Today's climate and energy headlines:
- G7 to release emergency aid for Amazon forest fire crisis
- G7: Trump skips talks on climate crisis and Amazon fires
- Lancashire fracking: 2.9 magnitude tremor recorded
- UK government planning fuel duty cut in emergency budget
- UK weather: Hottest late August Bank Holiday Monday on record
- Nuclear weapons and hurricanes don't mix, NOAA advises
- The Guardian view on the threat of Bolsonaro: tropical disaster is man-made
- Flight shame: can airlines ever reduce their emissions?
- Fracking boom promises good times ahead for America
- Enhanced oceanic CO2 uptake along the rapidly changing West Antarctic Peninsula
- Meeting GHG reduction targets requires accounting for all forest sector emissions
The Group of Seven wealthy nations (G7) will release more than $20m of emergency aid to help countries battle wildfires in the Amazon rainforest, reports Reuters. Speaking at the G7 meeting in Biarritz, French president Emmanuel Macron announced that “we will straightaway offer Amazonian countries that signal to us their needs, financial support of at least up to 20m euros”. Macron added: “We were all in agreement we should act but, done in full coordination with the countries of the region,” notes Politico. The money will also cover launching a longer-term global initiative to protect the rainforest, says the Guardian. This assistance plan, which will involve a programme of reforestation, will be unveiled at the UN general assembly meeting next month. Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau said that the country would send water bombers to Brazil to help fight the fires, reports Reuters. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro “lashed out” on Twitter in response, says the Independent, accusing world leaders of treating his country like “a colony or no-man’s land” and attacking its sovereignty. While the Sun reports that Bolsonaro “turned down” the money, Reuters says Brazilian environment minister Ricardo Salles told reporters in São Paulo that financial aid was welcome. Salles also said that “a series of irrational and demagogic public policies” from previous governments were to blame for the forest fires. In the latest updates this morning, BBC Newsand the Guardian report that Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, told the G1 news website that Brazil will reject the offer of aid. “Thanks, but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,” he said, adding that Brazil could teach “any nation” how to protect native forests. German foreign minister Heiko Maas said the planned trade agreement between the European Union and Latin American countries has allowed the bloc to exert pressure on Brazil, reports Reuters. “The Mercosur agreement…gives us possibilities and means to exert pressure to influence things on the ground (in Brazil),” Maas told diplomats in Berlin. And Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was quoted saying “there is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments”, says Climate Home News. Brazil’s agriculture minister Tereza Cristina Dias said countries “overreact” when they link the fires to the trade deal, reports another Reuters piece. In an exclusive, Reuters reports that the Brazilian administration “has distributed a 12-page circular to its foreign embassies, outlining data and statistics that diplomats are meant to cite to defend the government’s position on the crisis”. Brazil has also “ordered its ambassadors in Europe and other G7 countries not to take vacation for the next two weeks in order to coordinate a diplomatic response to global concerns over the fires”, says Reuters.
On Saturday, a number of publications reported that Bolsonaro had pledged to deploy the Brazilian army to help fight the fires. In a brief televised address on Friday night, Bolsonaro said that “the extensive use of armed forces personnel and equipment” would help fight “the advance of fires” in the Amazon region, reported the Financial Times. He also said that those living in the Amazon basin should be allowed “to develop along with the rest of the country” by exploiting the “incalculable wealth … of natural resources” in the region, reported the Daily Telegraph. BBC News, Reuters, the Hill and the Independent also covered the address.
Over the weekend, Pope Francis and Leonardo DiCaprio urged governments to do more to help tackle the fires, says additional Reuters reporting. And one expert tells the Independent that the rainforest is nearing a “tipping point” in which a third of its ecosystem could be irreversibly lost as the forests give way to grasslands. Finally, Reuters, the Daily Telegraph, the Conversation, the Hill and the BBC News visual and data journalism team all have explainers on the fires. And BBC News has a video of how the “Amazon rainforest is one of the world’s greatest, natural assets when it comes to tackling the problem of climate change”.
