Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Global new clean energy investment totalled $282bn last year: research
- Arctic temperatures hit 30C, raising risk of forest fires
- Coronavirus: Home insulation 'could create cheap jobs'
- Brazil deforested 10,000 square km of Amazon rainforest in 2019, up 34% on year
- UK faces a climate ‘crunch decade’
- Coral reef islands can accrete vertically in response to sea level rise
- Translating climate beliefs into action in a changing political landscape
- Global land monsoon precipitation changes in CMIP6 projections
Clean energy investment rose 1% last year to $282bn, Reuters reports, based on research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and the UN Environment Programme. Within the global total, China’s spending fell to the lowest level since 2013, at $83bn, while US investment rose 28% year-on-year to $56bn, Reuters says, “as onshore wind developers rushed to take advantage of tax credits before their expected expiry” and investment in Europe fell by 7% to $55bn. The newswire notes that while investment in 2019 increased by 1%, the new capacity bought for the money rose by 12% as renewable costs continued to decline. Bloomberg covers the report’s forward-looking analysis finding that governments and countries around the world have already committed to building another 826 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable energy capacity by 2030, excluding hydro. [The website’s headline “New green power installations set to plummet this decade” rests on the assumption that only clean energy plans already in place would be pursued.] The publication says the likely cost of these existing commitments for the 2020s is around $1tn, which it says is 63% lower than the total spent during 2010-2019. It quotes BNEF head Jon Moore noting that “official targets for 2030 are far short of what is required to address climate change”.
Meanwhile, E&E News via Scientific American reports the latest annual International Energy Agency (IEA) report on “Tracking Clean Energy Progress”, under a headline saying “most clean energy tech is not on track to meet climate goals”. Of 46 indicators tracked by the IEA, from transport to buildings and the power sector, only six are on track, the publication says. A separate Reuters story reports that US solar capacity growth will increase by a third in 2020, according to forecasts from the US Solar Industries Association and consultancy Wood Mackenzie. And Bloomberg has a feature on “the massive wind park the virus couldn’t stop”. It continues: “The $8bn Markbygden site, set to be Europe’s largest onshore wind farm, kept construction going through lockdown, helped by Sweden’s laissez-fire approach to the virus. But it’s emblematic of an industry that – globally – has weathered the pandemic better than its peers in conventional energy.”
Finally, several publications including Reuters, BBC News and Bloomberg report the yesterday’s launch of an offshore wind leasing round in Scotland. Reuters says investments in the offshore wind projects the leasing round will make possible could total £8bn, according to Crown Estate Scotland. BBC News says the licensing round is the first in Scotland for a decade.
Temperatures within the Arctic Circle have hit 30C this week, reports the i newspaper, in a development it says is “sparking fears the region could be facing another devastating year of forest fires”. The Independent reports that parts of the Arctic are more than 10C warmer than usual for this time of year and that “the record wildfires that tore across the tundra last summer are returning”. It adds: “It is thought many of the fires erupting are ‘zombie fires’, so-called because despite the cold, wet winter, they have nonetheless continued to smoulder, often in peatlands, and then reignite when warmer drier weather arrives.” In related news, InsideClimate News reports that a drop in sulfate air pollution during the coronavirus lockdown “could intensify Arctic heatwaves”. Meanwhile Reuters reports on the ongoing oil spill disaster in the Russian Arctic, where “wind, rain and cold” are complicating cleanup efforts.
Separately, a Guardian podcast on Earth’s other pole describes “A journey into Antarctica: the unavoidable signs of global heating.” In the podcast, the paper’s global environment editor Jonathan Watts talks about his experiences in the islands of Antarctica on a scientific voyage earlier this year.
A home insulation drive would be the cheapest way to create jobs in any post-Covid economic stimulus for the UK, according to a study reported by BBC News. The story adds: “Its authors say a job insulating homes would be much cheaper than creating a road maintenance job, for example…The figures will be sent to the Treasury, which is reviewing a package of job stimulus measures for July.” The broadcaster says the report comes from “a coalition of charities, businesses and pressure groups known as the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group”. Press Association via ITV News also covers the story and the Independent covers a separate report that says a low-carbon and renewable economy could create 700,000 jobs in England by 2030.
