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Briefing date 21.03.2023
Global warming set to reach 1.5C in the near-term, UN reports

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Global warming set to reach 1.5C in the near-term, UN reports
Financial Times Read Article

There is widespread media coverage of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was agreed on Monday following a week-long approval session in Switzerland. The report says that warming of 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures is “more likely than not”, according to the Financial Times. It continues: “Carbon emissions continued to rise relentlessly last year but they must fall by almost half by 2030 for the world to have any hope of limiting global warming to 1.5C, previous IPCC reports have said.” The new report reiterates this finding and, the FT notes, adds a new table spelling out the emissions cuts needed by 2035, 2040 and 2045 as well as 2050. (This is designed to inform the next rounds of climate pledges to the UN, which will cover the period to 2035.) Separately, BBC News says that “projected emissions of CO2 from existing fossil fuel infrastructure, such as oil wells and gas pipelines, would bust the remaining carbon budget”. Meanwhile, the Independent says “there needs to be drastic and deep GHG emissions cuts to keep the average global temperature below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels”. The Guardian’s frontpage coverage of the report says: “More than 3bn people already live in areas that are ‘highly vulnerable’ to climate breakdown, the IPCC found, and half of the global population now experiences severe water scarcity for at least part of the year. In many areas, the report warned, we are already reaching the limit to which we can adapt to such severe changes, and weather extremes are ‘increasingly driving displacement’ of people in Africa, Asia, North, Central and South America, and the south Pacific.” The report “is striking for how many references it includes to losses and damages already suffered by communities around the world”, the New York Times says. Climate Home News adds: “Scientists say funding needs to increase ‘many-fold’ in order to reach climate goals and protect communities disproportionately affected by global warming.” The Wall Street Journal says: “The world’s nations must together cut greenhouse-gas emissions 60% by 2035 to limit warming to 1.5C over pre-industrial levels.” The Times adds: “The IPCC report said that humanity’s role was ‘unequivocal’ in driving the 1.1C of global warming since the industrial revolution.” Meanwhile, the Guardian quotes IPCC chair Hoesung Lee: “Tackling climate change is a hard, complex and enduring challenge for generations. We, the scientific community, spell out the facts of disheartening reality, but we also point to the prospects of hope through concerted, genuine and global transformational change.”

The Independent notes that the new synthesis report “boils down the six previous IPCC reports published since 2018, which pulled together and analysed thousands of scientific papers”. It calls the report “the most clear-eyed, up-to-date assessment of the climate crisis”. The paper also quotes UN secretary general António Guterres, who spoke at a press conference to launch the report: “The climate time-bomb is ticking…But today’s IPCC report is a how-to guide to defuse the climate time-bomb. It is a survival guide for humanity.” Associated Press also quotes Guterres: “Humanity is on thin ice – and that ice is melting fast…Our world needs climate action on all fronts – everything, everywhere, all at once.” According to Climate Home News, Guterres is “launching an ‘all-hands-on-deck acceleration agenda’ which ‘starts with parties immediately hitting the fast-forward button on their net-zero deadlines to get to global net-zero by 2050’”. Politico adds that Guterres wants developed countries to commit to net-zero emissions by 2040 and emerging countries to do so by 2050. (There has been some confusion regarding whether Guterres was referring to net-zero CO2 emissions or net-zero greenhouse gases. The IPCC report says: “Pathways that limit warming to 1.5C with no or limited overshoot reach net-zero CO2 in the early 2050s, followed by net negative CO2 emissions. Those pathways that reach net zero GHG emissions do so around the 2070s.”)  Politico adds that Gurerres asked countries in the OECD group of developed nations to commit to a phaseout of coal by 2030, with other countries following by 2040. The Times covers the story on its front page under the headline “UN sounds alarm on net-zero targets”. The Daily Telegraph says: “The UK, like most other developed nations, has set a target for net-zero emissions by 2050, and its climate change advisers have said getting there quicker will ‘stretch feasibility.’” (The UK’s net-zero target is for all greenhouse gases by 2050. The “balanced pathway” to this goal set out by its official climate advisers reaches net-zero CO2 emissions around 2043.) The Independent reports that outgoing Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We’ve got to start taking it much more seriously or future generations will never ever forgive us, and rightly so.” And the Times of India quotes India’s environment minister Bhupender Yadav, who “said the report reaffirmed the role of unequal historical and ongoing contributions to emissions”.