Donald Trump did not attend yesterday’s discussion on climate and biodiversity at the G7 meeting of international leaders in Biarritz, reports the Guardian, as he missed “talks on how to deal with the Amazon rainforest fires as well as new ways to cut carbon emissions”. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, confirmed Trump had not personally attended the climate session but that Trump’s team had been present. Trump was later asked by reporters whether he had attended the climate session, notes the Guardian. He replied: “We’re having it in a little while.” He did not appear to hear when a reporter told him it had just taken place. When asked for his views on climate change, Trump said: “I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth. The wealth is under its feet. I’ve made that wealth come alive…We are now the No. 1 energy producer in the world, and soon it will be by far,“ reports Reuters. He added: “I’m not going to lose that wealth, I’m not going to lose it on dreams, on windmills, which frankly aren’t working too well.” Trump also claimed that he was an “environmentalist”, says the Hill. “I think I know more about the environment than most people,” Trump said. “I want clean air. I want clean water. I want a wealthy country. I want a spectacular country with jobs, with pensions, with so many things. And that’s what we’re getting.” Senior aides in Donald Trump’s entourage have accused Macron of seeking to embarrass his US counterpart by making the summit focus on “niche issues” such as climate change, says the Guardian. The Guardian also reports that UK prime minister Boris Johnson “will call for more ambitious targets on biodiversity alongside measures to tackle the climate crisis” at the G7 “and reinforce the UK’s bid to host the COP26 climate change summit, due to be held next year”. And finally, Politico reports that United Nations secretary-general António Guterres told G7 leaders yesterday that the world is doing “much worse [on climate change] than we were during Paris”. “It’s absolutely essential that countries commit themselves to increase what was promised in Paris,” he said. “Because what was promised in Paris is not enough and what was promised in Paris is not even being implemented at the present moment. We need more ambition. We need a stronger commitment.”
An earthquake with a magnitude of 2.9 has been recorded near the UK’s only active shale gas site in Lancashire, reports BBC News and others. The tremor near Blackpool was recorded at about 08:30am yesterday. Cuadrilla said it was investigating the tremor and said no fracking was being carried out at the time, says BBC News. The tremor is the third in the past week, says the Financial Times, and is “believed to be the country’s largest from the gas extraction practice”. Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at Imperial College London, tweeted that the latest earthquake was located within a few hundred metres of the Preston New Road site, notes the FT. “With its shallow depth, it will have likely been felt quite strongly by people living close to the epicentre,” he wrote. The previous largest tremor at a fracking site was a magnitude of 2.3 in 2011, says Reuters. Yesterday’s tremor comes only two days after a 2.1 event was detected late on Saturday evening, notes the ITV News. The Financial Times, Independent, Reuters, MailOnline, Guardian and Sky News all have additional reporting.
The UK government is planning to cut fuel duty for the first time in eight years in a possible emergency October budget, Reuters reports. The Sunday Times, which first broke the story, says that prime minister Boris Johnson will “put Britain on an election footing” ahead of a potential no-deal Brexit. It adds: “The fuel duty cut will come in an emergency budget – which Johnson’s aides say could be as soon as next month – paving the way for a general election in October.” Fuel duty has been frozen by the government for nine consecutive years and stands at 57.95 pence per litre for petrol and diesel, notes the Press Association. The new budget would see the duty “come down by at least a penny”, says the Sun. “But industry insiders said officials were considering a 2p cut – costing the Treasury £1.5bn”. When asked about the story on Sky News, transport secretary Grant Shapps played down suggestions, says the Daily Telegraph. He said: “I’ll tell you what I’d really like to see happen, 27% of all the country’s CO2 comes from transport and 90% of that’s from vehicles, so actually by moving over to electric cars we will make the biggest difference.” City AM and the Daily Express also have the story.
This weekend has seen the hottest late August bank holiday weekend ever, reports BBC News, with temperatures reaching 33.2C (91.8F) at Heathrow in west London by 14:16 BST, the Met Office said. This beats the previous record of 28.2C set two years ago in Holbeach, notes the Independent. A second BBC Newspiece says the the record for the hottest late August Bank Holiday weekend was also broken on Sunday, with a high of 33.3C at Heathrow topping the previous record of 31.5C (88.7F) set in 2001 at the same site. “The records are just the latest of many that have been broken this year, prompting increasing warnings about climate change,” says the Daily Telegraph, which trails the record-breaking temperatures on its front pages on both Monday and Tuesday. The Guardian, Sun, Mirror and MailOnline all cover the records.
Using nuclear weapons to destroy hurricanes is not a good idea, a US scientific agency has said, following reports that president Donald Trump wanted to explore the option. The website Axios reported on Saturday that “President Trump has suggested multiple times to senior Homeland Security and national security officials that they explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes from hitting the United States”. Axios reported the story based on “sources who have heard the president’s private remarks and been briefed on a National Security Council memorandum that recorded those comments”. In response, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the results would be “devastating”, says BBC News, noting that using nuclear weapons on a hurricane “might not even alter the storm” and the “radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas”. Commenting on the Axios story on Twitter, Trump denied the report, calling it “ridiculous” and “FAKE NEWS”, says the Hill. The Washington Post notes that the US government did look at other ideas to reduce the severity of hurricanes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The MailOnline also has the story.