Revised Brazilian government data shows deforestation in the Amazon rainforest last year was worse than thought, Reuters reports. The newswire says deforestation during president Jair Bolsonaro’s first year in office reached 10,129 square kilometres, up 34% year-on-year and higher than the Brazilian space agency’s initial estimate of a 30% increase. Reuters adds that the revised figure remains the highest since 2008 and that “deforestation has continued to worsen in 2020, rising 55% for January to April, as compared to the same period in 2019”.
Another Reuters story reports that Brazil’s government has approved a plan to complete a long-delayed nuclear plant. It adds: “State-owned Eletrobras needs a private partner to help it finish the 1,400 megawatt [Angra 3] reactor started in 2010. Possible candidates include companies in China, Russia, France and South Korea…So far, 9bn reais ($1.8bn) have been spent on the project that stalled in 2015 due to cost overruns and a corruption scandal involving contractors.”
In an interview with Politico, Chris Stark, chief executive of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change discusses what it will mean for the country to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Stark tells the website that the committee’s recommendations on how to reach that goal, due in December alongside advice on the UK’s carbon budget for 2033-37, will address not only the energy transition but also the societal transition. The website explains: “That means changes to how the UK uses agricultural land, what people eat and how they travel.” In the interview, Stark notes how most recent progress in cutting UK emissions has come in the power sector and also points to the future role of hydrogen, which according to Politico could play a “key role in greening the one-third of the economy that can’t be easily electrified”. Stark is quoted saying: “That would make the hydrogen sector as big as the electricity sector is today. That gives you a sense of the scale of it, and that needs to be achieved over a few decades. It’s enormous, absolutely enormous.”
Writing in the Times, the paper’s chief leader writer Simon Nixon points to German plans for a national hydrogen strategy – reported yesterday by Reuters – and says that the UK is “missing out” on what he calls “the most promising new green technology”. Nixon adds: “Eighteen countries now have hydrogen strategies, including China, Japan and the United States.” However, he adds: “The reality is that hydrogen makes little sense as a purely national strategy. That’s because few countries have the surplus renewable energy needed for large-scale production. Far better to produce the hydrogen in places where renewable energy supplies are plentiful and cheap, such as southern Europe and north Africa, and then deliver the gas via existing networks.”
In other UK comment, James Dyke – a senior lecturer in global systems at Exeter University – writes for the i newspaper that it is “great” that Britain has not burnt coal for power for two months but “we still have a lot of work to do in reducing our carbon emissions, in very little time”. For the Daily Telegraph, international business editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard argues that China’s reported threat to pull out of two planned new nuclear plants in the UK is “wonderful news”. He explains: “It no longer makes any commercial sense to build large nuclear plants ever again in Britain. They are prohibitively expensive.”
Coral reef islands – defined as sandy or gravel islands on top of coral reef platforms – may be able to adapt naturally to rising sea levels by accumulating, or “accreting”, sediment, a new study suggests. Using numerical modelling, the researchers find that reef islands “can evolve under sea level rise” by “wave overtopping processes transferring sediment from the beachface to the island surface”. The results “indicate that such natural adaptation of reef islands may provide an alternative future trajectory that can potentially support near-term habitability on some islands, albeit with additional management challenges”, the authors conclude.
The election of Donald Trump as US president “may have polarised public climate beliefs”, a new study suggests. The study continues: “Compared with pre-election levels, supporters’ climate beliefs grew weaker and, further, opponents’ climate beliefs grew stronger after his election.” These changing beliefs influenced climate actions in the public “by activating moral sentiments about their own environmental behaviour (i.e., guilt, striving to be a better person)”. The results “suggest the election of climate-sceptical political leaders can impact the public’s climate beliefs”, the authors conclude, adding: “Moreover, climate beliefs interact to influence the moral sentiments people feel about their own behaviour, and consequently, influence their climate-friendly behavioural intentions and policy preferences.”
New research projects changes in the global and sub-monsoon regions using models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6). The simulations suggest that by 2080‐99, the monsoon summer rainfall will increase by about 2.5%, 3.5%, 3.5% and 5.8% under Shared Socioeconomic Pathway (SSP) 1‐2.6, SSP2‐4.5, SSP3‐7.0 and SSP5‐8.5, respectively. (See Carbon Brief’s SSP explainer for more information on these scenarios.) The projected enhancement of the monsoon “is caused by thermodynamic responses due to increased moisture, which is partly offset by dynamic responses due to weakened circulation”, the authors say.
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