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Briefing date 11.08.2022
‘Exceptional risk’ wildfires could sweep across Britain this weekend

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‘Exceptional risk’ wildfires could sweep across Britain this weekend
Daily Telegraph Read Article

frontpage story in the Daily Telegraph reports that many parts of the UK will face an “exceptional risk” from wildfires amid soaring heat this weekend. The newspaper reports that fire chiefs warned the government during an emergency meeting on Wednesday that “destructive blazes are likely to spread into residential areas in the coming days, fuelled by bone-dry conditions and a strong easterly wind”. It adds: “The Met Office has raised the Fire Severity Index (FSI), which assesses how easily a blaze could spread, to the highest, ‘exceptional’ level for a stretch of southern England from Nottingham to parts of Sussex and as far West as Abergavenny this Sunday, with temperatures expected to reach 36C.” Mark Hardingham, the chairman of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), tells the newspaper that the UK will need to develop better resilience to wildfires amid climate change. He says: “This is not going to die down and disappear. It’s an emerging trend off the back of climate change and we’re going to see more of it.”

Other newspapers also give prominence to the UK’s ongoing dry conditions and upcoming heatwave. A frontpage story in the Independent carries a warning from firefighters that they “will not be able to attend all call-outs” this weekend as “the second heatwave in weeks stretches services beyond ‘crisis point’”. The Guardian reports on comments from an insurer warning fire and subsidence claims are likely to rise amid the extreme conditions. Both the Guardian and the Independent report on an Oxfordshire town that has run out of water amid the dry conditions, prompting Thames Water to dispatch water tankers and hand out bottles of water. A separate Independent story carries comments from Lib Dem environmental spokesperson Tim Farron, who has called for the government to declare a “national drought emergency” and to “hold weekly televised press conferences to update the public on guidance to limit water use”. Meanwhile, the i newspaper carries comments from Conservative MP Philip Dunne, who says all houses should be fitted with water meters to “help curb water use and insure supplies last through increasingly long dry summers”. Press Association reports that environment secretary George Eustice has called for water companies to protect their supplies. BBC News speaks to farmers affected by the ongoing dry conditions. New Scientist reports on how the dry conditions are affecting wildlife. An Independent analysis says that the “news is bursting with environmental breakdown, yet the government, the leadership candidates and Labour are almost silent”.

It comes as Reuters reports that wildfires are once again raging in southwestern France, forcing 10,000 people to evacuate on Wednesday.

Low Rhine water levels threaten Germany's economic growth
Reuters Read Article

Reuters reports that the German transport ministry “expect[s] an intensification of the low water level” on the Rhine, one of Europe’s key waterways. The extent of the drop in Rhine water level is monitored at a chokepoint at Kaub in southwestern Germany, where it reached 48cm on Wednesday compared with the 1.5m needed to carry fully loaded vessels, notes the outlet. It quotes an economist at Deutsche Bank, Stefan Schneider, saying that “if water levels continue to drop, [economic] growth could also drop just below 1%”. The Financial Times carries an article quoting Christian Lindner, Germany’s finance minister, who said on Wednesday that the country’s prospects had become “fragile”, and life had become “much more expensive for lots of people”, with rising prices for gas, energy and food.

Meanwhile, Manager Magazin reports German gas storage facilities are now more than 72% full, according to the president of the Federal Network Agency, Klaus Müller. The outlet quotes him saying: “this is better than in the last few weeks and months…we’re on the right track”. Der Spiegel carries a piece titled: “who saves gas in Germany – and who doesn’t”, stating that “the biggest savings came from the bulk buyers in the industry”.

In more energy news from Germany, the Guardian reports that German energy network operator E.ON has cut the value of its investment in the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline by about €700m (£592m) as a result of “increased uncertainties” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. E.ON’s chief executive, Leonhard Birnbaum, is quoted saying: “The current energy crisis finally makes clear that Europe needs to transform its energy system. To be independent of Russian gas. To ensure supply security.” Reuters reports that a spokesperson for Germany’s economy ministry said he had no new information on whether a Nord Stream 1 turbine, maintained in Canada, is on its way to Russia.

Finally, Bild reports that “so-called activists” have soiled the water of the Hygieia fountain in Hamburg with a green substance with the phrase “LNG – unfortunately not green” written on it. The news does not indicate who exactly is behind this, but Bild mentions Extinction Rebellion, which “criticises the use of fossil fuels with the campaign”.

