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Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING ‘Extraordinary thinning’ of ice sheets revealed deep inside Antarctica
‘Extraordinary thinning’ of ice sheets revealed deep inside Antarctica


‘Extraordinary thinning’ of ice sheets revealed deep inside Antarctica

New analysis of satellite data reveals ice losses are rapidly spreading deep into the interior of the Antarctic, the Guardian reports. The warming of the Southern Ocean is resulting in glaciers melting increasingly rapidly, with ice now being lost five times faster than in the 1990s. The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, compared millions of satellite measurements of ice-sheet height from 1992 to 2017 with weather data. This distinguished short-term changes owing to varying snowfall from long-term changes owing to climate. Almost a quarter of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet can now be considered “unstable”, says BBC News. This means more ice is being lost from the region than is being replenished through snowfall. The British-led study was also presented in Milan at the Living Planet Symposium. “We’ve been able to identify the parts of Antarctica that are undergoing rapid, sustained thinning – regions that are changing faster than we would expect due to normal weather patterns,” said Dr Malcolm McMillan from Lancaster University. Altogether, ice losses from East and West Antarctica have contributed 4.6mm to global sea level rise since 1992, notes the MailOnline.

The Guardian Read Article
Italy’s climate change-sceptic government wants to host COP26, the UN’s flagship climate change conference

“Italy is banking on European Union governments backing its bid to host next year’s UN flagship climate change summit, despite its deputy prime minister’s sketchy record on the issue,” reports BuzzFeed News. Earlier this year, the UK and Italy both formally announced their candidatures to host COP26, the UN’s 2020 climate summit. However, there are concerns that the nationalist Lega party – the junior partner in Italy’s governing coalition – has formed controversial alliances with far-right climate change deniers, says BuzzFeed. The outlet also reveals “that the British government is on a ‘charm offensive’, lobbying Italy to drop its bid, and has pitched a collaborative proposal”. A decision is expected later this year. It will be taken by a group of countries known as the “Western European and Other States,” which includes, among others, Australia, Canada, and the US — meaning that a bloc EU vote would go a long way in determining who hosts the summit.

BuzzFeed News Read Article
UK National Grid attacks Labour's renationalisation plan as profit dips

There is continued reaction to the Labour party’s proposed plans to renationalise UK energy networks. The head of National Grid has said it would increase costs for consumers and could prompt legal challenges. “The proposals that Labour have set are very complex and from our perspective would be a massive distraction for the industry,” chief executive John Pettigrew told Reuters yesterday. “It would ultimately increase the cost for customers…we’ve set out quite clearly that actually we don’t think their proposals will be good for customers or good for the decarbonisation agenda.” The Guardian and the Timesalso cover Pettigrew’s comments. (In related news, the Financial Times reports that full-year profits at National Grid fell by nearly a third as they had to write off funds spent to connect two planned new nuclear power stations in the UK that were subsequently cancelled.). Jeremy Corbyn launched Labour’s “green industrial revolution” in Manchester yesterday, reports Press Association, saying “we are going to ensure that 1.75m homes get solar panels and that the community benefits from that in lower heating bills for people in homes”.

Elsewhere, Phillip Inman, economics writer for the Guardian, looks at how a Labour government plans to pay for its multibillion-pound programme. And Times chief business commentator Alistair Osborne writes that “there are ways to tackle [the problems at the National Grid], without what Jezza’s got in mind”. In editorials, the Times describes the plans as “deeply flawed”, while also noting that “Labour would not be contemplating such reckless plans if there were not legitimate public concerns over the performance of the privatised utilities”. The Daily Telegraph’s editorial calls the plans “illegal and wrong”, adding: “Labour’s energy policy is essentially theft: seize control of the transmission structure and pay compensation at below the market rate. This is illegal under international law and would sting pension funds, while destroying the UK’s reputation as a good place to invest.”

