Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Exclusive: Global warming set to exceed 1.5C, slow growth - U.N. draft
- Chevron under fire over Australian CO2 emissions
- EU to phase out palm oil from transport fuel by 2030
- England 'highly likely' to be suffering from deforestation, campaigners warn
- South Africa draft climate law would set emissions targets for every sector
- FT Guide: The Energy Transition
- I’m Tory he’s Labour, the UK climate act shows what happens if we work together
- Why I Won't Debate Science
- Big Oil CEOs needed a climate change reality check. The Pope delivered
- Health risks of warming of 1.5 C, 2 C, and higher, above pre-industrial temperatures
- Loss of coral reef growth capacity to track future increases in sea level
Global warming is on course to exceed the most stringent goal set in the Paris Agreement by around 2040, according to a leaked final draft of the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report on 1.5C. Governments can still cap temperatures below the 1.5C limit agreed in 2015, the draft says, but only with “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in the world economy. There is no sign that the latest draft has been watered down by Donald Trump’s scepticism about climate change, notes Reuters. Climate scientist and Climate Analytics director Bill Hare told the Guardian that the draft shows with greater clarity how much faster countries need to move towards decarbonisation: “This IPCC report shows anyone drawing from published papers that there are big differences between 1.5C and 2C [of] warming in both natural and human systems”. Responding to the leak, the IPCC said in a statement that “out of respect for the authors and to give them the time and space to finish writing before making the work public…the IPCC does not comment on the contents of draft reports while work is still ongoing”. The final report is due for publication in October in South Korea after revisions and approval by governments. BusinessGreen and E&E News also have the story.
US oil major Chevron says it expects to start up one of the world’s largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects in Australia this year, following years of delays due to technical problems. It follows moves by the Western Australian government to force Chevron to begin offsetting CO2 emissions from its gigantic Gorgon and Wheatstone liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. The $2.5bn CCS plant at the Gorgon site will inject up to 4m tonnes of CO2 into a reservoir 2km below Barrow Island, a nature reserve off Western Australia’s coast. Two years after Gorgon began producing gas, the storage project had remained mothballed – suffering delays caused by excess water entering the pipeline and injection well site facilities, causing a risk of corrosion. Chevron has now started producing LNG at the Wheatstone site, reports Reuters. Additional articles from both Reuters and the FT report in detail on the two LNG megaprojects, which Chevron built at a cost of $88bn. Elsewhere, David Roberts in Vox looks into how pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere – known as “direct air capture” – won’t solve climate change, but “might fill in a few key pieces of the clean energy puzzle”.
There is further coverage of new EU agreements on biofuels and renewable energy, which were announced early yesterday. On biofuels, EU negotiators agreed to phase out the use of palm oil in transport fuels from 2030, setting up a clash with producer countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. A text of the deal, seen by Reuters, says limits on conventional biofuels in transport will be frozen at the national level at 2020 but must not surpass 7%. Bas Eickhout, one of the negotiators, said the use of palm oil would be capped at 2019 levels until 2023 and reduced to zero by 2030. Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, which produce the majority of the palm oil imported into Europe, had warned ahead of the agreement that they would retaliate if a ban was introduced. The New Scientistalso has the story. On renewable energy, the EU agreed to increase the share of renewables in the bloc’s overall energy mix to 32% by 2030, reports the Financial Times. This is a higher target than in draft rules but short of the level sought by some governments, campaigners and the European Parliament, says Reuters. The Guardian, Climate Home News and BusinessGreen cover the story.
England is “highly likely” to be undergoing deforestation, campaigners have warned after new figures from the Forestry Commission revealed low levels of new woodlands being planted. Around 1,500 hectares (ha) of trees were planted in England last year. Although this was above the low of 800ha in 2016, it is far below the 5,000ha a year needed to reach the government’s target to increase England’s woodland cover to 12% by 2060. John Tucker, director of woodland creation at the Woodland Trust, said: “Poor planting rates, woodland losses, and weak protection of ancient woods mean that in England, we are highly likely to be in a state of net deforestation”.
