Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Gulf Stream current at its weakest in 1,600 years, studies show
- New Zealand to ban future offshore oil and gas drilling
- Shell sets out strategy for dealing with shift from fossil fuels
- US green group to launch methane detection satellite
- Climate change and extreme weather: Science is proving the link
- The Guardian view on the BBC: we should cherish and defend it
- Comment: The future of the Paris climate regime
- A greener gas grid: What are the options
The Atlantic current that brings warmth to northern Europe is at its weakest in at least 1,600 years, widely covered new research says. For the Guardian, a collapse of the Gulf Stream – part of the weakening circulation known as AMOC – “Would see western Europe suffer far more extreme winters, sea levels rise fast on the eastern seaboard of the US and would disrupt vital tropical rains.” New studies suggest global warming is weakening AMOC, report the Financial Times, BBC and Associated Press. The slowing of this Atlantic circulation suggests “one of the most feared consequences [of climate change] is already coming to pass”, says the Washington Post. Scientific American and Mail Online both focus on the potential for extreme weather if the weakening of AMOC deepens. Climate models predicted a weakened Gulf Stream would be one consequence of climate change, explains one of the study’s authors, Stafan Rahmstorf, at the RealClimate blog. He says a key question is whether a slowdown is already underway, noting the question is easier asked than answered. Carbon Brief also covers the two new studies on AMOC.
New Zealand has become one of the world’s first countries to ban future offshore oil and gas exploration, reports the Financial Times, in a move described by new prime minister Jacinda Ardern as “part of our package of measures to tackle climate change”. The move follows similar policies in France, Belize and Costa Rica, the FT says. The move will not affect New Zealand’s 22 existing exploration permits, reports Reuters, noting that these could still lead to mining permits of up to 40 years. In a second article, Reuters reports that oil explorer New Zealand Oil and Gas, whose shares dropped 3% on the news, says it will manage the policy shift by investing in other countries.
Oil major Shell says it sees little risk of being left with “stranded assets” as the world shifts away from fossil fuels, reports the Financial Times, covering the firm’s new strategy for adapting to a lower-carbon future. Shell says 80% of its current proved oil and gas reserves would be extracted by 2030, when it expects demand to be higher than today even under its most aggressive outlook for climate action. Carbon Brief recently covered that outlook in depth. Separately, DeSmog UK looks at how Shell “greenwashed its image [even] as internal documents warned of fossil fuels’ contribution to climate change”.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a US green group, is to spend tens of millions of dollars on a satellite to spot methane leaking from oil and gas industry sites, the Financial Times reports. The group aims to launch the satellite by 2021 at the latest, it adds. The planned “MethaneSAT” will be able to spot methane leaks all over the planet, reports the New York Times. The plan extends EDF’s already extensive efforts to study methane leaks along the natural gas supply chains, says the Washington Post. Bloomberg also has the story.
The causes of extreme weather events are complex, but cutting-edge research is making it harder to argue climate change has no role, explains a feature at Deutsche Welle. It says scientists are “getting closer to establishing a link” to global warming. Last year, Carbon Brief published a review finding 63% of extreme weather events studied by that point had been made more likely or more severe by human-caused climate change.
“The BBC has myriad faults, and frequently stumbles in its aim for impartiality. But it represents a valuable and increasingly fragile public space. And for that it must be treasured,” says a Guardian editorial. Among various concerns, it cites recent “anger over the time devoted [by the BBC] to climate change deniers (such as Nigel Lawson)”.
The Paris Agreement was a “landmark accord…[that] sent a potent message that world leaders had finally decided to take on climate change…[But it] was a beginning, not an end,” says Todd Stern, Brookings Institution senior fellow and former special envoy on climate change for the US, in a speech at Yale University. He identifies two main hurdles for the deal to be a success. First: “the set of implementing guidelines and procedures required to turn the Paris Agreement into an effective, working Paris regime.” He continues: “The second, longer range hurdle for Paris is that it will prove successful only if it contributes meaningfully to the kind of deep decarbonisation needed to contain climate change.” He describes President Trump’s statement on withdrawing from the Paris deal as “delusional…[and] a distressing departure from diplomatic precedent. After all, countries stand by their international commitments.”
A new paper reviews the potential for decarbonising the gas network by switching to biomethane or hydrogen. Assessing technical potential, economic costs and carbon emissions, the researchers conclude that “there are a number of options that could significantly decarbonise the gas network, and doing so would provide energy system flexibility utilising existing assets”. However, these options will be more expensive than the existing gas system, the study notes, and their greenhouse gas intensity may vary significantly.
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