Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Global Temperatures Are on Course for Another Record This Year
- Treasury cut to carbon capture will cost UK £30bn, says watchdog
- Vienna climate meeting aims for progress on deal to cut HFC use
- Academies warn Brexit 'damaging science'
- UN chief calls for quick ratification of Paris climate deal
- Infrastructure 'still faces flood risk'
- How Renewable Energy Is Blowing Climate Change Efforts Off Course
- 'Mr Coal's' super ministry and the challenges of merging energy with the environment
- Stomatal response to humidity and CO2 implicated in recent decline in U.S. evaporation
- Evaluating, predicting and mapping belowground carbon stores in Kenyan mangroves
NASA scientists announced yesterday that global temperatures so far this year were much higher than in the first half of 2015, which was itself the hottest year ever recorded. There is a 99% probability that the whole of 2016 will become the third consecutive year of record temperatures, according to Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies. The warm temperatures have been given a boost by the weather phenomenon El Nino, but can mostly be attributed to the excess heat that has built up in Earth’s atmosphere due to accumulating greenhouse gases, writes Scientific American. Climate Central and the Guardian also cover the story.
A decision made last autumn to scrap a £1bn carbon capture and storage (CCS) competition may have pushed up the bill for meeting the UK’s climate targets by £30bn, according to a report by the National Audit Office. Both the UN’s climate panel and the UK’s official climate advisors have warned that the cost of tackling climate change will be doubled without CCS. Mary Creagh, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee which commissioned the report, said: “It is critical that government establish a new strategy for supporting large scale deployment of CCS.” Climate Home, BusinessGreen, New Scientist, the Telegraph and Reuters also have the story.
Officials from nearly 200 countries are meeting in Vienna this week to try and come to an agreement on the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), by amending the Montreal Protocol, and ozone-protection treaty that went into force in 1989. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases, and so this could be the most significant measure to combat global warming since last year’s Paris climate agreement, Reuters reports. Replacing the HFCs, used in heating and air conditioning, with climate-friendly alternatives “could avoid a rise of 0.5 degree Celsius by the end of the century,” said Gina McCarthy, of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Brexit is already harming science, say seven of the UK’s national academies representing science, medicine and engineering , in a joint letter to the government. They call for the government to make a “bold public commitment” to prioritise research in Brexit negotiations, the BBC reports. In a separate article by the BBC, individual researchers discuss the effects of Brexit on their funding and collaborations.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wants nations to quickly join the Paris climate agreement, which enters into force once 55 nations representing at least 55 percent of global emissions ratify or join it. “The next step in our collective journey to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future is to ensure the rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement”, he said in a letter to world leaders on Tuesday. The UN will host an event on Sept 21 for countries to formally enter the deal. So far, only 19 countries have entered the deal.
The UK’s roads, bridges, railways, hospitals, electricity, gas, water and internet remain at risk from floods, finds a government review prompted by devastating floods in the north of England last December. Rainfall should be managed from the source of the river to the sea, the report finds, although critics warn that the report doesn’t look at all types of flooding.
The world “would do well to reconsider the promise and the limitations of its infatuation with renewable energy”, argues Eduardo Porter, a columnist for the New York Times. Renewables are producing temporary power gluts, from Australia to California, that are “driving out other energy sources”, while in the US, renewables are helping to push nuclear power “into bankruptcy”. Displacing nuclear energy makes clearly makes the battle against climate change more difficult, Porter writes.
Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull’s to merge environment and energy under one minister “could to a breakthrough” in Australia’s toxic climate politics – or the new super ministry “could be set up for failure”. It depends entirely on whether the two sides are set in conflict or harmony with each other, argues Dan Cass, strategist at the Australia Institute, in the Guardian. In a separate article in the Conversation, Anna Skarbek argues that the new superportfolio can deliver “real action”.
Evapotranspiration over the US decreased by 6% between 1961 and 2014, including a sharp decline of 13% from 1998 to 2014, a new study says. The researchers use data from 236 weather stations across the US to estimate how daily evapotranspiration rates have changed. Ultimately, the decline is caused by a response to increases in carbon dioxide and, more recently, to an abrupt decrease in atmospheric humidity, the study concludes.
A new study maps the carbon storage of mangrove forests in Kenya. The majority of the carbon stored by mangroves is held underground, and most similar studies have focused on the top one metre of “belowground carbon” (BGC). Investigating two sites in southern Kenya, the researchers estimate BGC to depths beyond one metre, and develop estimates for mangroves throughout Kenya. The country level mangrove map provides a valuable tool for assessing carbon stocks, the paper says, and provides sufficient detail for highlighting and prioritising areas for mangrove conservation and restoration.
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