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Daily Briefing

20.10.2016
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Exxon backs ‘serious action’ on climate change, scientists accidentally turn pollution into renewable energy, & more
Exxon backs ‘serious action’ on climate change, scientists accidentally turn pollution into renewable energy, & more

News.

Exxon backs ‘serious action’ on climate change
Financial Times Read Article

ExxonMobil voiced its support for “serious action” to tackle climate change yesterday, including a tax on carbon emissions, the Financial Times reports, in a move to shed its image as industry laggard on green issues. The comments from Rex Tillerson, its chief executive, come just days after the US oil group launched a fightback against claims that it has misled investors. Exxon is under investigation in New York on suspicion that it violated US securities laws by withholding information about the risks posed to its business by climate change. “We share the view that the risks of climate change are real and require serious action,” Tillerson said, adding that Exxon had long supported a tax on carbon. Chevron, the other US oil major, remains more sceptical on climate policy.

Scientists accidentally turn pollution into renewable energy
The Independent Read Article

US researchers have accidentally discovered a way to reverse the combustion process, using complex nanotechnology techniques to turn carbon dioxide back into a fuel. The researchers had hoped the technique would turn carbon dioxide into methanol, but ethanol came out instead. Because the materials used are relatively cheap, the finding that could aid the development of new methods to fight climate change, for example to store excess electricity generated by wind and solar power. The researchers are now working to improve the efficiency of the process. Time Magazineand Yale Environment 360 also have the story.

Onshore windfarms more popular than thought, UK poll finds
The Guardian Read Article

Some 73% of the British public polled by ComRes support onshore windfarms – far higher than widely believed, even in rural areas. Wind power is far more popular than fracking or nuclear power, “contrasting with the UK government’s decision to block onshore windfarms but back shale gas exploration and new nuclear power plants”, the Guardian notes. Meanwhile a new poll has shown even stronger public support for solar energy – 83% for and 8% against – but ministers have slashed solar subsidies. “It’s plainly not true onshore wind is unpopular with the UK public. It’s time our politicians caught up. Onshore wind is already the cheapest tool we have to achieve energy independence, keep bills under control and tackle climate change”, said Max Wakefield of 10:10, who commissioned the study. The Conservative victory in 2015 has all but ended onshore windfarm developments, fulfilling a manifesto pledge to do so.

EDF ordered to switch off five reactors
The Times Read Article

EDF has been ordered to shut down five more reactors in France for emergency tests, to determine whether they contain hidden weaknesses in their reactor pressure vessels. The order is a “further blow to the finances and reputation of EDF”, the Times writes, the company building Britain’s first nuclear power station for 21 years at Hinkley Point. French power prices hit a four-year high yesterday amid fears of a supply crunch, and the shutdowns could mean less spare electricity to export to Britain, which imports French electricity during months of high demand.

Scientists find 500 U.S. seabed vents of powerful greenhouse gas
Reuters Read Article

Methane naturally escapes from the sea floor in many places around the world and can stoke global warming if it reaches the atmosphere. A new study has found 500 seabed vents bubbling the greenhouse gas into the Pacific Ocean, roughly doubling the number known in the US, Reuters reports. No one has had the technology to map seeps until recent decades, but “it’s most likely that they’ve been occurring for a long time”, said Gunnar Myhre, an expert at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo. Worldwide, scientists are trying to see if rising ocean temperatures cause more leaks.

Autumn anglers face the heat as warmer oceans cut salmon runs
The Times Read Article

One of the poorest autumn salmon fishing seasons in Scotland in years is raising concern that climate change and warming oceans could damage the industry permanently, the Times reports. Salmon industry experts believe that rising temperatures in Arctic waters are reducing the numbers of the cold-water krill on which the fish depend on to survive, while fishermen have been pulling in less than half their usual catch on rivers such as the Tweed. Game and coarse fishing is worth more than £130 million to the Scottish economy and supports almost 3,000 jobs.

British doctors and health professionals call for rapid coal phase-out
The Guardian Read Article

Groups representing Britain’s 600,000 doctors and health professionals say it is “imperative” to phase out coal, the Guardian reports. Tackling climate change and air pollution linked to the fossil fuel would improve health and reduce NHS costs, the health bodies say. “Climate change and air pollution are both major health threats…Pollution from coal plants alone costs the UK as much as £3.1bn each year in human health impacts”, says the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change in a report. The government has said it intends to phase out coal power plants by 2025 but the doctors say they are alarmed that no consultation papers looking at how this could be achieved have been published recently.

Comment.

Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump on science, energy, and the climate
John Timmer, Ars Technica Read Article

From all-in on renewables to all-in on denial of evidence, contrasts abound in the run-up to the US elections, says John Timmer, in a 3-page feature comparing the candidates’ positions on science and energy issues. While science is “central” to Clinton’s campaign, he notes, “it’s much more peripheral to other candidates”, while “Donald Trump appears to be willing to reject certain scientific conclusions entirely”.

That's 4 straight debates without a single question on climate change. Good job, everyone.
Brad Plumer, Vox Read Article

The four debates in the run-up to the US election have taken place without a single moderator asking about climate change, laments Brad Plumer in Vox: “Humanity is departing from the stable climatic conditions that allowed civilization to thrive, yet the most powerful nation on Earth can’t set aside five minutes to discuss”. Moderators resort to the “safer” topic of national debt, but climate change, he notes, is “not just a question of whether our grandchildren might have to pay somewhat higher taxes, it’s a question of whether multi-century droughts will ravage the Southwest, of whether the city of Miami will drown beneath the rising seas, of whether vital coral reefs will vanish forever”. Before the debate, energy secretary Ernest Moniz said that he wanted the moderator to ask the candidates to “state a position on climate solutions”.

Science.

The terrestrial carbon budget of South and Southeast Asia
Environmental Research Letters Read Article

In south and southeast Asia, only Bhutan and Laos have been net carbon sinks since the turn of the century, a new study suggests. Using observed data and a collection of vegetation models, researchers estimated emissions and uptake of carbon for the 16 countries in the region between 2000 and 2013. For fourteen countries, their carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels, land use change and forest fires outweighed the amount of carbon absorbed by the land.

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