Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Global emissions plunged an unprecedented 17 percent during the coronavirus pandemic
- Coronavirus fallout to slow global growth in renewable energy
- Australia: Morrison to redirect climate funds to carbon capture and big emitters
- Third of North Sea oil and gas likely to be left in ground
- Welcome to the end of the ‘human climate niche’
- How renewable energy could power Britain's economic recovery
- Understanding future change of global monsoon projected by CMIP6 models
There is widespread global coverage of the Nature Climate Change paper showing a considerable drop in emissions amid the coronavirus crisis. The Washington Post reports that while the shutdowns and shuttered economies caused by the pandemic had fuelled a momentous decline, with a peak drop in daily emissions of 17% in early April, it is “unlikely to last”. According to Reuters, in the countries with the strictest lockdowns emissions from aviation “plunged” 75%, land transport fell by 50% and power generation by 15% in early April. It also notes that the study found that while emissions from industry dropped by roughly 35% those from people’s homes increased by 5%. New Scientist says the research team predicts emissions this year will ultimately drop between 4.2-7.5% on last year, whereas a rise of around 1% had been expected before the crisis. However, the magazine notes that such a decline “won’t slow climate change”, quoting study author Dr Glen Peters who says a 5% drop would be equivalent to a mere 0.001C less warming. The Financial Times also carries warnings about the short-lived nature of the changes, citing research by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in its coverage that shows levels of air pollutants in China bouncing back as the country emerges from lockdown. The Guardian’s article on the new paper notes that one message of the research is that changes to individual behaviour – such as not flying, working from home and driving less – still leave “the bulk of emission sources intact”. Coverage by BBC News also emphasises the limits of individual action, leading on concerns by the study authors that as people return to work and begin using their cars again, emissions will rise rapidly and “could soon be higher than before the crisis”. A further piece by the Guardian’s environment correspondent Fiona Harvey emphasises that the results are “no cause for celebration”, quoting various campaigners, scientists and industry experts to support this view. The Independent, MailOnline, Earther and Sky News are among the many other outlets covering the new study.
Carbon Brief also has detailed coverage of the study, including news of another similar study currently going through peer review. (Tomorrow, Carbon Brief will be hosting a free webinar to discuss the study’s findings.)
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that France and Germany – the EU’s two biggest economies – both want a “green” recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, “including recovery roadmaps for all economic sectors and a minimum price for carbon permits”. BusinessGreen says the Under2 Coalition, which consists of 220 state and regional governments, have urged governments “to place the Paris Agreement climate targets and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the core of economic recovery measures”.
The growth of renewable energy will slow for the first time in 20 years due to the coronavirus pandemic as developers build fewer wind farms and solar energy projects, according to the Guardian. The warning comes from the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) renewable energy market update report, which also notes that a rebound is possible, particularly if governments “support a green economic recovery from the pandemic”. The Guardian reports the world’s renewable capacity will grow by just 6% (167GW) this year, which is 13% less than the amount of new capacity that came online in 2019. Reuters states that the slower – though still considerable – growth forecast for this year reflects the impact of supply chain disruptions, lockdown measures and social distancing, as well as financing challenges. AFP notes that the IEA had previously “expected 2020 to be a bumper year for green energy”. The newswire reports that the US and China are still expected to boost their renewable capacity both this year and next, “as firms rush to complete projects before the expiry of government incentives”. In separate news, Reuters reports that, according to a ranking by consultancy EY, the US has overtaken China as the most attractive country for renewables investment.
In positive renewables news, Bloomberg reports that Spanish manufacturer Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy SA is set to build what will be the world’s largest wind turbine, just two metres bigger than the current record holder.
The i newspaper reports on analysis by BloombergNEF suggesting that in Europe large electric cars will be cheaper than their fossil-fuel counterparts by 2022 and that Covid-19 “will not torpedo the switch to greener driving”. Meanwhile, the “big read” in the Financial Times looks at the future of the car market amid coronavirus worries and quotes Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, who suggests the cleaner air seen in lockdown may encourage a transition to electric vehicles.
