Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Europe's largest asset manager sees ‘tipping point’ on climate
- Exxon CEO urges New York prosecutor to rethink climate change probe
- Electric vehicles on path to triple
- Taxpayers to foot the bill for £15bn Wylfa Newydd nuclear plant on Anglesey
- Ex-Obama EPA chief to lead new center for climate change at Harvard
- Trump Helps More Than Double U.S. Solar Capacity With Duties
- International law poses problems for negative emissions research
- Does global warming make tropical cyclones stronger?
- “sometimes da #beachlife ain't always da wave”: Understanding People’s Evolving Hurricane Risk Communication, Risk Assessments, and Responses Using Twitter Narratives
- The southern African climate under 1.5 C and 2 C of global warming as simulated by CORDEX regional climate models
- Warm winter, thin ice?
The world’s largest investors are starting to take climate change seriously, according to the asset manager Amundi SA. Frederic Samama, their co-head of institutional clients, told Bloomberg: “We are really observing a tipping point among the institutional investors on climate change…Until recently, that question was not on their radar screen. It’s changing, and it’s changing super fast”. Mainstream investors are beginning to recognize both the threats and opportunities coming from climate-related issues, Samama said. The Paris-based firm’s remarks “hold weight”, because with 1.4 trillion euros under management, it is the largest asset manager in Europe. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, has repeatedly warned that the risks of climate change, such as damage from extreme weather or falling stocks in fossil fuels, are not priced in adequately.
Darren Woods, the CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil, has said that he hopes New York’s new attorney general “comes to a different conclusion” than her predecessor Eric Schneiderman, on an investigation into the company, Reuters reports. Schneiderman had alleged that Exxon withheld information about its internal climate change discussions and misled the public about what it knew, in an investigation which has spread to other states. Exxon has denied the charges. The new appointment of Barbara Underwood comes after Schneiderman resigned following allegations of physical abuse.
The number of electric vehicles is set to triple worldwide by 2020, according to a forecast by the International Energy Agency. In their report on the future of the electric vehicle market they predict that 13 million electric vehicles will be on the road by the end of the decade, compared to 3.7 million last year. “The policy-driven growth in [electric vehicle] sales underpins economies of scale and fosters technology development which reduces battery pack costs, increases opportunities to cut the purchase price of electric [vehicles] and to improve their performance”, the report said. About half of the electric vehicles sold in 2017 were purchased in China, which saw a 72% increase in sales. Yale Environment 360 also has the story.
The UK government is set to invest in a new nuclear power station in Wales, built by the Japanese developer Hitachi, which could cost more than £15 billion. The Times explains: “The deal will reduce the amount consumers have to pay on their energy bills when Wylfa is up and running. However, it could expose the government to a greater risk from cost overruns as it will own a direct stake.” Starting in the mid-2020s, the twin reactor could generate around 2.9GW of electricity, or enough to power about five million homes.
Gina McCarthy, former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency under Obama, is to lead a new centre at Harvard that will focus on climate change and policy. Harvard’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment was announced yesterday, the Hill reports. “Climate change isn’t about saving the planet and it’s not about politics, it’s about our kids and making sure they have the opportunity for a healthy, sustainable world…C-CHANGE will ensure that cutting-edge science produced by Harvard Chan School is actionable—that the public understands it, and that it gets into the hands of decision-makers so that science drives decisions”, McCarthy said in a statement.
A feature in Bloomberg summarises the impact of a tariff the US president imposed on imported solar panels in January. “President Donald Trump wanted more US solar manufacturing — and now he’s getting it”, Eckhouse and Martin write. “The duties could increase production capacity in the US by at least 3.4 gigawatts, compared with 1.8 gigawatts at the end of last year, and would add to even more capacity already planned”.
A comment piece in Nature Climate Change suggests that new international laws are needed to both facilitate the essential research into carbon dioxide removal (CDR) – which is implied by the Paris Agreement – and manage the environmental risk that comes with it. “It is critical that governance arrangements continue to emphasise the need to drastically mitigate global GHG emissions”, but in parallel to this “urgent research and development is needed into the long-term negative emissions potential of CDR and its risks”, they write. Most importantly, “governance must take into account the wider risk of failing to advance CDR research…the risk that international climate policy will continue to expect significant negative emission capacity to be available by 2030, without understanding the feasibility for it to be implemented at the scale required”. “Given that international law will need to both allow and facilitate responsible CDR research, the current legal position is concerning”, they argue.
Four climate scientists revisit the question of whether global warming is leading to more intense tropical storms, in a blog for RealClimate, a commentary site on climatology. Model simulations suggest that “due to global warming we do not necessarily expect more tropical storms overall, but an increasing number of particularly strong storms in categories 4 and 5, especially storms of previously unobserved strength”, they explain. And the observational data to support this is “getting stronger”. “In most major tropical cyclone regions, the storms with the highest wind speeds on record have been observed in recent years”, they note. In addition to this “global warming does not only increase the wind speed or frequency of strong storms…average location where the storms are reaching their peak intensity is also slowly migrating poleward…and the area where storms occur expands”. They conclude: “while there may not yet be a “smoking gun” – a single piece of evidence that removes all doubt – the weight of the evidence suggests that the thirty-year-old prediction of more intense and wetter tropical cyclones is coming to pass”.
New research investigates the ways that people communicate, assess, and respond to weather threat using social media. Analysing the Twitter feeds of 53 people who were in a mandatory evacuation zone in New York City during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the researchers find that people responded to forecast information and evacuation orders as well as multiple types of social and environmental cues. People discussed a variety of “preparatory and protective behavioral responses”, the study says, and exhibited multiple types of coping responses – such as humour – as the threat evolved.
Three new papers assess the impacts of climate change on different regions of Africa under 1.5C and 2C of warming above pre-industrial levels. In this paper on southern Africa, the researchers find that 2C of warming rather than 1.5C could result in “significant potential risks to agricultural and economic productivity, human and ecological systems health and water resources with implied increase in regional water stresses”. The studies on the Horn of Africa and a pan-African overview also show greater impacts at 2C than 1.5C. The three studies add to the ongoing collection in Environmental Research Letters on regional climate change in Africa at 1.5C and 2C.
The negative feedback relationship between Arctic sea ice growth and winter air temperatures may be starting to weaken, a new study suggests, as winter air temperatures have increased and the start of the annual sea ice freeze-up has been further delayed. Researchers assessed the 2016-17 winter, which saw record warmth over the Arctic Ocean, leading to the fewest freezing degree days since the satellite record began. The findings indicate a 11–13 cm reduction in growth in ice thickness over the Arctic during 2016-17 compared to the 2011–2017 average.
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