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Daily Briefing

26.04.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Extinction Rebellion: Climate protesters ‘closing ceremony’ ends London demo
Extinction Rebellion: Climate protesters ‘closing ceremony’ ends London demo

News.

Extinction Rebellion: Climate protesters 'closing ceremony' ends London demo

Ten days of protests by the Extinction Rebellion activists have been brought to an end by what they described as a “closing ceremony” in Hyde Park yesterday, Sky News reports. In a statement announcing the end of their action, the group said: “We know we have disrupted your lives. We do not do this lightly. We only do this because this is an emergency. Around the planet, a long-awaited and much-needed conversation has begun.” Earlier the same day, demonstrators glued themselves to the London Stock Exchange and climbed onto the roof of a train in Canary Wharf “as part of their final wave of climate change protests”, Sky News adds. Reuters says that Goldman Sachs, the Bank of England and the Treasury were also targeted as the group which turned its attention to London’s financial institutions and the City. The singling out of the financial sector comes just days after Bank of England governor Mark Carney reiterated his warnings that climate change poses a major threat to the financial system, BusinessGreen notes. The HillFinancial Times and Guardian are among the outlets covering the story.

Sky News Read Article
Liam Fox forced to clarify climate change comments

The UK’s international trade secretary, Liam Fox, has been criticised after appearing to suggest that the scientific consensus on climate change could be questioned, the Guardian reports. Speaking in the House of Commons, Fox said: “It’s important that we take climate issues seriously…Whether or not individuals accept the current scientific consensus on the causes of climate change, it is sensible for everyone to use finite resources in a responsible way.” The remarks were denounced by Labour as providing “weasel excuses for climate deniers”, the Independent says. The shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner responded: “It is shameful that in the week when a 16-year-old school child has educated MPs with such clarity about the climate emergency we face, we have a cabinet minister showing confusion and ignorance on such a staggering scale.” Fox later clarified his comments in a tweet: “There is a clear scientific consensus on climate change, which I fully respect”. Reuters led with a more positive spin on the Fox’s comments: “Tackling climate change can help economy: UK trade minister”. PoliticsHome also has the story.

The Guardian Read Article
UK's 'creative carbon accounting' breaches climate deal, say critics

The climate activist Greta Thunberg accused the UK government of “very creative carbon accounting” this week by excluding international aviation and shipping figures from its carbon budgets. The Guardian reports that, by doing so, the UK is breaching the Paris climate agreement, according to a “leading NGO”. Andrew Murphy, from the NGO Transport & Environment, commented: “If you look at the UK Climate Change Act both international shipping and aviation emissions are kept off the five-year carbon budgets…We believe the Paris agreement is clear that international aviation and shipping should be included in national climate targets…We don’t see this outsourcing of responsibility by governments for international aviation and shipping as consistent with Paris. It breaches the agreement.” BBC News also has a piece examining Thunberg’s claim that the UK has overstated how much it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The Guardian Read Article
World’s second largest emperor penguin colony ‘disappeared overnight’ with thousands of chicks wiped out

The second largest emperor penguin colony “is believed to have been effectively wiped out overnight, with thousands of chicks drowning after an ice shelf in Antarctica collapsed” in 2016, the Independent reports. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey say that no breeding has been detected in the colony at Halley Bay since that year. If sea-ice breaks up too early, young birds lack the right feathers to start swimming, which “appears to have been what happened in 2016”, BBC News explains. Dr Peter Fretwell, one of the team who noticed the disappearance of the colony, told the BBC: “The sea-ice that’s formed since 2016 hasn’t been as strong. Storm events that occur in October and November will now blow it out early. So there’s been some sort of regime change. Sea-ice that was previously stable and reliable is now just untenable.” The Independent notes that the bay “was expected to remain suitable for penguins this century despite climate change affecting Antarctic sea ice”. The New York Times also carries the story.

The Independent Read Article
Chile’s ‘Blue Cop’ will push leaders to protect oceans to heal climate

Chile – the hosts of this year’s COP25 climate talks – plans to use the talks to focus attention on the oceans, “the world’s most important carbon sponge”, says Climate Home News. Chile, which “has control over almost 18 million sq km of the world’s oceans”, is calling the meeting a “Blue Cop”, the site reports. Chile’s environment minister Carolina Schmidt commented: “In our vision, there cannot be an effective response to climate change without a global response to ocean issues”.

Climate Home News Read Article
Trump administration hits pause on offshore oil plans after court ruling

A recent ruling by a district court in Alaska has stalled plans for opening up US continental-shelf waters to oil and gas companies, in “a rare bright spot for environmentalists during the Trump administration”, the Washington Post writes. Last month, US District Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that Congress would need to step in to reverse a decision by President Obama to ban offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. Interior Department spokeswoman Molly Block said that it is reevaluating how to move forward with its offshore drilling ambitions: “Given the recent court decision, the Department is simply evaluating all of its options to determine the best pathway to accomplish the mission entrusted to it by the President”. The HillNew York Times and Guardian also have the story.

The Washington Post Read Article
Facebook fact-checker has ties to climate doubt

Facebook’s newest fact-checking partner is connected to an enterprise that was “founded by a conservative Fox News host and that routinely promotes climate doubt”, E&E News reveals. Facebook is teaming up with CheckYourFact.com – which is owned by right-leaning news outlet the Daily Caller – to provide oversight of news on the social media site. Susan Joy Hassol, director of the science outreach nonprofit group Climate Communication, tells E&E News that the climate stories published by the Daily Caller create a false impression of the level of certainty about climate change within the climate science field. E&E News notes that Facebook “gives its fact-checkers tremendous power to reduce the number of viewers who can see news in their feeds.”

