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Daily Briefing

22.01.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

22.01.2019 | 9:15am
DAILY BRIEFING Greenland’s melting ice nears a ‘tipping point,’ scientists say
Greenland’s melting ice nears a ‘tipping point,’ scientists say

News.

Greenland’s melting ice nears a ‘tipping point,’ scientists say

Greenland’s enormous ice sheet is melting so fast that it may have reached a “tipping point”, the New York Times reports. New research published yesterday adds to the evidence that the ice loss in Greenland is speeding up as the warming in the Arctic increases, the New York Times adds. The study found melting of the ice sheet could become a major factor in sea-level rise within two decades. The research found that the pace of ice loss increased four-fold since 2003, the Guardian reports. “We knew we had one big problem with increasing rates of ice discharge by some large outlet glaciers,” Prof Michael Bevis, lead author of the paper and a professor of geodynamics at Ohio State University, tells the Guardian: “But now we recognise a second serious problem: increasingly, large amounts of ice mass are going to leave as meltwater, as rivers that flow into the sea.” The study suggests that Greenland‘s ice is melting far faster than initially thought, the Independent says. CNN also has the story.

The New York Times Read Article
Antarctic krill: Key food source moves south

Krill, a keystone prey species in the Southern Ocean, is retreating towards the Antarctic because of climate change, according to a new study, says BBC News. Krill form a major part of the diets of whales, penguins, seabirds, seals and fish, but “scientists say warming conditions in recent decades have led to the krill contracting poleward”, adds BBC News. Main populations of the shrimp-like crustaceans, which form vast swarms, have moved about 440 km (275 miles) south in the past 90 years, the authors write in the journal Nature Climate Change, says Reuters. “It’s often predicted that species will move towards the poles as the climate warms. It’s already happening with krill,” co-lead author Angus Atkinson, from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in England, tells Reuters. The Daily Express and BBC Newsround also have the story.

BBC News Read Article
The 'environmental time bomb' caused by the effects of climate change on groundwater

Future generations face an “environmental time bomb” caused by the effects climate change has on freshwater supplies, scientists have warned, reports MailOnline. Groundwater takes longer to respond to climate change than surface water, MailOnline adds, but will fall with lower rainfall, with major implications for the future availability of water for drinking, farming and industry, according to researchers. The Irish ExaminerNDTV and Carbon Brief also cover the story.

MailOnline Read Article
David Attenborough tells Davos: ‘The Garden of Eden is no more’

Sir David Attenborough has warned that “the Garden of Eden is no more”, the Guardian reports. Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Attenborough has urged political and business leaders from around the world to tackle climate change before the damage is irreparable, adds the Guardian. “I am quite literally from another age,” Attenborough told the audience. “I was born during the Holocene – the 12,000 [year] period of climatic stability that allowed humans to settle, farm, and create civilisations.” Attenborough told the business figures gathered in Davos that “what we do now…will profoundly affect the next few thousand years”, says the IndependentMailOnline and the Evening Standard also have the story. Meanwhile, Climate Home News reports on the buzzword set to dominate the WEF this week: “Globalisation 4.0.” Climate Home News also lists “six big questions” as Brazil’s new president heads to Davos.

The Guardian Read Article
German transport minister dismisses calls for a national speed limit as 'against common sense'

German transport minister Andreas Scheuer has dismissed calls for a speed limit on the country’s motorways as “against all common sense” and “completely exaggerated, unrealistic mind games,” the Daily Telegraph reports. Scheuer’s comments follow a government commission set up by his own ministry recommending a new national speed limit and higher fuel taxes to limit harmful pollution, the Daily Telegraph adds, noting that Germany is one of the last countries in the world not to impose a national speed limit. “The derogatory remarks made by Andreas Scheuer clearly show that the transport minister doesn’t care about road safety or climate protection,” Jürgen Resch, head of the activist group German Environmental Aid (DUH), has said, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Separately, EurActiv reports that carbon pricing has been dropped from new Franco-German treaty. The new Elysée treaty, set to be signed today, no longer mentions carbon pricing among new bilateral initiatives, says EurActiv. A further EurActiv article warns the EU is at risk of missing its 2020 energy efficiency targets. And Reuters reports on a venture from E.ON and Nissan to develop so-called “vehicle-to-grid (V2G)” services to develop services that allow power stored in electric vehicle batteries to be sold back to the grid.