Gordon Brown says energy firms unable to offer lower bills should be temporarily re-nationalised
The Guardian Read Article

frontpage story in the Guardian reports on comments from former UK prime minister Gordon Brown, who says energy companies that cannot lower bills should be temporarily brought into public ownership, as it is forecast that annual energy bills could top £4,200 by January. Brown also called for “the energy price cap to be cancelled and for the government to negotiate new lower prices with the companies, comparing the situation to the 2009 banking crisis where some banks were temporarily nationalised to protect consumers”, according to the Guardian. The newspaper describes Brown’s intervention as “a stark challenge to political leaders”. (Brown’s comments are also published in full.)

In a Daily Telegraph article, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and chief secretary to the treasury Simon Clarke are critical of Brown’s approach to economic policy in response, saying: “In these turbulent times, we need to stand firm in our belief as Conservatives that our first choice should be about helping people keep more of their money and promoting enterprise. We don’t need a failed Gordon Brown approach, where taxpayers are expected to be grateful to receive some of their own hard-earned money.”

It comes amid widespread coverage of the energy bills crisis and how politicians are responding. The Guardian reports that Liz Truss, the current favourite to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister in autumn, “has denied she is ruling out providing extra help with energy bills beyond tax cuts, as [she] embarked on what appeared to be the beginnings of a U-turn on the issue”. The Times adds: “Liz Truss signalled last night that she would hand government cash to the poorest to help with energy bills.” It comes as the Evening Standard reports that Kwarteng and the chancellor Nadhim Zahawi will today hold a “round table meeting” with the bosses of the UK’s energy suppliers “to discuss ways of alleviating the financial squeeze on millions this winter”. Bloomberg reports that EDF Energy called on the government to do more to help the poorest households ahead of the meeting. The Financial Times reports that, according to Zahawi, the UK’s electricity generators will “face pressure from ministers to invest their ‘extraordinary profits’ in new green energy projects, rather than paying out the windfall to shareholders”. A second FT story says Kwarteng is working on a range of “reasonable worst-case scenarios” for winter. Reuters reports that UK consumer energy debt is already at record levels, according to a survey. Press Association reports comments from consumer expert Martin Lewis, who warns “lives are at risk” amid the crisis.

China has world's second largest number of nuclear power units: official
Xinhua Read Article

Xinhua says that China has the “second largest number of nuclear power units in operation or under construction in the world”, according to Tang Bo, an official with the National Nuclear Safety Administration. Tang is quoted saying that “as of June this  year, China had 54 nuclear power units in operation, and 23 were under construction”, adding “the development of nuclear power has helped China ensure an adequate energy supply, improve the  environment and move closer to its goal of carbon peaking and carbon neutrality”, the state news agency notes.

Meanwhile, another Xinhua article lists the answers by the Chinese vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu to questions on US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit. Ma is quoted saying: “as a responsible major country, China will, as always, take an active part in international cooperation on climate change and other matters. We make our own contribution to the tackling of  global challenges. What the US should do is to fulfil its international responsibilities and obligations. It should stop making excuses for its own mistakes.”

Separately, Bloomberg writes that China’s plans to “accelerate its world-leading expansion of solar and wind power are facing a major hurdle” as floods, droughts and food-supply issues “present authorities with a reality check about how much precious farmland the nation can afford to lose”. Solar and windfarms have been “supercharged in the past two years” since Chinese president Xi Jinping announced a 2060 target for the nation to be carbon neutral, “creating an incentive for local governments to allow more large-scale renewable energy projects”, the outlet says. With administrations now “prioritising ecological protection and food security”, plans to build “big, new solar projects are coming under increasing scrutiny”, the article adds.

Finally, Yicai writes that “to achieve the national goal of peak carbon emissions by 2030”, Shanghai will “promote energy saving and reduced emissions from buildings, the most overlooked source, by gradually increasing the proportion of ultra-low-energy buildings in new projects and upgrading existing ones”. Shanghai will build more than “8m square metres of ultra-low-energy buildings by 2025”, according to an “action plan the government released recently”, the Shanghai-based financial outlet adds.

Fate of ‘sleeping giant’ East Antarctic ice sheet ‘in our hands’ – study
The Guardian Read Article

The fate of the world’s biggest ice sheet rests “in the hands of humanity”, a new analysis has shown, according to the Guardian. It continues: “If global heating is limited to 2C, the vast East Antarctic ice sheet should remain stable, but if the climate crisis drives temperatures higher, melting could drive up sea level by many metres.” There is coverage of the study in the MailOnlineIndependentReuters and the Conservation.