While support from the G7 to help tackle the fires in the Amazon is a “tactical victory for the planet”, “more will have to be done to change Mr Bolsonaro’s mind over the threat posed by the climate crisis”, says a Guardian editorial. “With the Brazilian economy still struggling to pull out of a long slump, [Bolsonaro] is looking for ways to turbocharge economic growth, but at least some of the world’s leaders have signalled – and rightly so – that this cannot be at any price for the planet.” “The G7 aid package to help Amazon countries fight wildfires is a start,” says the editorial, “but targets and protections are only effective when they are strictly applied”. “Europeans need to change their diets to reduce demand for carbon-intensive foodstuffs. They also ought to restrict market access unless conservation policies are reintroduced along with laws that can be enforced with transparent monitoring.” An editorial in the New York Times also focuses on the G7 meeting, saying “neither French president Emmanuel Macron…nor hardly anyone else seemed to find [it] particularly disturbing” that President Trump skipped the session on climate change and the Amazon fires. “In fact, they seemed relieved,” notes the editorial. “Other American officials were there, said Mr. Macron, and it had never been his goal to challenge Mr. Trump’s climate denialism. In fact, he said he and the American president had a ‘long, rich and totally positive’ discussion on the Amazon fires. Maybe they did, but by now Mr. Macron should know better than most that the Trump who likes being agreeable face to face can quickly turn mean at a distance.”
In Friday’s editorial, the Guardian says “rarely has there been more need of collective action on the world’s problems than at the G7 summit this weekend”. However, “rarely have the chances of success appeared so miserably low”, it adds. While French President Emmanuel Macron is “right” to put the Amazon rainforest on the agenda, “for meaningful action he will need buy-in from Mr Trump, and he is not going to get it from the world’s most powerful climate science denier”.
In a Financial Times “Big Read”, journalist Janina Conboye and environment and clean energy correspondent Leslie Hook ask how possible it is for the airline industry to cut their emissions. “Climate concerns have sparked a public backlash against flying that would have been almost unthinkable even a year ago,” they write. “With the rise of flight shame, airlines are racing to find an answer for how to decarbonise and reduce their climate impact,” Conboye and Hook say, “but the challenge is that there are no easy ways to reduce emissions meaningfully – at least not in the near term”. “Underscoring the difficulty of the problem, different airlines are taking quite separate approaches to reducing the emissions of their flights.” “Some airlines…believe one of the most promising areas is alternative low-carbon fuels”, the note, while “others are pinning their hopes on electric aircraft and hybrid battery-fuel designs”. Meanwhile, “activists are also growing more impatient with an industry which has set lofty objectives but which does not yet have the tools to meet them”, Conboye and Hook say. “Without solutions that can reduce the climate impact of flying in the immediate future, they say that people just have to fly less.”
In a new three-day series for the Times, US business editor James Dean investigates the “transformation of the US economy” caused by the exploration of shale oil and gas. The series focuses on the Permian Basin, an oil and gasfield that straddles Texas and New Mexico, “which has become the most important in the world”, says Dean. “The Permian, which began producing in the 1920s, was thought to have run dry only 20 years ago,” he writes. “Since then, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the recovery of the oil price have fuelled a boom that is still in its infancy.” “The resurgence of the Permian is the main reason that the US overtook Saudi Arabia to become the world’s top oil producer last year,” says Dean. “From being a considerable net importer of oil a decade ago, the US is on course to become a net exporter. By most estimates, the US will be producing enough oil to quench its own great thirst by the middle of the next decade, with significant ramifications for global politics.”
The ability of the ocean in the West Antarctic Peninsula to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere increased fivefold over the past 25 years, a study finds. The research finds that changes to ocean stability have increased the activity of diatoms, microscopic plants that draw down CO2 during photosynthesis. However, further ocean changes driven by warming could see the trend reversed, the authors add: “We hypothesise that continued warming and declines in sea ice will lead to a decrease in biological dissolved inorganic carbon drawdown.”
Wood harvesting has reduced the ability of US forests to remove CO2 from the atmosphere by around 20% over the past 100 years, a study finds. However, US forests have acted as net “carbon sinks” – “because there is a positive net balance of forest carbon uptake exceeding losses due to harvesting, wood product use, and combustion by wildfire”, the authors say. The findings suggest that “ forest carbon storage can become more effective in climate mitigation through reduction in harvest, longer rotations, or more efficient wood product usage”, they add.
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