Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Fracking planning laws should be relaxed say ministers
- Climate change on track to cause major insect wipeout, scientists warn
- Oil and gas groups urged to step up climate change efforts
- EU aims to cut CO2 emissions from trucks by a third by 2030
- Republican congressman explains sea-level rise: it's rocks falling into the sea
- The EU’s plan to set a goal of zero-emissions by 2050 could be a big deal for climate action
- Statoil no more, but black gold is here to stay
- Plant Regrowth as a Driver of Recent Enhancement of Terrestrial CO2 Uptake
- Differences, or lack thereof, in wheat and maize yields under three low-warming scenarios
- The projected effect on insects, vertebrates, and plants of limiting global warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C
- Risks from climate extremes change differently from 1.5°C to 2.0°C depending on rarity
BBC News is among many reporting the news that the UK government has proposed a relaxation in the planning laws which apply to fracking for shale gas. “Under the plans, preliminary drilling could be classed as permitted development – the same law that allows people to build a small conservatory,” says the BBC’s environment analyst Roger Harrabin: “Ministers are also proposing a shale environmental regulator and a new planning brokerage service. Opponents of fracking say it shows the government is desperate to encourage fracking.” The Financial Times says the government has been accused of “trampling over democracy”, adding: “The government is to consult on whether seismic surveys and test drilling should be treated as “permitted development”, removing the need for planning approval. Energy minister Claire Perry floated the idea as part of a package of measures to streamline development of UK shale resources.” The Daily Telegraph says “fracking could become as easy as building an extension”. The Independent says the “proposed changes to the planning process could put an area nearly the size of Wales at immediate risk of drilling”. The Guardian explains that, under the new proposals, which will now go out to consultation, “fracking sites could be classed as nationally significant infrastructure, meaning approval would come at a national rather than local level”. It adds: “Planning authorities will also be given £1.6m to speed up fracking applications over the next two years and a new shale environmental regulator will be created this summer.” BusinessGreen and Reuters also cover the story.
A number of publications report the findings of a new study in Science which says that global warming is on track to cause a major wipeout of insects, compounding already severe losses. The Guardian says: “The research shows that, even with all the carbon cuts already pledged by nations so far, climate change would make almost half of insect habitat unsuitable by the end of the century, with pollinators like bees particularly affected. However, if climate change could be limited to a temperature rise of 1.5C – the very ambitious goal included in the global Paris agreement – the losses of insects are far lower. The new research is the most comprehensive to date, analysing the impact of different levels of climate change on the ranges of 115,000 species. It found plants are also heavily affected but that mammals and birds, which can more easily migrate as climate changes, suffered less.” The MailOnline says that “among the thousands of species at risk are the endangered Black Rhinoceros and Charles Darwin’s Finches of the Galapagos”. InsideClimateNews says that the study assessed, “in more detail than ever before, a key measure of extinction risk: the shrinking size of each species’ current geographical range, or natural habitat”. Carbon Brief also covers the study in detail.
In an open letter to the FT, 60 major investors, which oversee almost $10.5tn in assets, have called for the oil and gas industry to be “more transparent and take responsibility for all of its emissions”. Aberdeen Standard Investments, Axa Investment Managers and 58 other big investors have demanded oil and gas companies intensify their efforts on climate change. The FT says it is “the clearest sign yet that asset managers and pension funds are increasingly concerned about the financial impact of global warming”. The letter states: “Through a proposal put forth by NGOs, investors attending Royal Dutch Shell’s meeting next week will be asked to vote on whether the company should set firm carbon emissions targets aligned with the Paris accord…Regardless of the result at the Shell AGM, we strongly encourage all companies in this sector to clarify how they see their future in a low-carbon world.”
New large trucks in the European Union will have to emit at least 30% less CO2 by 2030 than in 2019 under the bloc’s first-ever CO2 standards for trucks. The industry has responded by saying the plans are “far too aggressive”. Reuters says: “The EU currently has no limits on the CO2 produced by trucks, which account for a quarter of all road transport emissions while making up just 5% of vehicles on the road. Countries such as the United States, China, Japan and Canada have already set targets to reduce truck CO2 emissions.” BusinessGreenalso carries the story.
