Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Green Investment Bank sell-off described as a disaster by critics
- Red States Rank among Renewable Energy Leaders
- Gigantic Wind Turbines Signal Era of Subsidy-Free Green Power
- Fast-growing trees may be answer to climate change
- China probe uncovers environment breaches at two-thirds of firms - ministry
- Women must have equality with men to save the planet, experts say
- No cooling: Trump’s indifference to climate change has not changed China’s view
- Fake news threatens a climate literate world
- Why the Menace of Mosquitoes Will Only Get Worse
- Green Investment Bank sell-off: only time will tell how green it is
- Divergence of seafloor elevation and sea level rise in coral reef ecosystems
- Separating decadal global water cycle variability from sea level rise
The decision by the UK government to sell the Green Investment Bank, which was established in 2012 to fund green infrastructure projects, to “controversial” Australian bank Macquarie has been attacked by critics, the Guardian reports. Greenpeace says that the £2.3bn sale risks climate targets, while the Liberal Democrats argue that the bank was sold too fast and too cheap. “Selling a great British success story, which levered private money into eco-projects, to a controversial Australian bank known for asset-stripping, is a disaster”, said Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK. Vince Cable, the former Lib Dem business secretary told the Guardian that that sale was “very regrettable” and that “in the long term [the Green Investment Bank] will simply disappear into the commercial part of Macquarie”. Macquarie has vowed to invest £3bn through the bank, BusinessGreen reports. Bloomberg, the Telegraph and This is Money also have the story.
A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists that ranks states on their recent clean energy momentum finds leaders in states lead by Republicans and Democrats alike. For example Wyoming, which is in coal country, is also leading the US in renewable energy capacity. Another surprise ranking was Kansas, which is first for increasing its share of renewable energy in electricity. John Rogers, lead author of the report, commented: “Leadership [in renewable energy] doesn’t have to be a red state-blue state thing. Wherever they live and whichever party they vote for, people care about jobs and clean air.” Inside Climate News also has the story.
Offshore wind turbines are to become taller that the Eiffel Tower, enabling the industry to supply subsidy-free clean power to the grid on a large scale for the first time, Bloomberg reports. Manufacturers such as Siemans AG are working to double the capacity of the turbines, which are expected to be on the market by 2025. Just three years ago, offshore wind was a fringe technology “more expensive than nuclear reactors”, but “the economics of the energy business are shifting quicker than anyone thought possible” Bloomberg writes, which adds a competitive pressure to coal and gas.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is helping to fund an £8.6m research programme into ways of removing and storing greenhouse gases, the Times reports. Fast growing trees and other plants, such as elephant grass could provide one method – they would be harvested and burnt in power stations fitted with equipment to capture and bury the CO2, a process known as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report in 2014 said that “widespread” use of BECCS would likely be needed to keep global warming below 2C, the limit countries agreed at the Paris climate conference in 2015. Phil Williamson, who coordinates the programme said: “The attraction is that you get energy from it and you are also removing CO2. Some climate [computer] models envisage that for the next 50 years CO2 is going to increase and then we are going to lower it. It might be wishful thinking or it might work”.
Over two-thirds of the companies investigated by China in its latest crusade against air pollution have violated environmental rules, according to an environmental ministry official. Of the 4,077 firms that have already been investigated as part of the campaign in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, a major pollution hotspot, 2,808 firms were found to have violated environmental rules.
Women must have equality with men to save the planet, experts say
Giving women equal rights is key to saving the plant from the mass extinctions of wildlife driven by expanding food production caused by overpopulation, academics have said in a special issue of the journal Science. “Wherever women are empowered educationally, culturally, economically, politically, and legally, fertility rates fall” researchers from Virginia Tech said, continuing: “Populations tend to move toward states of zero or negative growth when women achieve equal standing with men, as long as family planning services and contraceptives are readily available.”
Trump may have little interest in climate change, “but in China the government, and increasingly the public, see it as a real danger, responsible for rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities as well as for aggravating droughts in the north, floods in the south and, as it now turns out, the omnipresent smog”, argues the Economist. Some wondered whether Trump’s indifference might reduce China’s willingness to act, but “fortunately, there is no sign that China, the biggest emitter, is wavering”, the magazine says.
A strongly worded editorial in the leading academic journal begins: “As the challenges and environmental consequences of climate change manifest, the need for a society of science-literate citizens is becoming increasingly apparent. Achieving this, however, is no easy task, particularly given the proliferation of fake news and the seeds of confusion it can sow.” It continues: “Influential misinformation campaigns, selective media exposure, fabricated controversies, alternative facts and false media balance have, in the view of many, manipulated scientific knowledge, sown seeds of confusion among the populace and threatened to derail environmental progress. The public’s awareness of the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change is a prime example of the consequences of scientific misinformation.” It concludes with advice for scientists: “In order to fulfil their potential as effective educators, scientists need to be supplied with the skills, time and guidance necessary to take advantage of the technological tools available, and target engagement that establishes two-way dialogue and addresses society’s perception of environmental risks rather than simply communicating more physical facts.” Separately, in the journal Water Resources Research, James W Kirchner, a Zurich-based scientist, has written a commentary titled, “Science, politics and rationality in a partisan era”.
A in-depth feature in the New York Times magazine explores how climate change could increase the potential for viruses like Zika and West Nile. “Climate change is turning abnormal weather into a common occurrence…anything that improves conditions for mosquitoes tips the scales for the diseases they carry as well”. “Climate change is clearly altering the environment in ways that increase the potential for these diseases”, Dr Robert Haley, director of epidemiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, tells the magazine.
The UK government argues that Macquarie, buyer of the Green Investment Bank, has a long-term “commitment” to its new purchase, following fears that the Australian buyer will dismember the bank. But “what the government has really secured is a collection of good intentions”, writes Nils Pratley in the Guardian. “It is almost impossible to know how firmly Macquarie can be held to them. Not very, one suspects.”
Projections indicate global degradation of coral reefs due to anthropogenic impacts and climate change will cause a transition to net erosion by mid-century. The authors provide a comprehensive assessment of the combined effect of all of the processes affecting seafloor accretion and erosion by measuring changes in seafloor elevation and volume for five coral reef ecosystems in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Caribbean over the last several decades. They say: “We show that regional-scale loss of seafloor elevation and volume has accelerated the rate of relative sea level rise in these regions. Current water depths have increased to levels not predicted until near the year 2100, placing these ecosystems and nearby communities at elevated and accelerating risk to coastal hazards. Our results set a new baseline for projecting future impacts.”
Under a warming climate, amplification of the water cycle and changes in precipitation patterns over land are expected to occur, subsequently impacting the terrestrial water balance. On global scales, such changes in terrestrial water storage (TWS) will be reflected in the water contained in the ocean and can manifest as global sea level variations. However, the internal variability of the global water cycle confounds both the detection and attribution of sea level rise. The authors use a suite of observations to quantify and map the contribution of TWS variability to sea level variability on decadal timescales. They say: “The unambiguous identification and clean separation of this component of variability is the missing step in uncovering the anthropogenic trend in sea level and understanding the potential for low-frequency modulation of future TWS impacts including flooding and drought.”
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