “more than a thousand onshore wind turbines were installed in the UK last year as energy companies scrambled to build new projects before government subsidies were scrapped”. It cites new figures by industry group Wind Europe, adding: “The surge produced new facilities capable of producing up to 2.6 gigawatts of electricity — double the 1.3 gigawatt capacity that was added in 2013. Offshore wind installations also hit a record high as 281 turbines capable of generating up to 1.7 gigawatts started spinning in British waters.” The Times quotes recent Carbon Brief analysis showing that wind generated enough electricity to meet almost 15 per cent of the UK’s power needs last year, up from 11 per cent the year before. Reuters also reports WindEurope’s new figures, but focuses on a different angle: “Spending on new wind capacity in Europe hit a three-year low in 2017…in a sign that the sector is slashing costs and becoming more efficient as governments phase out lavish subsidies”. It adds: “Investments into new onshore and offshore wind projects fell to 22.3bn euros across the European Union, down 19% from a record 27.5bn in 2016 and also lower than the 26.2bn in 2015.”

The Times Read Article
Expect more 'complete surprises' from climate change: NASA's Schmidt

Dr Gavin Schmidt, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies who is currently in Australia, has told Fairfax Media: “We just don’t understand ecosystems to the extent we understand the physical climate systems. We will see over the next few decades more and more thresholds being crossed.” He cites the eruption of pine bark beetles that have devastated millions of hectares of forests in North America is an example of the surprises yet to come as the planet warms.

Sydney Morning Herald Read Article

Comment.

If the Queen’s gone green, so can everyone

The Times columnist says that “while it’s easy to question the motives of a government palpably keen for progressive, youth-friendly policies, the upshot is undeniably progress [on plastic pollution] where previously there was none”. he continues: “It may be tempting to denounce all this as tokenism. It isn’t. While you can argue that CO2 reduction requires vast international consensus to get anywhere — why should I ride my bike when Donald Trump wants to bring back coal? — plastic isn’t like that.” He concludes: “On climate change, I defer to climate scientists and I continue to doubt the sincerity of those who do not, particularly because this aspect of their politics invariably dovetails into Euroscepticism and a suspicion of rules and regulations of all sorts.” By coincidence, the Times also carries a pro-fracking Thunderer column by climate sceptic Matt Ridley.

Hugo Rifkind, The Times Read Article
A eureka moment for the planet: we’re finally planting trees again

Vidal, the veteran environment writer, hails the fact that nations around the world are pledging to plant trees: “More than 120 countries promised in 2015 to plant and restore large areas of forest as a response to the climate crisis, and the UN has set a target to restore 350m hectares by 2030 – an area bigger than India. This enthusiasm for a greener world, expressed in trees, is inspiring and overdue. For 200 years forested countries barely knew what to do with their trees. They were treated as expendable and a waste of space. But in a great cultural shift, they have changed from being dark and fearsome places to semi-sacred and untouchable.” He expresses cautious optimism: “Great areas of Indonesian, Congolese and Latin American forests are still being lost to the loggers and the palm oil companies, but we are seeing a heartening response to the linked climate and food crises. It is too early to think that we are ecologically more literate, but there is a real sense that governments are beginning to understand that change best comes from the grassroots and is both needed and possible.”

John Vidal, The Guardian Read Article
The EPA debunked Administrator Pruitt’s latest climate misinformation

Nuccitelli walks through the latest pronouncements by Donald Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt in which “virtually everything Pruitt said…was wrong, and was often refuted on his own agency’s website, until he started deleting it”. The debunking article also includes a link to Carbon Brief‘s “What’s causing global warming?” video and accompanying article.

Dana Nuccitelli, The Guardian Read Article
California’s renewable energy revolution

In a special report, the FT travels to California to see how it is “turning to solar power and innovative ways of using energy to fight the droughts, floods and fires which climate change worsens”. It continues: “Pivotal to reaching those goals is California’s so-called cap-and-trade scheme, which sets limits on the volume of emissions that companies can produce, lowering them over time to oblige companies either to cut their emissions or buy credits to cover them. Companies that do reduce their emissions can then either sell credits they earn to other companies or hold them for use at a later date.” Carbon Brief published a detailed explainer about California’s cap-and-trade scheme. Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph has a feature about Babcock Ranch in Florida – “America’s first solar-powered town”.

Adam Thomson, Financial Times Read Article

Science.

Sampling bias in climate–conflict research

Research papers investigating the link between climate change and conflict may have “overstated” the relationship between the two, a new study claims. A review of research papers on climate change and conflict finds that previous studies may have shown a bias towards English-speaking countries and those with a known history of violent conflict. “These biases mean that research on climate change and conflict primarily focuses on a few accessible regions, overstates the links between both phenomena and cannot explain peaceful outcomes from climate change,” the researchers say.

Nature Climate Change Read Article
Climate for women in climate science: Women scientists and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The proportion of female IPCC authors has increased from less than 5% in 1990 to more than 20% in the most recent assessment reports, a new study concludes. A survey of more than 100 female IPCC authors finds that some women describe contributing to the process “a positive experiencing” while others felt “poorly represented and heard”. The study also finds that other “barriers” to contribution include race, nationality and command of English.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Read Article
Climate-change–driven accelerated sea-level rise detected in the altimeter era

The rate of sea level rise has accelerated by 0.025mm per year over the last two decades, a new study finds. Previous research has shown that the global mean sea level has been rising at an average of 0.4mm per year, but the new study shows that the rate of rise could be rapidly accelerating. An analysis of satellite observations taken from 1993 to present suggests that sea level rise is accelerating to such a degree that total sea level rise could reach 65cm by the end of century.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Read Article

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