Mo Brooks, a Republican Congressman from Alabama, has been mocked for suggesting that the White Cliffs of Dover tumbling into the English Channel was causing rising sea levels. The Guardian says: “Brooks pushed back at the notion that rising sea levels were the result of global warming in a hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology…Instead, Brooks pointed to silt deposition as well as erosion as a cause of rising sea levels. Questioning scientist Phil Duffy of the Woods Hole Research Center, Brooks postulated that silt and mud washed by rivers into the ocean caused water levels to rise as it settled on the sea floor. ‘Now you have got less space in those oceans because the bottom is moving up…What about the White Cliffs of Dover…[and] California, where you have the waves crashing against the shorelines, and time and time again you have the cliffs crashing into the sea? All of that displaces water which forces it to rise, does it not?'” Science also covers the story, adding: “A leading climate scientist [Duffy] testifying before the panel spent much of the two hours correcting misstatements.”
Rathi notes that Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU climate head, has announced that the bloc is aiming to cut emissions to zero by 2050: “The goal already has the backing of the European Parliament, and the EU will be launching public consultations within the next few weeks. If the EU succeeds in binding itself to the target, it could be a big deal for climate action. Though smaller countries both within the EU and outside have committed to a zero-emissions goal— the EU would be the largest emitter to commit to it. It would set a benchmark for other countries to shape their policies for such a goal…Previously, the EU had committed to cutting emissions by up to 95% of 1990 levels by 2050. It may seem like the previous goal is quite close to zero emissions, but the task of cutting emissions gets much harder the closer you try to get to zero. That’s because it would mean cutting all emissions in sectors that currently don’t have effective technological means to achieve it.” Separately, Rathi has another article in Quartz about carbon budgets headlined: “The way scientists define climate goals has given the world a false sense of hope.”
Critchlow, the former Telegraph business journalist now at S&P Global Platts, writes that, despite its new name Equinor, the company once known as Statoil is still the largest producer of oil and gas from the North Sea: “The new name is supposed to buff up the company’s environmental credentials and help to lure young talent to its workforce but it won’t change the financial facts that the majority of its investors like the most. Oil is still the most profitable and flexible commodity for energy companies to produce and sell.” He adds: “Despite the growth of electric vehicles and efforts to generate more renewable energy, the world will need more oil over the next 25 years…Given the strong likelihood of rising demand, should international oil companies be diverting shareholder cash away from the core production of oil and gas?”
Plant regrowth – via afforestation and natural succession – could have played a significant role in increasing the carbon sink of land, a new study finds. The amount of carbon stored by land has increased in recent decades, with some pointing to CO2 fertilisation – a process whereby higher CO2 levels facilitate increases in plant productivity – as the driving factor. However, the new research shows that plant regrowth may also be a driver in carbon uptake increases in some parts of the world.
This study assesses the impact of 1.5C and 2C warming targets on crop yeilds for wheat and maise. They find that if CO2 fertilization is not included, statistically significant differences in yields of both crops appear as early as the 2030s but the magnitude of the differences remains below 3% of the historical baseline in all cases until the second part of the century. In the later decades of the 21st century, differences remain small and eventually stop being statistically significant between the two scenarios stabilizing at 1.5C, while differences between these two lower scenarios and the 2C scenario grow to about 4%. The inclusion of CO2 effects erases all significant benefits of mitigation for wheat. These results seem to suggest that for globally averaged yields of these two grains the lower targets put forward by the Paris agreement does not change substantially the expected impacts on yields.
With current emission reduction pledges corresponding to 3.2°C warming, ecosystem range losses of >50% are projected in ~49% of insects, 44% of plants, and 26% of vertebrates. At 2°C, this falls to 18% of insects, 16% of plants, and 8% of vertebrates and at 1.5°C, to 6% of insects, 8% of plants, and 4% of vertebrates. When warming is limited to 1.5°C as compared with 2°C, numbers of species projected to lose >50% of their range are reduced by ~66% in insects and by ~50% in plants and vertebrates.
Warm extremes that occur every 20 years in today’s climate are expected to increase by 130% with 1.5C of global warming above preindustrial levels and by 340% at 2C, a new study finds. The findings show that “global warming of 2C would result in substantially larger changes in the probabilities of the extreme events than global warming of 1.5C,” the researchers say.
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