Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Europe's drought the worst in 500 years – report
- Shielding UK families from fuel bills crisis forecast to cost £100bn
- China hit by longest and strongest heatwave on record
- UK: Net-zero plans at risk from energy crisis as firms slam brakes on investments, CBI warns
- Japan PM Kishida set to order new nuclear power plant construction
- US climate bill's subsidy bonanza could boost investment in carbon capture
- Gaslighting finds a whole new meaning with this energy crisis
- The Inflation Reduction Act does little to reduce climate change
- Relationships between transmission of malaria in Africa and climate factors
Europe is currently experiencing what is likely the worst drought in 500 years, with two-thirds of it under some kind of drought warning, BBC News reports. This is according to the latest report from the Global Drought Observatory, a research arm of the European Commission, which says that 47% of the continent is in “warning” conditions, meaning soil has dried up, and another 17% is “on alert”, meaning vegetation “shows signs of stress”, the news website continues. The results show that nearly all of Europe’s rivers have dried up to some extent and crop harvest are expected to fall compared to the average for the past five years –16% for maize, 15% for soybeans and 12% for sunflowers. Reuters reports that hydropower generation and the water supply used to feed cooling systems in power plants have both taken hits, and low water levels have also hampered inland shipping. Over the past few weeks, the extreme weather has “prompted calls for more action to tackle climate change”, it adds. According to the Financial Times, forest fires have spread rapidly across the continent this year, burning more than 4.6 times the average area of land of the past 19 years of forest fire seasons, while glaciers in the Alps have been melting at a record pace. The drought report notes that rain will return this autumn, with “close to normal” weather predicted in the coming months, Politico adds.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that, in Germany, “hulking wrecks of more than a dozen German World War II ships” have been revealed as the waters of the Danube river have receded during the drought. Another Politico story reports that animal populations across Europe are “struggling to survive and adapt to heatwaves, droughts and wildfires – raising fears that the Continent’s changing climate will decimate already threatened biodiversity”. It gives the examples of conservation organisations across France, Austria and Germany warning of birds, hedgehogs and fish all perishing in the heat. The Independent reports on a paper that finds the Swiss Alps lost around half of their ice between 1931 and 2016, and then lost another 12% in just six years between 2016 and 2021.
England is now also at risk of prolonged drought conditions which could last into next year, according to the Environment Agency, the Independent reports. Across the UK, BusinessGreen reports the National Drought Group – which includes representatives from government, regulators, the water industry and the wider business community – has agreed further steps to boost water security, “as fears grow drought conditions could persist into next year”. Meanwhile, the Big Issue reports that the company Thames Water’s daily leakage is “equivalent to running a hosepipe for 73 years”.
A “rescue plan” to protect UK households from rising bills will need funding of more than £100bn over two years, according to Keith Anderson, chief executive of Scottish Power, one of the nation’s biggest energy suppliers, the Financial Times reports. It says that Anderson met business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng last week and proposed capping household energy bills at around £2,000 a year, as banks and consultancies project that it will rise above £5,000 by April. The newspaper explains that the Scottish Power proposal would involve suppliers covering the gap between the cap and the wholesale price of gas and electricity by borrowing from a “deficit fund”, arranged by the government through commercial banks. This would then be “gradually paid off by the public either through government borrowing funded by general taxation, spread over bills for the next 10-15 years, or split between a combination of the two”. The Daily Mail reports that Kwarteng, an ally of the favourite candidate to be the next prime minister, Liz Truss, is “seriously considering” the plans, according to Anderson. It also points to new analysis by consultancy Auxilion, which suggests the energy price cap could hit £5,066 in January and then £6,552 in April. The Daily Mirror says that the “clock ticking” and big decisions such as how to help people with their energy bills “are being delayed” as the nation waits to hear who the new leader of the Conservative party will be. Meanwhile, it adds that “half of all households face being plunged into fuel poverty if nothing is done”. This prediction was quoted by Philippe Commaret, managing director of customers at energy firm EDF, who also said the country is heading towards a “catastrophic winter”, the Evening Standard reports.
Meanwhile, the Times reports that “separate emergency plans” drawn up by the National Grid suggest energy shortages could last for three years and that coping with this would require large industrial companies to cut gas usage each winter until 2025. The Daily Telegraph notes that the draft proposals recommend “making payments of up to £5m this winter for factories that cut production if the gas crisis escalates because of the war in Ukraine”.