The Daily Telegraph Read Article
Ireland: Greenhouse gas ‘failure’ faces court

Ireland’s failure to tackle climate change will be tested in the High Court today, the Irish edition of the Times reports, in a case brought by environmentalists. The action, from Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), claims Ireland’s 2017 national mitigation plan breaches the constitution, human rights and a 2015 act to transition to a low-carbon economy, the Times adds. A separate story in the Times looks at a new report which finds Ireland’s energy supply remains “vulnerable”, with all its oil and almost a third of its gas supply sourced from overseas.

The Times Read Article

Comment.

Renewables risk being a bolt-on rather than true energy substitute

“Energy transition” is a phrase that is “used more often than it is examined”, writes ed Crooks, the Financial Times’ US industry and energy editor. “But it is an under-appreciated point that the ‘energy transition’ has no real precedent”, he adds. “The fact that there has never been a real energy transition before does not mean there can never be one. But if it is to happen, it will take a sustained effort from governments to drive it, say observers.” Meanwhile, Financial Timesenergy editor David Sheppard warns that “investors risk losing faith in returns on offer from ‘Big Oil’”. Martin Wolf, the Financial Times’ chief economics commentator, explains in a video why “painful economic action and bold leadership is needed now to tackle climate change”. Another piece in the FT discusses why the renewables boom “fails to dent investment allure of hydrocarbons”, while a further FT article argues that “oil and gas investors are endangered but not doomed”.

Ed Crooks, Financial Times Read Article
Annie Proulx on the best books to understand climate change

“Most of us were short-changed by educations that ignored ecology,” says celebrated author Annie Proulx in an article looking at her favourite books to help us cope with how our world is changing. “We need clear explanations of climate change, what it means and how to cope with it.”

Annie Proulx, The Guardian Read Article

Science.

The persistence of carbon in the African forest understory

The “understory” – a layer of smaller shrubs and trees beneath the main canopy of a forest – makes up as much as a fifth of the “carbon sink” in African forests, new research suggests. Using tree rings and diameter measurements, the researchers calculate the “average carbon age” – the period that carbon is fixed in trees – in different layers of African tropical forests. The results show that, despite their much smaller size, the average “carbon age” of understory trees (74 years) is greater than in sub-canopy (54 years) and canopy (57 years) trees. And while understory trees represent only 11% of the total carbon stock of the forests, they contribute “disproportionally to the forest carbon sink (20%)”.

Nature Plants Read Article
Krill (Euphausia superba) distribution contracts southward during rapid regional warming
The distribution of krill – small, shrimp-like crustaceans that are eaten by many larger marine animals – living around Antarctica has contracted southwards over the last 90 years, a new study says. The researchers assessed the main population centre of krill in the southwest Atlantic. They find the numbers of krill at their northern limit have “declined sharply” with a reduced proportion of young krill. The researchers note that “warm, windy and cloudy weather and reduced sea ice” hinder egg production and the survival of larval krill. They conclude: “Rapid climate change, with associated nonlinear adjustments in the roles of keystone species, poses challenges for the management of valuable polar ecosystems.”
Nature Climate Change Read Article
Warming trends in summer heatwaves

There has been a “two-to-three-fold increase in heatwave activity” in England since the late 1800s, a new study says. Using the Central England Temperature timeseries, the researchers apply “crossing theory for the first time to determine heatwave properties solely from the distribution of daily observations”. The findings show that “week-long heatwaves that occur on average every five years were typically below about 28C, but now typically exceed it”.

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article

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