Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Government deal to boost offshore wind
- High court rules government's fracking guidelines 'unlawful'
- Revealed: Glencore bankrolled covert campaign to prop up coal
- Satellite fix safeguards Antarctic data
- Wetland mud is 'secret weapon' against climate change
- Renewables are set to outstrip fossil fuels by 2030
- Michael Bloomberg tackles climate change instead of 2020 presidency
- How climate change is fuelling extremism
- Tornadoes and climate change: What we know
- Greenland Ice Sheet surface melt amplified by snowline migration and bare ice exposure
- Rich man’s solution? Climate engineering discourses and the marginalisation of the Global South
- Dimensions of Blue Carbon and emerging perspectives
The UK government has struck a deal with the wind industry, to ensure that 30% of electricity comes from offshore wind by 2030, BBC News reports. Industry players have agreed to invest £250m over the next 11 years in exchange for participation in £557m of state subsidies for renewable energy, the Guardian writes. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) suggests that the deal could result in the number of jobs in offshore wind tripling by 2030, the year the UK aims to secure almost all of its power from low-carbon sources. The announcement leaves environmentalists “wondering where the other 70% of the UK’s clean electricity will come from”, BBC News adds, as “plans to expand nuclear are foundering”, while there is only a single gas with carbon capture plant planned, and that “is stuck in the proposal stage”. The Financial Times, Daily Telegraph and City AM also have the story.
The UK government’s updated planning guidance on fracking has been found to be unlawful by the British high court, the Guardian reports. The judgement follows legal action by the group Talk Fracking, who claimed that the government’s new guidance failed to take account of “significant and material developments in the understanding of the greenhouse gas emissions arising from fracking”. The high court ruled that “the government had unlawfully failed to consider scientific developments and had failed to carry out a lawful consultation”, the Guardian writes. The Financial Times adds: “The ruling comes at a delicate time for the government, which has supported the development of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing as a means of boosting domestic gas supply”, although the ruling is “unlikely to have an immediate impact on where fracking is approved”. However, the “case opens the door for people to object to fracking in their area on the grounds of climate change” the Independent says. BBC News and BusinessGreen also carry the story. In related news, Unearthed reports that the fracking firm Cuadrilla’s air monitoring equipment malfunctioned in January as methane levels spiked.
The mining giant Glencore secretly bankrolled a “globally coordinated campaign to prop up coal demand by undermining environmental activists, influencing politicians and spreading sophisticated pro-coal messaging”, an investigation by the Guardian Australia reveals. Dubbed “Project Caesar”, the covert campaign began in 2017 and was orchestrated by “world-renowned political operatives” at the C|T Group. It had annual funding of between £4m and £7m. Glencore confirms the project’s existence, but claims that it began the process of shutting it down last month, to “ensure alignment” with its recent decision to limit coal production for environmental reasons.
A separate article in the Guardian reports that HSBC shareholders have urged the bank’s CEO to close a loophole that “allows the lender to bankroll coal projects in certain emerging markets”. In a letter coordinated by ShareAction, the “powerful” group of investors also called on HSBC to impose a ban on corporate loans, underwriting and advisory services to bank clients that are highly dependent on coal. Last year, HSBC released an energy policy that aimed to phase out lending for new coal-fired power plants in high income countries and cut its commitment to oil sands “over time”. Elsewhere, Standard and Poor Global reports that US coal exports in 2018 were the second highest total on record, following a record set in 2012.
Scientists have secured Europe’s long-term satellite record of ice sheet changes in the Antarctic, BBC News reports. Problems with the EU’s Sentinel-3 mission have been cured and it is now providing “consistent and accurate” observations of the ice. This is important, the BBC explains, because “Europe has flown an unbroken sequence of radar altimeters over the White Continent since 1991”, and it is the “data from these instruments, more than any other information source, that has established the melting trend in Antarctica”. Currently, this data is provided by an altimeter on board the satellite Cryosat, but this “could fail at any time”, putting pressure on scientists to prepare the instruments on Sentinel-3.