'Extreme weather events show we are now living with consequences of climate crisis'
Editorial, Daily Mirror Read Article

An editorial in the Daily Mirror says, as the UK faces its second major heatwave of the summer, that “the situation in mainland Europe is also stark, with the continent on course for the worst drought in 500 years”. It continues: “The scorching heat is ruining crops, disrupting transport and putting lives at risk. There is no doubt we are now living with the consequences of the climate crisis.” The editorial concludes: “Right-wing politicians pushing for the UK to abandon its efforts to curb carbon emissions are not just denying the evidence in front of their faces. They are also putting the country on a dangerous course.” An editorial in the Guardian says: “A massive energy price shock is due when the cap on domestic bills is lifted at the start of October…Neither of the candidates [to be the next UK prime minister] has displayed any imagination in responding to the cost of living crisis.” A comment from Guardian economics editor Larry Elliot says of the cost of living crisis, the housing crisis, the “looming drought” and the struggling NHS: “These crises are all distinct and special in their own way but they also have a common theme: a failure to invest stretching back decades. An obsession with efficiency has meant infrastructure has been run into the ground rather than upgraded.” Elliot notes: “A report by the energy firm EDF found almost 60% of 21m homes in England and Wales only met insulation standards of the mid-1970s or earlier – costing households up to £930 a year in higher energy bills.” For the Times, chief leader writer Simon Nixon comments under the headline: “Britain’s infrastructure needs a huge overhaul, but who should pay for it?” He continues: “That challenge is even more urgent given the vast emerging infrastructure gaps that all countries are facing as they seek to adapt to climate change and deliver on net-zero commitments.” Nixon concludes: “An honest debate is needed about what infrastructure is needed and how the cost will be shared between taxpayers and customers. The alternative is much more disruption in future of the kind we have seen this summer.”

In the Daily Telegraph meanwhile, Sunday Telegraph editor Allister Heath has a comment titled: “The horrifying truth behind the coming collapse of basketcase Britain.” (Heath explains: “the rot started on that sunny day in May 1997 when a fresh-faced Tony Blair swept [to power]”.) On the energy crisis, he argues: “War and Covid are the triggers, but the underlying disaster was homemade. Imagine, just imagine, if, as Margaret Thatcher had wanted, we had built a nuclear power station a year; allowed fracking and not waged a crazed, war against domestic oil, gas and coal before we had built up alternative capacity; if Nimbystic rules hadn’t prevented new infrastructure; if governments had planned properly for geopolitical shocks. We would have been fine.” (Again, the UK has a legislated target to “maximise economic recovery” of its North Sea fossil fuel resources. It was ) For the Daily Express, columnist Leo McKinstry writes: “Soaring energy bills are a sign of failure to exploit UK supplies.” He adds that while it “is fashionable to put the blame on the war in Ukraine…the problems have been exacerbated at home by successive governments, whose policies have mixed green dogma with wilful neglect”. McKinstry adds: “Britain should be one of the luckiest nations on earth when it comes to the supply of energy. We not only have unrivalled expertise in nuclear power, wind turbines and hydro technology, but we also have tremendous reserves of oil, coal, natural gas and shale gas.” He says: “One estimate is that there could be as much as 2,000 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of shale gas in our island”. (The British Geological Survey put the figure at 1,329tcf in 2013 but in 2019 estimated just 140tcf.) McKinstry continues: “Yet the ideological quest by officialdom to achieve the target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 means these resources are increasingly ignored.” For the Daily Telegraph, climate-sceptic columnist Ross Clark writes under the headline: “Sadiq Khan’s hatred of cars is out of control.” Another Daily Telegraph comment is titled: “Extinction Rebellion should take up grouse shooting.”


Using satellites to uncover large methane emissions from landfills
Science Advances Read Article

Emissions from four major cities – Buenos Aires, Delhi, Lahore and Mumbai – could be 1.4–2.6 times greater than commonly reported in emission inventories, according to a new study. The authors combine satellite data over 2018-19 with wind pattern data, to identify methane hotspots in the four cities. The paper finds that landfills contribute 6–50% of city level emissions. The authors add that while emissions from landfills in India and Pakistan appeared to be widely distributed across sites, emissions from the Norte III landfill in Buenos Aires originated mainly from the active module located on the landfill’s western side.

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