The Financial Times reports that in “eleventh-hour discussions” to sign off the report, “fossil-fuel producing nations” led by Saudi Arabia “lobbied” for an emphasis on carbon capture and removal technologies. It adds: “This caused consternation among other participants who wanted a greater focus on cutting emissions ‘rather than relying on unproven technologies’, people familiar with the talks said.” A Guardian analysis says “what we do in the next few years will determine our fate for millennia”. It notes that the next IPCC report will be published around 2030, by which time “the most critical choices will have been made”. New Scientist says that campaigners are calling on the IPCC to bring forward the next set of reports, given the “pressing need for climate change to remain at the forefront of the political and social agenda over the next decade”. The Guardian has published a timeline of IPCC reports since the first assessment report in 1992. And the Independent has published five key graphics from the report. The report is covered separately in Reuters, Axios, Bloomberg, the New York Times, Le Monde, Politico, the i newspaper, Inside Climate News, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Washington Post, IFL Science, The Hindu, the Hindustan Times, the Scotsman BusinessGreen, Forbes, CNN, ITV News, Al Jazeera and the Hill.

UK: £100m boost for biggest UK hydro scheme in decades
BBC News Read Article

Energy firm SSE has made a £100m investment in a “giant hydro scheme”, which would double the UK’s ability to store energy for long periods, BBC News reports. According to the outlet, the proposed 1.5 gigawatt (GW) pumped storage facility, if built, would be Britain’s biggest hydroelectric project for 40 years. It adds that Scottish ministers approved the facility in 2020 but SSE wants assurances from the UK government before finally signing it off. The Times reports that the scheme would be capable of providing power to around 2m homes. A final investment decision is expected next year, it adds. 

In other UK news, the Daily Telegraph reports that “a US-based developer of small nuclear reactors [Last Energy] has signed a deal to sell 24 of its power plants to UK customers, putting pressure on rival makers including Rolls-Royce”. The paper says the £100m units “can output 20MW [megawatts] of electricity, enough to power 40,000 homes”. They “will be deployed in 2026 with no government funding required”, it says, adding: “The US company still needs to win UK regulatory approval for its designs and secure suitable sites before the deals are finalised and customers pay up. But it still expects its first plant to be delivering electricity in about three years.” The Financial Times has published a piece under the headline: “Can smaller reactors help meet the UK’s nuclear power targets?” It notes that advocates of the technology say it “would reduce the construction risks that have plagued large nuclear plants, enabling much faster build times”. The Guardian reports on fears from campaigners that a “loophole” will allow new homes in England to be fitted with gas boilers. According to the paper, the loophole “would allow new homes to be fitted with ‘hydrogen-ready’ boilers, although experts have told the paper that these are ‘functionally not much different from standard gas boilers’”. And the Times reports on the £20bn that the government has pledged for carbon capture and storage. Elsewhere, the Times reports that Drax – owner of Britain’s biggest power station – “has warned that the plant could become unviable when its subsidies run out in 2027, threatening Britain’s energy security”. Meanwhile, the Independent reports that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has said that expanding London’s ultra-low emissions zone (UlEZ) is now a “key frontier” in the global fight against climate change. And the Independent reports that beavers will be reintroduced to west London after 400 years of their absence to “help tackle climate change”.

US: Biden uses first veto to defend rule on ESG investing
Reuters Read Article

President Biden has used his first “veto” to reject a Republican proposal which would “prevent pension fund managers from basing investment decisions on factors like climate change, in the first veto of his presidency”, Reuters reports. According to the newswire, the bill cleared Congress on 1 March by 50-46, highlighting “Republicans’ willingness to oppose their traditional allies in Wall Street and corporate America that adopt what party lawmakers characterise as ‘woke’ liberal practices”. It continues: “Republicans claim the rule, which covers plans that collectively invest $12tn on behalf of 150m Americans, would politicise investing by allowing plan managers to pursue liberal causes, which they say would hurt financial performance.” The Hill says Congress is “unlikely to be able to override Biden’s veto, as it would require the support of two-thirds of both chambers”. Separately, the Hill says that Democratic senator Joe Manchin has called Biden’s decision “absolutely infuriating”, claiming that it puts his “progressive agenda” ahead of the needs of the country.