E&E News Read Article

Comment.

The Extinction Rebellion scorecard: what did it achieve?

After two weeks of protests from the climate activists Extinction Rebellion, a number of publications have published perspectives on the impact of the demonstrations. Matthew Taylor, environment correspondent for the Guardian, says that while “the short answer” is that the group’s three core demands – to tell the truth, hit net zero carbon emissions by 2025, and create a citizens’ assembly on the climate crisis – have not been met, he adds that “in each area progress is visible”. “Partly through pressure from XR, scores of councils and local authorities in the UK have declared a climate emergency in recent months – as has the Labour party”, Taylor observes. And while “the UK is nowhere near hitting zero emissions by 2045, never mind 2025…the fact that this demand is now out there has changed the parameters of the debate”. In another piece for the same paper, Guardian columnist Owen Jones writes that “Extinction Rebellion has retaught a lesson every generation must learn: that civil disobedience works”. Jones goes on to suggest that we should tackling climate change by nationalising oil companies: “As long as they remain under private ownership on a global scale, humanity’s future will be threatened”. A feature in Vox declares that “the climate protests disrupting London are different”. It adds: “Extinction Rebellion is sounding a shriller alarm than past climate protests…deploying ostentatious, nonviolent tactics”, say Vox journalists Elizabeth Barclay and Umair Irfan. The piece continues: “If a protest is measured by how much attention and irritation it stirs up, then Extinction Rebellion has been wildly successful.” DeSmogUK interviews a number of the protestors in a review of the group’s “10 days in the spotlight”.

Meanwhile, in an opinion piece for the Times, columnist Iain Martin argues that “we don’t need climate lectures from Greta [Thunberg]”, the Swedish teenage climate activist. Martin writes: “Her central claim, made repeatedly, that ‘nothing’ is being done [on climate change] is demonstrably false. For several decades, western governments have aimed energy policy at tackling this challenge.” He claims that: “The complex story of Britain’s abandonment of high-polluting coal as a source of fuel is one of the great success stories of modern British history.”

Matthew Taylor, The Guardian Read Article
Climate change reporting should be obligatory

“By any objective standards, the global climate and biodiversity crisis should be front page news almost every day”, begins an opinion piece by environment writer John Gibbons. Gibbons suggests that “Ireland’s collective response to the climate crisis has been woeful” and accuses it of doing “almost nothing in terms of public information campaigns to alert or inform the public on climate issues”. The piece concludes: “Since the climate crisis is covered only fitfully, and often simply framed as a dispute between opposing factions, it’s hardly a surprise that so many people have no idea just how dire the situation already is.”

John Gibbon, The Irish Times Read Article
Fossil fuel ban on public lands becomes issue in 2020 Democratic race

“A number of liberal lawmakers…have begun calling for an end to leasing parcels of Western land to coal miners and oil and natural gas drillers”, writes Dino Grandoni, an energy and environment reporter for the Washington Post. “The idea of a fossil-fuel moratorium has gained momentum among Democrats”, Grandoni explains, adding that “the latest, and loudest, call for a moratorium comes from Senator Elizabeth Warren”. The piece notes that “the vows to shield public lands from more leasing matter because unlike other liberal priorities such as expanding Medicare or lowering the cost of higher education, the president has the authority to put in place such a moratorium with a stroke of a pen”.

Dino Grandoni, The Washington Post Read Article
Outrage and optimism

Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who now convenes Mission 2020, has launched a new podcast “about solving the climate crisis and remaking the world”. The first episode features an interview with Sir David Attenborough. The podcast is co-hosted by Tom Carnac and Paul Dickinson.

Christiana Figueres, Apple Podcasts Read Article

Science.

Slowdown in Antarctic mass loss from solid Earth and sea-level feedbacks

Uplift generated by the response to ice loss over short time scales close to ice-sheet grounding lines (areas where the ice becomes afloat) can provide an important negative feedback on ice sheet loss. This study provides a new global simulation of Antarctic ice sheets that captures all processes impacting ice sheets. It shows a projected negative feedback in grounding line migration of 38% for Thwaites Glacier 350 years in the future, or a 26.8% reduction in corresponding sea-level contribution compared to models run without uplift. This suggests that Antarctic ice loss may be less severe than previous worst-case estimates.

Science Read Article
How strong is influence of the tropics and midlatitudes on the Arctic atmospheric circulation and climate change?

Inter-annual variability in Arctic atmospheric circulation can be relatively well‐constrained by conditions in lower latitude regions (south of 52N). In general, the link in winter is stronger than that in summer. Furthermore, the tropics and midlatitudes have different preferred pathways by which they influence the Arctic. Winter surface warming trends over the Arctic are driven strongly by the local sea ice‐atmospheric interaction. Warming at higher altitudes is strongly tied to remote non‐Arctic drivers, with some local amplification. Summer warming trends in northeastern Canada and Greenland are driven strongly by sea surface temperature/sea ice changes and partly by the tropics. The summer warming in northern Europe and western Russia is more strongly driven by the midlatitudes.

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article

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