Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Gas heating ban for new homes from 2025
- UN report finds temperature rise is 'locked in' for Arctic
- Australia's annual carbon emissions reach record high
- Heathrow third runway unlawful, says Friends of the Earth
- Oil groups face dilemma on climate change
- Kids around the world plan to skip school this Friday to demand action on climate change
- Effects of global warming and solar geoengineering on precipitation seasonality
- Future changes in spring wheat yield in the European Russia as inferred from a large ensemble of high-resolution climate projections
New homes in the UK will have to be built with low-carbon heating systems from 2025, reports BBC News, following chancellor Philip Hammond’s “spring statement” announced yesterday. The ban on gas boilers for new homes will be accompanied by “world leading” insulation standards, BBC News says, adding: “It’s part of a bid by Philip Hammond to address the concerns of children protesting about climate change.” The move comes after the government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommended no new homes should connect to the gas grid by 2025 “at the latest”, says the Financial Times. [Carbon Brief covered the CCC’s report at the time.] Around 14% of UK greenhouse gas emissions come from homes, mainly their gas boilers, notes the Guardian, which says the planned 2025 ban will go out to consultation later this year. The move on gas boilers was criticised by the Home Builders Federation and GMB Union, reports the Times. Several papers carry inaccurate headlines via their online coverage, including MailOnline (“The end of the gas boiler”) and the Sun (“Fossil fuel gas hobs and boilers BANNED in all new-build homes from 2025” – the chancellor did not say anything about gas hobs.) The chancellor announced a “grab bag” of other green measures, the FT says, including looking at how to raise the proportion of “green gas” injected into the grid and giving consideration to whether airlines should be required to offer “genuinely carbon neutral offsets” for all flights. BusinessGreen quotes the chancellor saying: “As with the challenge of adapting to the digital age, so with the challenge of shaping the carbon neutral economy of the future, we must apply the creativity of the marketplace to deliver solutions to one of the most complex problems of our time, climate change.” The chancellor also announced a call for evidence on how to help small businesses cut their energy bills, BusinessGreen says. A second article from BusinessGreen gathers reactions to the spring statement from the “green economy”, including the CCC’s chief executive Chris Stark saying the 2025 boiler ban for new homes “represents a genuine step forward” and Friends of the Earth criticising the scope of the chancellor’s speech for “fiddling in the margins while the planet burns”. The Independent and City AM also cover the chancellor’s statement on gas boilers.
The Arctic region is now “locked in” to unnatural levels of warming, according to a new UN Environment report covered by the Hill and others. The Hill says: “Dramatic temperature increases in the globe’s northernmost region, which is typically covered by permafrost, is unavoidable, according to the report released at the United Nations Environment Assembly.” Even if the goals of the Paris climate deal are met, it continues, Arctic winter temperatures will still rise by 3-5C by 2050 and 5-9C by 2100. The Guardian also has the story. There is also continuing coverage of the UN Environment’s sixth Global Environment Outlook, which says “urgent action” is needed to protect human and environmental health, according to the Hill. The report warns of “millions of premature deaths by 2050 due to environmental damage”, reports Reuters. According to the Independent, the report says a quarter of deaths worldwide are linked to environmental damage. Another UN Environment report recommends taxes to encourage plant-based diets to reduce emissions, report MailOnline and the Times.
Australian CO2 emissions have reached a record high despite declines in the electricity sector, reports the Guardian, which says those gains have been “wiped out by increases from other industries”. This includes increases from transport and fugitive methane released during coal and gas extraction.
A number of environmental groups, councils and London’s mayor are challenging government approval for a third runway at Heathrow airport, says the Guardian. One high-court challenge, brought by Friends of the Earth and Plan B, says the government failed to consider the impacts the runway would have on climate change, the Guardian says. It adds that this is one of five legal cases being brought against the plans. DeSmog UK also has the news.
It is very likely that oil consumption will have to fall by 2040 if the world is to stay “well below” 2C above pre-industrial temperatures, says a feature in the Financial Times. This presents a dilemma, the article continues: “Oil companies want both to say they are taking the threat seriously…and to hold out the promise that they can continue to grow.” It reports that many executives at the CERAweek oil conference in Houston, Texas, this week “wanted to put across the same message about how they planned to tackle that dilemma”, namely: “Even if demand does fall in the coming decades, they say, they will be resilient enough to thrive.” But the article concludes: “If every oil company in the world believes they can win this contest, holding out to be the last producer standing, they cannot all be right. A 30% drop in consumption [by 2040] would mean that some would have to lose out. In the Darwinian struggle to adapt to a new energy system, some will inevitably become extinct.” Axios says the rise of electric and autonomous vehicles – and their potential effects on oil demand – has been a focus at the week-long conference in Houston. A second Financial Times article reports that oil majors are facing criticism over their silence while the Trump administration rolled back regulations on methane emissions. Several firms have made new commitments to control leakage from their operations, it notes. Reuters covers one such commitment, from BP. Separately, Reuters reports that Shell has “teamed up” with two other firms in a bid to build Dutch offshore windfarms, while Climate Home News reports on the rush to “grab [the] world’s next billion [energy] customers” in Africa, where energy and oil majors are expanding.
Tens of thousands of students worldwide will be skipping school this Friday to demand greater action on climate change, says a CNN feature that explains where the movement came from, why the children are striking, what they want to change and “how to get involved”. Politico also covers the expected “vast protests”. It says that politicians “are trying to balance growing public demand for more climate action against the fear of sparking violent backlashes”, pointing to the “yellow vest” movement in France as a “reminder that there are powerful parts of society more worried about jobs and living costs than climate”. In a comment for the LA Times, veteran climate activist Bill McKibben teams up with student climate protestor Haven Coleman to argue: “Maybe, at least for a day, there’s more education to be found out in the street. Instead of studying history, it’s time to make it.” The piece is headlined: “Students are striking for action on climate change — a truancy everyone should applaud.” Elsewhere, Reutersreports that New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern has given her support to student climate protestors, while the Guardian carries a comment from Hugh Hunter, a 15-year-old climate protestor from New South Wales in Australia. Separately, the Guardian has a feature on “10 UK activists on the frontline of our most serious environmental issues”, noting that schoolchildren are “not the only everyday people inspired to take action”.
Using solar geoengineering to completely offset the global warming caused by a quadrupling of CO2 emissions could affect regional rainfall patterns, research finds. The modelling study finds large increases in CO2 simulates large increases in rainfall in most world regions, but the use of solar geoengineering largely offsets those increases. However, for some regions such as in northern parts of South America, the Arabian Sea and Southern Africa, solar geoengineering does not significantly offset rainfall increases, the research finds. (On Monday, Carbon Brief published an article explaining the results of a study exploring changes to regional rainfall if solar geoengineering is used to halve warming.)
Spring wheat yields could fall by 10% by 2050 in Russia if the world experiences severe climate change, new research finds. Using a crop model, the researchers find that a “high emissions” future scenario (RCP8.5) could have varying regional impacts across Russia. In the fertile Central Black-Earth region (southwest of Moscow), for example, yields could decrease by 33% by 2099. “However, the major losses in total production (gross yield) are expected to occur in the Privolzhsky Federal District – where the spring wheat areas amount to 87% of the total cultivated area in the region,” the authors say.
Expert analysis directly to your inbox.