Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Halve carbon emissions each decade to combat warming: study
- Kepco is in talks to buy Toshiba's stake in its UK nuclear joint venture, NuGen
- As Trump targets energy rules, oil companies downplay their impact
- Businesses paid to cut energy at peak times
- Major TV networks spent just 50 minutes on climate change — combined — last year
- Lean, not green: America’s proposed budget cuts will be bad for the environment
- If you really care about climate change, you should boycott the ridiculous Earth Hour stunt
- Mass coral mortality under local amplification of 2°C ocean warming
- A roadmap for rapid decarbonization
Scientists have set out a legislative and economic framework to halve the world’s carbon emissions every decade from 2020, in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change by 2050, reports Reuters. The plan would be a “Moore’s law for carbon”, says the Guardian, providing a “simple but rigorous roadmap to tackle climate change”. Writing in the New York Times, study author Johan Rockström explains “why the world economy has to be carbon free by 2050”. Emissions must peak by 2020 and reach zero by 2050, he says, noting: “The math to keep the increase below [2C] doesn’t get much simpler.” The roadmap might be simple, writes Brad Plumer at Vox, but the ambition is “jaw-dropping”. Vox quotes Rockström: “It’s way more than adding solar or wind…It’s rapid decarbonisation, plus a revolution in food production, plus a sustainability revolution, plus a massive engineering scale-up [for carbon removal].”
Korean nuclear firm Kepco is in talks to buy a stake in NuGen, the joint venture planning to build three new nuclear reactors at Moorside in Cumbria, reports City AM. Kepco has ruled out buying Westinghouse, the troubled reactor-maker for the scheme, reports the Times. Westinghouse is being sold by Toshiba, which also holds a 60% stake in NuGen. Kepco is holding off buying Westinghouse because of political uncertainty in both South Korea and the US, reports Reuters, citing “people with direct knowledge of the matter”. The financial meltdown at Toshiba is seeping into the US municipal bond market, given it is building two new nuclear schemes in Georgia and South Carolina, reports Bloomberg.
President Trump has said his plans to slash environmental regulations will trigger an energy boom, yet top US oil and gas companies have been telling shareholders the rules have little impact on their business, according to a Reuters review of financial filings. For example, Continental Resources’ annual report says regulation does not have a “material adverse effect on our operations”, Reuters notes.
The government has awarded £14m in subsidies to businesses that agree to cut energy use during peak periods, reports the Telegraph. The money, for firms that agree to provide demand-side response (DSR), is being paid as part of the government’s Capacity Market. A Transitional Auction awarded subsidies to 312 megawatts of this so-called turn-down DSR, says Energy Live News.
US TV networks gave much less coverage to climate change in 2016 than they had in the previous year, says Grist, covering a new study from Media Matters. Coverage fell 66% across ABC, CBS, NBD and Fox, the study found, with ABC spending just six minutes on climate issues during the whole of 2016. Media Matters found TV climate coverage in the US had previously peaked in 2009, the year of the Copenhagen climate conference, with 2015, when the Paris Agreement on climate change was made, down marginally compared to 2014.
One clear result of Donald Trump’s proposed US budget would be to push green programmes at home and abroad into the red, says the Economist. International deal-making will slow without US efforts, it says, and other countries’ climate efforts “will shrink”. The proposed budget would cut funds for a range of national and international climate organisations. Meanwhile Kevin Cramer, an energy adviser to the Trump election campaign, is urging the president to weaken the US climate pledge under the Paris Agreement, reports the Hill. Separately, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has acknowledged that some countries may be retreating in their climate efforts, reports Bloomberg.
“I hate one of the world’s most prominent environmental events…Earth Hour”, writes self-proclaimed environmentalist Adam McGibbon in the Independent. The annual WWF-led event, in which millions of people around the world will symbolically switch off their lights for an hour, “tricks people into thinking they’ve done something useful…and lets the real villains in the climate change story off the hook”, he writes. The event doesn’t put pressure on anyone to change, he adds: “And let’s be clear: the people who are wrecking the planet are the fossil fuel companies”.
A new study describes the effect of a mass coral bleaching in the northern South China Sea in summer 2015, which killed off 40% of the resident coral community. During the event, unusually weak winds amplified the signature from a passing El Niño, leading to temperatures more than 6C above normal summertime levels on the reef flats. Unprecedented in at least the past 40 years, the event highlights the risks to coral reef ecosystems when global and local processes align to drive intense heating.
While the Paris Agreement’s goals can, in principle, be technically and economically achieved, a new paper describes “alarming inconsistencies” between the science-based targets and countries’ national commitments, with long-term goals often trumped by political short-termism. The authors propose a global decadal roadmap based on a “carbon law”, which would see anthropogenic CO2 emissions halved every decade. Coupled with carbon removal and efforts to ramp down land-use emissions, the end result could be net-zero emissions around mid-century.
Expert analysis directly to your inbox.