In other US news, the Hill reports that the Biden administration has announced nearly $200m in funding towards wildfire resistance. Elsewhere, the New York Times reports that a chapter in the new “Economic Report of the President” warns that climate change will require the federal government to “reassess its spending priorities”. The paper continues: “Administration economists, in an annual report, said that reassessment should include a new look at the climate-adaptation implications of aid to farmers, wildland firefighting and wide swaths of safety-net programs like Medicaid and Medicare, as the government seeks to shield the poorest Americans from suffering the worst effects of climate change.”

Factbox: How China benefits from Western sanctions on Russia's energy exports
Reuters Read Article

Chinese president Xi Jinping arrived in Russia on Monday in his “first overseas trip since securing a third term as president”, reports Reuters. It says the visit comes “just over a year after Russia launched what it calls a ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine”, “triggering sanctions” by the EU on purchases of Russian seaborne crude and coal, and a “price cap agreed by the Group of Seven on Russian crude oil” in December. With Moscow under pressure to sell surplus volumes no longer going to the EU, China has “saved billions of dollars” on purchases of “cheaper” Russian oil and coal and “made returns trading excess supplies”. The newswire adds: “Xi has said China wants a closer energy partnership with Russia that would maintain international energy security and supply chains.”

Meanwhile in Australia, shadow climate change and energy minister Ted O’Brien says while his and other nations have done “some really good work” relating to climate change, a lot of it is being “swallowed up” by China and other developing nations, reports Sky News. O’Brien is quoted saying: “It’s a reminder that this is a global ambition and it requires global efforts…the more that we can be using our diplomatic strength to also prompt the likes of China to move faster and further, the better.” (Australia was “for years an international laggard” on climate change while O’Brien’s party was in government, Reuters has reported previously.)

Elsewhere, the state-run newspaper Global Times, citing a report by China Media Group on Tuesday, writes that China’s “first hydrogen fuel cell powered “500-kilowatt-service vessel” was “put into service recently” in Zhongshan, south China’s Guangdong province, marking a “breakthrough” in the application China’s hydrogen technology in the marine sector. Finally, the state-run carries an “exclusive” interview with Pang Jun, dean of the School of Environment and National Resources, Renmin University China, and researcher of the National Academy of Development and Strategy, RUC, who shares views on how China’s “dual carbon” process can “parallel” economic development, and how the country can achieve the world’s “most considerable carbon emission reduction in a shorter time”.


The Guardian view on the IPCC warning: a last chance to save the planet
Editorial, The Guardian Read Article

There are a wide range of editorials and comment pieces on the IPCC’s newly released synthesis report. An editorial in the Guardian emphasises the need for greater public funding to effectively address climate change. “We cannot leave it to the private sector to solve global heating,” the paper writes. It continues: “That is why the state needs to be involved in a much bigger way – but without socialising risks and allowing banks to privatise the profit.” A Scotsman editorial characterises global warming as a “deadly disease”. It writes: “Politicians who fail to take this diagnosis seriously are lost in a fever dream. Their delusions will only lead to disaster.”

A brief Daily Mail editorial, on the other hand, calls the language of the report “hysterical” and “distinctly familiar”. It writes: “The prophecies of catastrophe by UN climate scientists yesterday were distinctly familiar. Disastrous global warming. Disastrous floods, heatwaves and famine.” The paper continues: “We’ve heard such hair-raising predictions many times over the years and they often fall short of reality… wouldn’t it be easier to trust the green lobby – and encourage people to make sacrifices to help the environment – if such hysterical language was avoided?” Meanwhile, climate sceptic Daily Telegraph columnist Matthew Lynn calls the report “nothing more than confected hysteria”, writing: “With just the slightest of nudges, free markets and commercially-driven innovation are more than capable of delivering dramatic reductions in carbon emissions. And they could do it a lot more quickly and cheaply, and with far greater popular consent, than the top-down, state-led solutions pushed by the IPCC and its supporters.” (The IPCC does not make policy recommendations.)