South Africa will set carbon targets for each sector of the economy every five years, under a draft climate law out for public consultation. “The purpose of the bill is to build an effective climate change response and ensure the long-term, just transition to a climate resilient and lower carbon economy and society,” the environment ministry said in a statement. The draft bill does not specify legally binding targets but cites the country’s submission to the Paris Agreement, which aims for greenhouse gases to peak by 2025, plateau for a decade, then decline.
The Financial Times has launched a new guide to the “energy transition” – the long-term restructuring of the energy system away from fossil fuels and towards renewables. In the first of six instalments, the FT delves into the role of the energy producers, examining “how new technologies and environmental concerns are transforming the energy mix across the world’. The guide includes articles on how coal is fading in the developed world but is far from dead in Asia, why renewables and high costs are challenging the case for nuclear power, and how natural gas is vying for a big role in the shift to low-carbon economy. The next instalment, on the role of citizens, will be published on 31 July.
Writing for Climate Home News, Labour member of the House of Lords David Terence Puttnam and Conservative MP Oliver Letwin look back at the “remarkable” achievement of the UK’s Climate Change Act. “Ten years ago, the House of Commons passed the Climate Change Act by one of the largest majorities seen in modern times – 483 to three,” they write. “The scale of that majority reflected a consensus that had emerged in both parliament and the country.” The act “has helped Britain advance pragmatically towards a clean energy economy” and “to mark the UK as a global ‘good citizen’”, they note. “In troubled times, it stands as a reminder that politicians can achieve remarkable things when we act on the basis of evidence, and in the common interest”.
“I refuse to debate basic science in public,” writes NASA climate scientist Kate Marvel in her blog for Scientific American. “There are two reasons for this”, she says: “first, I’m a terrible debater and would almost certainly lose…but second, and maybe more importantly: once you put facts about the world up for debate, you’ve already lost.” “Too often, we scientists find ourselves asked to ‘debate’ people who believe (simultaneously) that the Earth is cooling, that it’s warming but the warming is natural, that the warming is human-caused but beneficial, and that NASA somehow made it all up in between faking moon landings and covering up alien abductions,” she writes. “These things cannot all be true. Climate denial is like bad science fiction: there’s no internal logic, the characters aren’t compelling, and you can see the scary things coming from miles away.”
Three years on from his encyclical on global warming, Pope Francis continues to “break down the climate debate in very practical and very canny terms”, writes veteran environmentalist Bill McKibben in the Guardian. Following a meeting with fossil fuel executives at the Vatican, Francis said what was really “worrying” was “the continued search for new fossil fuel reserves, whereas the Paris agreement clearly urged keeping most fossil fuels underground”. “In that small sentence he calls the bluff on most of what passes for climate action among nations and among fossil fuel companies,” says McKibben. “But Francis also understands that our current approach makes no mathematical sense,” argues McKibben: “We can’t have a nice, slow, easy transition because we can’t put barely any more carbon in the atmosphere.” “It’s odd to have the pope schooling energy executives on the math of carbon,” concludes McKibben, but “good common sense speaks even more loudly when it comes from unexpected corners”.
Limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels would reduce the risk of a number of health problems, including undernutrition, vector-borne disease and occupational heat stress, a study suggests. The research shows that restricting warming to 1.5C rather than 2C would reduce adverse health consequences associated with exposures to high temperatures, ground-level ozone, and undernutrition, with regional variations.
The ability of coral reefs to protect low-lying islands from sea level rise is likely to disappear by 2100, if little efforts are made to tackle climate change, new research finds. The study finds that, if climate change is not tackled, reefs could experience an average of 0.5m of sea level rise by the end of the century. “Urgent action is thus needed to mitigate climate, sea-level and future ecological changes in order to limit the magnitude of future reef submergence,” the researchers say.
Expert analysis directly to your inbox.