The Guardian reports on a new paper by the Institute for Government that finds ministers could already face an additional £23bn price tag for covering additional household energy costs of £900 this autumn, rising to £90bn next year. It says that the next prime minister should “plan for prolonged rises in energy bills by going a lot further in making public appeals to use less gas” and in committing to building more energy-efficient homes.
Climate Home News says that millions of Chinese people are suffering as intense heat drags on for more than two months, bringing drought, power shortages, wildfires and crop failures. Climate attribution expert Dr Friederike Otto is quoted saying: “Heatwaves in China have definitely become more common and more intense as well as longer in duration because of human-induced climate change.” The outlet writes that the crisis has “led to increasing climate awareness”, citing “campaigners”. Greenpeace East Asia’s Li Shuo is quoted: “Many in China are starting to call 2022 as the first year of the new climate era. The only norm might be abnormality from now on.” Dmitri De Boer of ClientEarth China, an NGO, says: “I’ve seen more and more coverage [on heatwave in Chinese media] where they’re making the link with climate change and the need to accelerate the climate transition.”
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that China’s “biggest freshwater lake – Poyang Lake – [has been] reduced to just 25% of its usual size by a severe drought”, with work crews “digging trenches to keep water flowing to one of the country’s key rice-growing regions”. It says that high temperatures have “sparked mountain fires that have forced the evacuation of 1,500 people in the southwest” and factories have been “ordered to cut production as hydroelectric plants reduce their output amid drought conditions”. Bloomberg adds that the heat is “likely connected to human-caused climate change, though scientists have yet to do to the complex calculations and computer simulations to say that for certain”. The Daily Mirror says that “falling water levels of the Yangtze River revealed three Buddhist statues believed to be 600 years old on a submerged island”.
Separately, Shanghai-based Caixin, citing a report by Sichuan Daily, a CCP-affiliated newspaper, writes that, in Sichuan province, “67” thermal power plants are operating at “full capacity, accounting for about 25% of the maximum load of the entire Sichuan grid”. Additionally, Caixin reports that Sichuan has announced “a five-day extension of power restriction measures”, adding that “a large area of the local lithium industry chain shutdown, with short-term supply tension further intensifying and lithium salt companies’ share prices rising sharply in response”.
In other news about Chinese cities’ power supplies, Shanghai-based Jiemian carries an article on the efforts of the province to ensure supply. It says that on Sunday the province launched the highest-level emergency response for securing emergency energy supply and took measures of “orderly ensuring electricity consumption, ensuring coal supply on the generation side, full load operation of power enterprises, cross-province mutual assistance on the grid, as well as maximum optimal support from outside the province”. The South China Morning Post reports that Shanghai “turned off decorative lights along its famed Bund riverfront” on Monday, as a “nationwide heatwave sends power demands soaring”, citing authorities, adding that the lights will “remain off for two days”.
The Independent reports on a Confederation of British Industry (CBI) survey that suggests the energy crisis is “undermining the UK’s net-zero climate plans as firms slam the brakes on vital CO2-cutting investments to pay soaring bills”. It says that three in 10 firms told the CBI spending lower-energy plants and machinery, buying electric vehicles and installing wind turbines or solar panels will be “paused or halted entirely” unless the new government acts to cut industry costs dramatically. BusinessGreen reports that the CBI, which represents 190,000 companies, has published a three-point plan of action which it argues could be delivered at pace by the government to support both vulnerable consumers and businesses. It joins many other experts and groups in calling for energy efficiency upgrades for fuel poor homes and for businesses, the news website says.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that research has revealed more than 70% of pubs in the UK do not expect to survive the winter if nothing is done to ease energy costs, prompting calls from breweries for government intervention.
In “a major shift from the country’s current policy ”, Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida is expected to order the development and construction of next-generation nuclear power plants, Nikkei Asia reports. Since the earthquake and tsunami a decade ago that led to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Japan has avoided building new nuclear power plants and upgrading existing facilities, the news website reports. However, Kishida is set to proposed plans to restart up to 17 nuclear power plants beginning in the summer of 2023, with the ultimate goal being the construction of next-generation nuclear power plants from 2030. According to Nikkei, “the prime minister believes the plan will address structural challenges facing Japan, such as electricity shortages and decarbonisation delays”. Bloomberg reports the story with the headline “threats of blackouts drive Japan to embrace nuclear again”. It notes that Tokyo “has seen two major power crunches this year, including during the worst heatwave for the end of June in more than a century”.
Meanwhile, in India, Bloomberg reports that the country’s largest power producer, NTPC, is looking to develop “another massive nuclear project just weeks after announcing its entry into the sector”, which the news outlet says is “a sign that prime minister Narendra Modi’s expansion into atomic energy is gaining momentum”.
