Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Heatwave blamed for record A&E attendances in England
- Corals are far older than we thought – and might survive much longer than expected, scientists reveal
- Organic solar cells set 'remarkable' energy record
- Crucial global climate fund facing 'massive challenges'
- Brazil cuts deforestation emissions below 2020 targets
- Heat wave pushes environment up the political agenda in Sweden: poll
- Where There’s Fire, Trump Blows Smoke
- The Race of Our Lives Revisited
- The Truth Sometimes Hurts
- At 'America First Energy Conference', solar power is dumb, climate change is fake
- Greenland ice mass loss during the Younger Dryas driven by Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation feedbacks
New figures released by NHS England yesterday show that, as temperatures soared in July, A&E attendances reached more than 2.1m – the highest since records began in 2010. BBC News says: “The number of patients waiting more than a year for non-urgent surgery also rose to their highest point in more than six years, at 3,517. This is despite a pledge in 2014 by the then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to end the ‘unacceptable’ waits.” Prof John Appleby, chief economist of the Nuffield Trust health think tank, is quoted as saying: “July 2018 was the most pressured summer month for A&E departments in recent history, showing that there’s no doubt this summer’s heatwave has caused severe strain on the NHS.” The Independent asks: “How deadly was this year’s heatwave and how has it hit the NHS?” It quotes Nick Stokes from the Office of National Statistics: “It is impossible to tell from the data currently available to us how many people actually died during this period and how many of those deaths were as a result of the heat…However, it’s important to avoid complacency.” He adds that the full picture “would come clear in time and that climate change will make these events even more common”. Meanwhile, the Financial Times has a podcast where “Darren Dodd discusses the impact of climate change on human health with Leslie Hook, FT environment correspondent, and Laurie Laybourn-Langton, director of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change”.
The Independent reports that scientists now think that corals have been around 100m years longer than previously thought. It says: “They have in fact been on Earth for 160m years, meaning they were around at the time of the dinosaurs. Having survived so long means they have lived through various climate disasters and shocks in the past. As such, they might be more resilient to climate change than previously thought, the researchers suggest. BBC News also carries the story, adding: “Corals may have teamed up with the microscopic algae which live inside them as much as 160 million years ago, according to new research [published in the journal Current Biology]. The two organisms have a symbiotic relationship, meaning they need each other to survive…The new findings suggest that reef algae may have weathered significant environmental changes over time. This includes the mass extinction that wiped out most of the dinosaurs.”
BBC News reports that Chinese researchers have “taken what they say is a major step forward for the development of a new generation of solar cells”. It adds: “Manufacturers have long used silicon to make solar panels because the material was the most efficient at converting sunlight into electricity. But organic photovoltaics, made from carbon and plastic, promise a cheaper way of generating electricity. This new study shows that organics can now be just as efficient as silicon…They offer huge potential for buildings as they are lightweight so might be ideal for deploying on the roofs of houses in developing countries where structures might not suit heavy silicon.”
Climate Home News reports on the Green Climate Fund, saying that the “future of the UN’s major climate fund hangs in the balance, with a looming cash shortfall and a boardroom locked in conflict”. It adds: “That is the assessment of international green leader Frank Rijsberman, in the most candid high-profile interview on the Green Climate Fund (GCF) since its board meeting collapsed last month. Rijsberman…told Climate Home News he wanted the fund to succeed but it faced ‘massive challenges”’ It’s most pressing issue was the need to convince governments to put in more cash, when the projects approved for grants or loans so far have barely started work.”
Brazil’s environment ministry says the country has cut its greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation in 2017 to levels below its internationally agreed 2020 climate change targets, reports Reuters. The newswire adds: “Brazil reduced its emission from deforestation in the Amazon rainforest by 610m tonnes of CO2, compared to its 2020 target of 564m tonnes. In the Cerrado savanna, emissions were reduced 170m tonnes of CO2 versus a target of 104m tonnes. The Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, and the Cerrado, South America’s biggest savanna, soak up vast amounts of carbon dioxide and their preservation is seen as vital to the fight against climate change.” Earlier this year, Carbon Brief published a detail country profile of Brazil.