Reuters Read Article
US Democratic hopeful Inslee unveils second climate change plan

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, has unveiled a plan to invest $9tn over 10 years in modern manufacturing and green infrastructure to “revitalise America’s economy for the 21st century”, reports Reuters. The “Evergreen Economy Plan” – the second portion of Inslee’s climate change plan – seeks to create 8m jobs aimed at decarbonising the economy, says the Guardian. “Our first [portion of the plan] was based on the standards that we need to set, and the second is a very robust, bold, and comprehensive plan on how to meet those standards,” Inslee told BuzzFeed News. The Washington Postcarries an interview with Inslee, who says “we have two existential threats to the health of our society…One is the climate crisis and the other is massive income inequality and the fact that half the people in the country haven’t had a raise for about twenty years.” And the Hill reports that Inslee has criticised fellow 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s approach to climate policy, saying the former vice president needs to “step up his game”.

Reuters Read Article
Investigators urge EPA to pursue Scott Pruitt for $124,000 in ‘excessive’ travel costs

Federal investigators have concluded that Scott Pruitt had spent nearly $124,000 on “excessive” travel arrangements as head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and recommended that the agency try to recover the money. The findings by the Office of Inspector General – the watchdog for the EPA – comes nearly a year after Pruitt resigned amid controversy over his spending, travel and relationships with lobbyists, says Axios. Investigators concluded that 40 trips Pruitt either took or scheduled in 2017 cost taxpayers almost $1m, reports the Washington Post. The “questioned amount” the watchdog identifies for possible recovery is the money that taxpayers spent on flying both Pruitt and a security agent in first or business class instead of economy. These were approved “without sufficient justification”, the report says, and “approved by an individual who did not initially have the authority to grant such approval”. The watchdog did not identify who exactly should be responsible for paying back the money, notes Politico. The Hill also covers the news, while the Hill has a copy of the full report.

In related news, a Reuters exclusive reveals that the EPA made it easier for oil refineries to get waivers from the nation’s biofuel law at least four months before a 2017 court decision it often cites to justify the move.

The New York Times Read Article
Greta Thunberg, student climate activist, named one of TIME's "Next Generation Leaders"

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has been profiled in TIME’s biannual list of “Next Generation Leaders”, which will be published today. Featuring on the frontpage of the magazine, Thunberg says in her interview: “Once we start behaving as if we were in an existential crisis, then we can avoid a climate and ecological breakdown. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long. We have to start today.”

Axios Read Article


'One day we'll disappear': Tuvalu's sinking islands

In a feature for the Guardian, New Zealand-based journalist Eleanor Ainge Roy travels to the island nation of Tuvalu to speak to residents about the threat of sea level rise. “‘Tuvalu is sinking’ is the local catch-all phrase for the effects of climate change on this tiny island archipelago on the frontline of global warming,” says Roy. “A Polynesian country situated in Oceania, Tuvalu is no more than a speck in the Pacific ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia.” Roy adds: “Already, two of Tuvalu’s nine islands are on the verge of going under, the government says, swallowed by sea rise and coastal erosion. Most of the islands sit barely three metres above sea level.”

Eleanor Ainge Roy, The Guardian Read Article
Denial and dampening ambition: Where do Europe's right-wing populist parties stand on climate change?

In an interactive feature, DeSmog UK’s Chloe Farand looks at where candidates for Europe’s key right-wing populist parties stand on climate change. “With the European elections around the corner, populists and right-wing parties are gathering momentum and teaming-up into a pan-European alliance,” writes Farand, noting that “dozens of candidates standing in the election are using climate science denial and anti-climate action rhetoric as a campaign strategy”. Farand looks at parties across Europe, including the new Brexit Party in the UK, the People’s Party in Belgium, and Lega Nord in Italy.

Chloe Farand, DeSmog UK Read Article


The impact of weather on economic growth and its production factors

Weather can have a sizable impact on the GDP of countries. This study examines its effect on total factor productivity, capital stock, and employment across 103 countries for the period 1961–2010. They find that the main impacts of weather occur through temperature and drive the growth in GDP. For higher levels of temperature, the poor countries are much more strongly impacted than the rich countries. These findings provide evidence for negative impacts of temperature on economic growth and its factors of production and point towards climate change as an important driver of international inequality.

Climatic Change Read Article


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