Coastal marshes could store more carbon as sea levels rise, a new global study published in the journal in Nature has revealed. BBC News explains the findings: “As sea levels rise, more sediment layers wash over tidal marshes and bury the carbon-rich material, locking it beneath the muddy layers”. The research – led by scientists at the University of Wollongong – highlights salt marshes on the coastlines of Australia, China and South America as possible “sleeping giants of carbon sequestration”. But the researchers warn that coastal wetlands need space to build up and store more carbon, and so the preservation of coastal wetlands is critical for mitigating global warming.
Claire Perry, the UK’s minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has written an op-ed in the Daily Telegraph lauding the nation’s progress on “delivering renewable clean energy”, following a deal made between the government and the offshore wind sector yesterday. “We now have the largest installed wind base in the world attracting huge levels of capital investment”, she writes, praising offshore wind in particular: “The unique combination around our island nation of high winds and shallow waters means we are perfectly placed to capitalise on this precious resource”. She claims that the sector’s growth is down to government investment: “The transformation of the power sector over the past few years is…thanks to £52bn of investment in renewable projects in the UK since 2010”. She goes on to discuss yesterday’s “ambitious” Sector Deal, which “will build on this success to hit the major milestone of clean renewable energy outstripping fossil fuel energy by 2030”
Michael Bloomberg is launching a new campaign called “Beyond Carbon” instead of running for president, according to an announcement made by the billionaire activist earlier this week. “It’s an expansion of his longstanding work with the Sierra Club to shut down coal plants via an effort called ‘Beyond Coal,’ a campaign that will also continue”, writes energy reporter Ben Geman in Axios. Bloomberg describes the campaign as a “grassroots effort to begin moving America as quickly as possible away from oil and gas and toward a 100% clean energy economy”. But trying to get beyond oil and gas is “trickier” than coal, Geman explains, because retiring coal “basically swims with the current…the rise of renewables, regulations and other forces have all been shoving coal aside in power markets”.
People struggling in parts of Africa and the Middle East experiencing droughts, storms and erratic harvests “are vulnerable to the influence of extremist recruits who offer them work and food”, writes journalist Isabelle Gerretsen in CNN. The feature brings together research from a number of studies drawing links between climate change and conflict.
“Climate change makes extreme weather worse, though how much that applies to tornadoes is unclear”, begins a CBS News feature by meteorologist Jeff Berardelli. But climate change does seem to be “shifting the concentration and range of tornadoes, pushing them into more vulnerable areas”, Berardelli explains. Moreover, “evidence suggests there will be a more favourable environment for severe weather – and probably tornadoes – in a warmer future”.
Fluctuations in the boundary between Greenland’s snow-covered and snowless areas – known as the “snowline” – is the single most important factor affecting how much of the sun’s energy the ice sheet absorbs from year to year, a new study finds. Using satellite imagery, the researchers demonstrate the importance of Greenland’s seasonally fluctuating snowline, which “reduces ice sheet albedo and enhances melt by exposing dark bare ice”. “In a warmer climate, snowline fluctuations will exert an even greater control on melt due to flatter ice sheet topography at higher elevations,” the researchers say.
The emerging debate around “climate engineering” is dominated by researchers in developed countries, a new study argues, potentially overlooking developing countries “that are often especially vulnerable to, and lack adaptive capacity to deal with, the impacts of such new technologies”. Assessing conferences and published papers between 2009 and 2017 regarding both negative emissions and stratospheric aerosol injection, the article “maps a lack of involvement of developing countries and highlights the degree to which their concerns remain insufficiently represented in politically significant scientific assessment reports”. The authors conclude that “the discussion about whether and how to engage with these technologies is shaped by experts from just a small set of countries in the Global North”.
A new paper discusses the current state of research around “blue carbon” – coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses that store significant amounts of carbon. The terms was coined in 2009, the authors note, “to draw attention to the degradation of marine and coastal ecosystems and the need to conserve and restore them to mitigate climate change”. “The multifaceted nature of the blue carbon concept has led to unprecedented collaboration across disciplines, where scientists, conservationists and policymakers have interacted intensely to advance shared goals,” the authors say.
Expert analysis directly to your inbox.