The Inflation Reduction Act, the tax and climate bill US president Joe Biden signed into law last week, contains measures that mean US companies that cut emissions could qualify for subsidies on even the smallest projects, Bloomberg reports. This could unleash “a potentially unprecedented wave of investment in green technologies”, it continues, including “startups developing more efficient ways to capture and store carbon, which is going to be crucial to meeting global climate goals”.
Yale Environment 360 quotes analysis from the Rocky Mountain Institute that suggests that, together, the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the recently passed CHIPS and Science Act and Inflation Reduction Act will lead to the US government spending nearly $80bn annually on climate technology and clean energy in the coming years. This is more than triple the amount spent yearly during the Obama administration, it says. According to analysis by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the US, reported by the Hill, the Inflation Reduction Act could reduce the costs from climate-related damages by up to $1.9tn up to 2050 – based on the “social cost of carbon” metric. Reuters reports that polls show Biden’s approval ratings rising after passing his “swath” of climate legislation.
Meanwhile, DeSmog reports that the methane fee in the Inflation Reduction Act, inserted to curb emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas from fossil fuel facilities, is “riddled with massive holes” thanks to “carveouts won by senator Joe Manchin”.
Finally, an extract from Jared Kushner’s new book, quoted in the Independent, reveals that the former president’s flagship environment policy – backing a “trillion trees” initiative – was initially described by Donald Trump as “bullshit” when suggested to him by his son-in-law.
Columnist Pilita Clark writes in the Financial Times that people in the UK are being told that net-zero policies are to blame for the current cost-of-living crisis. “Guess what a growing number of political figures are blaming for the gathering energy disaster? That’s right. Net-zero. In a striking effort to distort reality, the longer the gas-driven energy crisis goes on, the more critics condemn net-zero,” she writes. Clarke makes it clear that soaring gas prices are the real reason behind the energy crisis. “Ultimately, blaming net zero for a gas-fuelled energy crisis is not just gaslighting, it is dangerous. Any policymaker manipulated into believing that slower net zero progress is the answer to energy market shocks is wrong,” she concludes. An example of this rhetoric comes from the Daily Express where climate-sceptic commentator Tim Newark is given the paper’s lead op-ed slot to blame “a net-zero ideology” for the energy crisis facing UK businesses.
Meanwhile, an editorial in the Daily Mirror says that “Britain stands on the brink of a national calamity” and the government must stop “standing on the sidelines”. It concludes “if we do not want people to die from cold, we need to freeze energy bills, cut VAT and provide more support to those on welfare, pensions and low incomes”.
Serial climate misinformer Bjorn Lomborg has penned an article for the Wall Street Journal in which he takes aim at the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act in the US. His central thesis – and one he repeats whenever any development in climate policy happens somewhere around the world – is that, while the act has been hailed as a momentous piece of legislation that returns the US to a leadership position on climate climate, its measures will only actually have a tiny impact on curbing warming. “Democrats are cheering, but by 2100 it’ll likely cut the temperature by only 0.0009 degree Fahrenheit [0.0005C],‘ he writes.
The ripples of Lomborg’s claims can be seen across the US media. In the Washington Post, columnist Marc Thiessen – who has a history of make climate-sceptic claims and relying on assessments made by Lomborg – repeats more of his talking points in an article titled “the Inflation Reduction Act won’t reduce inflation. Or climate change”. Thiessen writes that Lomborg “did a little digging to see how much Biden’s law will affect global temperatures”, apparently using thintank the Rhodium Groups’s assessment of the legislation’s emissions-cutting potential combined with UN climate models to arrive at his estimate. Thiessen uses this to argue that “the costs of climate policies often vastly outweigh their benefits”. The right-wing, climate-sceptic TV network Fox News also reports on Lomborg’s estimate, noting that, according to Lomborg’s “analysis”, the legislation will cut temperatures by 0.016C over the next nearly 80 years in the best-case scenario.
A new study analyses how climate relates to the transmission of malaria in African countries. The authors explain that “fluctuations in temperature affect the spread of malaria by lowering or speeding up its rate of transmission”, while rainfall amount also affects disease spread “by offering a lot of sites suitable for mosquitoes to breed in”. Assessing data on malaria incidence, temperature and rainfall for 1901–2015, the researchers find “a positive correlation with temperature and rainfall networks, except for the 1981–2015 period, in which the malaria network shows a negative correlation with rainfall”.