Reuters reports that a new poll in Sweden has shown that this summer’s heatwave and wildfires have “raised the environment to the second most important issue for voters ahead of a general election in September”. It adds: “The highest number of prospective voters – 16% – since the start of the Demoskop polls five years ago named environment the most important issue, the poll commissioned by daily newspaper Expressen showed. Immigration remained the most important issue for voters overall.”
An editorial in the New York Times responds to President Trump’s “preposterous tweets about the California wildfires”: “The president, either wilfully ignorant or playing to his base, tweets nonsense about the California wildfires and refuses to acknowledge the role of climate change in the disaster.” It adds: “Any doubts about global warming’s pivotal role in extreme weather events have been put further to rest by a long, hot and dangerous summer of climatological surprises. Add them up.” Separately, the New York Times carries a feature by Somini Sengupta under the headline: “2018 Is Shaping Up to Be the Fourth-Hottest Year. Yet We’re Still Not Prepared for Global Warming.” She writes: “Heat waves are bound to get more intense and more frequent as emissions rise, scientists have concluded. On the horizon is a future of cascading system failures threatening basic necessities like food supply and electricity. For many scientists, this is the year they started living climate change rather than just studying it.” Meanwhile, Democracy Now interviews climate scientist Prof Michael Mann and Sierra Club director Michael Brune, under the headline: “If We Don’t Stop Climate Change, CA Fires ‘Will Seem Mild In Comparison to What’s Coming.’”
Jeremy Grantham, the investor and environmental philanthropist who founded the Grantham Institutes at both the London School of Economics and Imperial College London, has penned a 17,000-word update of his 2013 essay, The Race of Our Lives. He walks through an array of metrics showing how humans are changing the climate, as well as provide a detailed progress report on efforts to decarbonise the global economy: “I deal with green technologists and they have no idea how bad the situation is for the environment. Then I deal with environmentalists, who I must say are a gloomy lot, and they have no idea how rapidly the science is advancing in this area.” But he has his own “terrible news” to relay: “The issue is food sufficiency. Population growth and increasing wealth are driving up food demand, while climate change, soil erosion, and many other factors are impacting food supply.” Interestingly, in “Exhibit 33”, Grantham also reveals his investment portfolio of “climate change opportunities”: “Unsurprisingly, the portfolio has lots of clean energy stocks, copper (which is 5 times more heavily used by electric cars than conventional cars), masses of energy efficiency opportunities, and around 20% in agriculture. I can say that I have a very high-confidence belief that these industries collectively will have higher top-line revenue growth than the balance of the economy.”
In her latest column for Scientific American, Nasa’s Dr Kate Marvel writes: “I have a confession: I have no idea what I’m doing…Science communication is more important now than ever. I’m afraid I don’t know how to do it.” She adds: “More seriously, every time I talk about the uncertainties inherent in climate projections, I feel attacked from all sides of the climate mitigation debate. I admit that in the current landscape, any expression of uncertainty is immediately weaponised by those who want to delay climate action…I struggle with how to talk about these things in a world where merchants of doubt will find a way to convert my science into their product.”
In a feature for Reuters, Collin Eaton travels to New Orleans to attend the “America First Energy Conference” organised by the notorious US climate sceptic lobby group, the Heartland Institute. This year, it has been attended by a handful of Trump administration officials, he notes: “The day-long conference reflected the political rise of global warming skeptics in Donald Trump’s America that is occurring despite mounting scientific evidence – including from US government agencies – that burning oil, coal, and natural gas is heating the planet and leading to drought, floods, wildfires, and more frequent powerful storms.
Weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) could see greater melting of marine-terminating glaciers on Greenland, a new study suggests. Using proxy data from seabed sediments and computer models, the researchers find that glaciers in southeastern Greenland lost a substantial amount of ice during the cool “Younger Dryas” period around 12,000 years ago. A weak AMOC during this time allowed a relatively warm, salty below-surface ocean current, called the Irminger Current, to be drawn up to Greenland’s coast, melting its glaciers at depth. Given the reported weakening of the AMOC in the present day – driven by the influx of freshwater from Greenland – “this mechanism has important implications for future AMOC changes and northern hemisphere heat transport”, the researchers say.
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