Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Greta Thunberg: Teen climate activist tells Congress to "listen to the scientists"
- Climate crisis seen as 'most important issue' by public, poll shows
- Germany gambles on green with carbon cap plan
- Trump moves to block California from setting own auto emissions rules
- Britain launches first major auction for offshore wind leases in a decade
- Warming to drive 'robust increase' in UK flooding
- Airbus forecasts that number of planes in sky will double in 20 years
- The hard truths of climate change – by the numbers
- Spending advice for the chancellor
- Could revenue recycling make effective carbon taxation politically feasible?
- Trends of ocean acidification and pCO2 in the northern North Sea, 2003‐2015
There is widespread coverage of Greta Thunberg’s testimony to Congress, where she asked that politicians “listen to the scientists”, the Washington Post reports. It adds that she submitted the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on 1.5C of warming as formal written testimony in place of prepared remarks. A New York Times profile says Thunberg “has offered Americans a sort of unvarnished, outsider’s view of themselves”. Reuters reports that Thunberg told Congress to “wake up”, during her six-day visit to Washington, where it says she also spent time “on the steps of the Supreme Court, lending her star power to join US and youth activists who were drumming up attention and support ahead of a global climate strike on Friday”. The Guardian, Axios, the Hill, BuzzFeed News and Rolling Stone all cover Thunberg’s testimony. Meanwhile, the Guardian profiles student climate activists at UK universities and the Hill reports that “hundreds” of teens have pledged not to have children until climate change is addressed. Another Guardian piece reports the comments of UN secretary-general António Guterres, who cited the “fantastic leadership” of young activists on climate change in a speech where he said the world was “losing the race” to tackle warming.
Climate change is seen as the most important issue facing the world, the Guardian reports, based on the results of a survey of more than 1,000 people in eight countries. The survey in the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, Brazil, France, Poland and the US was commissioned by anti-racism group Hope Not Hate, the paper says. The Guardian continues: “It found that at least three-quarters of the public think the world is facing a ‘climate emergency’, with climate breakdown at risk of becoming ‘extremely dangerous’.” Separately, Vice reports that climate change has “finally risen up the public agenda”, citing new polling that shows “almost half of the UK public saying they have become more worried about climate change over the past year”. It discusses a series of recent polls and concludes: “[L]ooking across this wave of new surveys and polls, a picture emerges that pretty accurately captures the reality of climate change in 2019: we’re worried, we want things to move faster, we don’t put much faith in our governments to do the right thing, but we’re increasingly prepared to do our bit as individuals and voters.” Meanwhile, Associated Press covers a poll that, it says, shows: “About 7 in 10 Americans think it is at least moderately likely the world will take action in the next decade to reduce emissions of heat-trapping CO2 and other gases, but only about 3 in 10 think that’s very likely to happen.”
Separately, Associated Press reports that “a group of more than 500 major institutional investors called Thursday for governments to boost efforts to tackle climate change, warning that failure could have serious economic consequences”. It adds: “The banks, insurance companies and pension funds said in a joint statement ahead of next week’s U.N. climate summit in New York that current national commitments could lead to an ‘unacceptably high temperature increase that would cause substantial negative economic impacts’. The group includes financial giants such as France’s Amundi, which manages 1.487 trillion euros ($1.64 trillion); Canada-based Manulife; and Insight Investment in the US.”
The German government is due to publish new plans to tackle climate change on Friday, Reuters reports, adding that this is “likely” to include a carbon cap-and-trade scheme for buildings and transport. The piece explains: “The plan…would require [wholesale] fossil-fuel suppliers to buy certificates to trade, pushing up their costs, three sources familiar with the plan said.” A second Reuters article reports a study by asset manager Union Investment, which it says suggests German firms could face “billions of euros in costs” as a result of the plans. The Financial Times reports that Germany’s “obsession with the schwarze Null” [balanced budgets] is “increasingly bumping up against an even more pressing imperative – the generational challenge of climate change”. It cites estimates of the cost of Germany’s expected 2030 climate plans of €40bn. The FT explains that in addition to carbon trading for buildings and transport: “Other policies under consideration include a big expansion of public transport, new subsidies for electric cars and their charging points, and a reduction in VAT on train tickets.” Clean Energy Wire previews the “crucial climate cabinet meeting” that will take place on Friday, where Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats will have to finalise the details of their climate plan with coalition partners the Social Democrats.