Scott Morrison’s government government in Australia has released the findings of the “King Review” into the country’s emissions reduction policies, and has agreed to recommendations to “open up climate funding to carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, and to big emitters”, according to Renew Economy. Among the 21 of 26 recommendations given the green light were paying big industrial companies to keep emissions below an agreed limit and providing funds from the government’s flagship $2.5bn emissions reduction fund to support CCS, according to the Guardian. The paper adds that the report comes after former gas industry executive and business council president Grant King “was asked to come up with new ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at low cost”. It also notes that fossil-fuel industry groups and companies have “applauded” the new measures. Analysis of the report in the Sydney Morning Herald concludes it is missing one crucial point: “At no point does it test the assumption, traced back to Tony Abbott’s time as Liberal Party leader, that huge outlays will do more for the country and the environment than an emissions trading scheme”.
An opinion piece written by the Guardian Australia’s political editor Katharine Murphy considers the government’s climate policies, suggesting it is using “the recovery from Covid-19 as cover to lock in fossil fuels for another couple of decades”.
More than a third of the oil and gas in UK waters could remain in the ground if oil prices remain at depressed levels caused by a drop in demand during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report covered by the Financial Times. The piece notes that “production at several mature North Sea fields has already been abandoned as operators rein in expenditure, while projects that were expected to be developed this year have been postponed. Meanwhile, analysis by the newspaper’s energy editor David Sheppard concludes that the industry faces “a stuttering, uneven return to normality”. While there are current signs of a rebound, he says, they are “tempered by the fear that demand will still take some time to get back to pre-crisis levels”.
A piece in the Independent asks if coronavirus “spells the end” for the coal industry in the US, while Reuters reports that Poland’s dominant gas company PGNiG anticipates a rise in gas use “as coronavirus speeds coal’s decline”.
In a piece for New York magazine, David Wallace-Wells considers the often-discussed links between climate change and coronavirus. “It has become commonplace to say that the coronavirus pandemic is the latest preview of the climate-change future,” he writes. Wallace-Wells says that “the most distressing way” the pandemic gives us a preview of our climate-change future is that the current situation is in fact “an adaptation success story”. He adds: “In the face of terrifying tumult, for which we found ourselves woefully underprepared, most of the world has managed to survive, yes, but under previously unthinkable conditions, struggling to catch a sliver of ‘normalcy’ and hopefully counting the months until we think this might all end. Now imagine it never will.”
A piece in Scientific American by veteran climate scientist Ben Santer discusses the failure of US leadership in responding to coronavirus. Elsewhere, a piece in Time magazine by climate scientist Peter Gleick reflects on the utility of Covid-19 modelling and compares it with models used for climate change. “The climate is the most complicated biogeophysical system on the planet, affected by factors as varied as the output of the sun and tilt of the earth; the composition of the atmosphere; the behaviour of winds, clouds, and ocean currents; interactions between the oceans, land, and atmosphere; and the behaviour of plants and animals. Despite this complexity, global climate models are remarkably accurate, able to reproduce in tremendous detail the behaviour of past and present climates.”
A piece by Guardian energy correspondent Jillian Ambrose considers the potential for a green recovery programme in the UK. “As the UK emerges from the financial maelstrom of the coronavirus pandemic analysts, economists and environmentalists argue that the renewable energy industry could – and should – play a greater role, powering a green economic recovery too,” she writes. She also quotes an array of experts discussing ways in which the renewable energy “could spur UK’s post-pandemic economy while tackling climate crisis”.
Human-caused climate change is likely to make the Asian-northern African monsoon become wetter and the North American monsoon drier, a new study finds. This is due to how climate change differentially affects the land and sea, the authors explain: “The greenhouse gases forcing induces a ‘land-warmer than-ocean’ pattern, which enhances Asian monsoon low pressure and increases Asian and northern African monsoon rainfall, and an ‘El Nino-like’ warming, which reduces North American monsoon rainfall.”
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