Bloomberg columnist David Fickling says that “even before you factor in any benefits in terms of avoided climate impacts and reduced health problems, switching to a low-carbon pathway is now reckoned to be the cheaper option in terms of up-front direct expenditure.” He continues: “At a carbon cost of less than $100 a tonne – comparable to the current prices of emissions allowances in Europe and tax credits in the US – there’s feasible technology out there capable of cutting emissions by half during the current decade, according to the IPCC…With fossil fuel emissions set to peak within two years, what matters now is not whether our carbon footprint shrinks – but the pace of the decline.” Meanwhile, in the Guardian, Vanuatu minister of climate change, Ralph Regenvanu, and Tuvalu minister of finance, Seve Paeniu, pen a joint comment piece on the impact of climate change on Pacific nations. They write: “Countries cannot continue to justify new fossil fuel projects on the grounds of development, or the energy crisis. It is our reliance on fossil fuels that has left our energy infrastructure vulnerable to conflict and devastating climate impacts, left billions of people without energy access, and left investment in more flexible and resilient clean energy systems lagging behind what is needed.” 

Finally, the Times environment editor Adam Vaughan draws the findings of the report back to UK policy and its target to reach net-zero by 2050, which it is currently on course to miss. “Net-zero secretary Grant Shapps is planning a ‘Green Day’ later this month, where he can use the IPCC ‘synthesis report’ as ammunition for bolder emissions-cutting plans,” Vaughan writes. He continues: “Shapps will be judged on whether his Green Day is, to use the songs of the punk band of the same name, a ‘Basket Case’ or ‘Welcome To Paradise’.” Vaughan concludes his column with a list titled “[W]hat can we do?”, which includes “backi[ng]… wind and solar”; “opt[ing] for a more plant-based diet” and the IPCC’s affirmation that “communities can influence ‘political support’ to reduce climate change”. 

Stop kicking the BBC on bias. A right turn was needed, but now it’s gone too far
Roger Harrabin, The Guardian Read Article

Energy and environment analyst and former BBC correspondent Roger Harrabin has penned a comment piece about the organisation’s political framing in its reporting. Harrabin says that when he joined the BBC 35 years ago, its framing was “anti-conservative”, but the message changed when a new business editor joined in 2001. Today, he says the BBC is “susceptible to bullying through attrition”. He continues: “In a 2011 report, I mentioned the vast carbon emissions caused by HS2. An editor told me to tone it down. I complied, but he insisted that my revised version was still not neutral enough. The firm responsible for HS2 (with its army of PRs) always complained, he said – and he simply didn’t have the time to deal with it.” Harrabin adds that it is “relatively easy to seize air time if you’re on a Conservative thinktank, but people on the left of Labour are often treated with caution or distain”. He continues: “The truth is that BBC staff overwhelmingly strive for political impartiality. Over several years, I infuriated my colleagues on the science desk by regularly including comments from Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Forum in my online stories – until it had been proved wrong on so many issues. More recently, the corporation’s green coverage has come under fire from the other direction, with the radical campaigners Extinction Rebellion accusing it of failing to accord the planetary crisis its proper prominence. They worry about the effect of outside forces on the coverage, but the science team’s biggest challenge is much more mundane. The reason the climate crisis doesn’t lead the TV news every night is because, while it is hugely important, it’s not new.”


Projected West Antarctic ocean warming caused by an expansion of the Ross Gyre
Geophysical Research Letters Read Article

New research assesses how future warming in the Southern Ocean around West Antarctica could affect the Ross Gyre, a large oceanic circulation in the region. Using simulations of the UK Earth System Model (UKESM1), the researchers project “a rapid warming of the Amundsen Sea induced by a Ross Gyre expansion that is independent of forcing scenario”. This “increases the continental shelf temperature in the Amundsen-Bellingshausen Seas by more than 1C in only ∼30 years”, the paper says. The results suggest that an expansion of the Ross Gyre could provide a mechanism whereby ice loss on the West Antarctic ice sheet in the Amundsen-Bellingshausen Seas region could “increase far beyond the current range”. The authors conclude: “If realised in reality, such a warming would strongly influence the future stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet.”

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