Coverage continues of the Trump administration’s move to block California’s right to set its own standards for car fuel efficiency and emissions. Axios reports that President Trump announced on Twitter that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would revoke California’s Clean Air Act “waiver”, which allows the state to set tighter standards. It says the move means carmakers face the uncertainty of a lengthy legal battle between the federal government and the state of California, which is “certain to battle the effort in court once it’s finalised”. The Washington Post reports Trump’s claim that his decision would cut the “sticker price” of new vehicles but it adds that the move could raise US fuel consumption by “roughly a half-million barrels of oil per day, an increase of 2-3%, and would lead to an increase in greenhouse-gas emissions”. The New York Times says Trump’s decision is “unprecedented” and reports that Californian officials have promised to launch a legal challenge as soon as the plan is officially published. It adds that “tailpipe pollution is the United States’ largest source of planet-warming greenhouse gas”. Reuters notes in its coverage that 10 other US states follow Californian car standards, giving the move extra significance. A second Reuters article says the ensuing legal fight is unlikely to be resolved before next year’s presidential election. Bloomberg, E&E News, InsideClimate News, Politico, DeSmog, BuzzFeed News and the Hill all cover the story. A New York Times editorial says Trump’s move is “taking on California, the auto industry, the Clean Air Act and public opinion”. It says a “monumental legal battle lies ahead” and notes that if Trump succeeds “in doing so, along with all his other rollbacks, he would further weaken America’s standing in the increasingly urgent fight against climate change”. Separately, a comment in Foreign Policy says the “myth of US energy independence has gone up in smoke” in the wake of the attacks on Saudi oil facilities. Jason Bordoff writes: “[W]hen it comes to oil, Washington still isn’t close to being master of its own fate.” He adds: “The best way to insulate drivers from inevitable oil price shocks is to reduce how much oil we use in the first place. In this light, the Trump administration’s decision to roll back fuel-economy standards is also misguided.”
The Crown Estate has launched the UK’s fourth leasing round for offshore wind development rights, Reuters and others report. The round is the first for a decade, Reuters says, adding that the sites on offer have the potential to host 7 gigawatts (GW) of capacity. The round will take around 12 months with rights first awarded in early 2021, it notes. The sites are in the seas around England and Wales, says Press Association’s coverage, with the 7GW enough to “power 6m homes”. The Financial Times notes that the Committee on Climate Change has “warned that at least 75GW of offshore wind may be needed” to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. It says the UK has a target of 30GW by 2030, enough to supply a third of the country’s electricity, and cites trade body RenewableUK in saying the additional 7GW of sites now on offer would bring the total “either already generating electricity, under construction or planned to 43GW”. The Guardian and Bloomberg also have the story.
Coastal areas in the UK and elsewhere in northern Europe will experience an increase in “compound flooding” due to climate change, BBC News reports, picking up the findings of a new study on combined events caused by storm surges and heavy rainfall. New Scientist also covers the research. Separately, the Independent reports that thick “ice slabs” are expanding on the inside of Greenland’s ice sheet, causing meltwater to flow into the ocean rather than soaking into porous ice. It says the finding, published in a new study in Nature, means sea levels could rise by up to an additional three inches (8cm) by 2100. InsideClimate News also covers the research. Meanwhile, the Guardian carries a feature on “Greenland’s hardy wildlife under threat from global heating”.
Aircraft maker Airbus has forecast that the number of commercial aircraft in operation will more than double over the next 20 years, the Guardian reports. It says: “The European aerospace company said that despite mounting concerns about the effects of aviation and the climate crisis, it believes air travel will continue to grow rapidly.” Separately, the Independent reports that airline easyJet has been criticised for creating a new 250-mile route within the UK, from Birmingham to Edinburgh.
In a lengthy and graph-heavy feature for Nature, Jeff Tollefson “shows how little progress nations have made towards limiting greenhouse-gas emission”. He also compares current pledges to what would be needed to meet global climate goals and highlights the gap between even these insufficient aims and current progress. Tollefson writes: “So far, there is little evidence that political leaders are willing or able to meet their collective Paris targets. Even so, some veteran climate experts see hope in the strikes, marches and other protests that are taking place around the world.”
Helen Brand, head of the UK’s Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, offers advice for chancellor Sajid Javid, arguing that his plans to “loosen public spending” should be used for three priorities, including climate change. The UK’s net-zero target means “a long-term rebalancing of the tax system is required to shift the burden from labour to natural resource use, pollution, and consumption”, Brand writes.
A new study investigates the acceptability of carbon taxes where the revenues are “recycled” by earmarking them for public spending. Using “choice experiments” with citizens in Germany and the US, the researchers examine whether revenue recycling could “mitigate two key obstacles to achieving sufficient public support for carbon taxes: (i) declines in support as taxation levels increase and (ii) concerns over the international economic level playing field”. For both countries, the results indicate “revenue recycling could help achieve majority support for carbon tax levels of up to $50 to $70 per metric tonne of carbon, but only if industrialised countries join forces and adopt similar carbon taxes”.
“Temperate and high latitude marine shelf areas are generally net sinks of atmospheric CO2 and they are experiencing ocean acidification,” a new study says. The authors have compiled the “first decade‐long, monthly timeseries of surface seawater CO2 and acidification parameters in the northern North Sea”. Covering the period 2004‐2015, the record confirms that “the area is a year‐round CO2 sink” with “strong seasonal and interannual variations”, the researchers say.
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