Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Every weekday morning, in time for your morning coffee, Carbon Brief sends out a free email known as the “Daily Briefing” to thousands of subscribers around the world. The email is a digest of the past 24 hours of media coverage related to climate change and energy, as well as our pick of the key studies published in peer-reviewed journals.
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Heatwave sees record high temperatures around world this week
- Tory voters favour wind of change for onshore turbines, poll shows
- Cape Town 'Day Zero' drought odds tripled by climate change
- North American forests to gain only one-fifth more capacity to sequester carbon in next 60 years: study
- Bernie Sanders tells Durham miners coal is destroying planet
- Over a billion people struggle to stay cool as Earth warms
- Peak oil demand forecast for 2036
- 'Boaty McBoatface' makes debut in Liverpool
- Huge iceberg threatens tiny Greenland village
- Is UK science and innovation up for the climate challenge?
- If Elon Musk Cares About Climate Change, Why Is He Donating to a Republican PAC?
- Trump UK protests: Why environmental groups are protesting ‘climate vandal’ US president
- Is this summer’s heatwave a sign of things to come? It’s complicated
- Inclusive climate change mitigation and food security policy under 1.5C climate goal
- Do climate engineering experts display moral-hazard behaviour?
An “unusually prolonged and broad heatwave” across much of the world over the past week has been intensifying concerns about climate change, the Guardian reports. In the past month Algeria experienced the hottest temperature ever reliably registered in Africa, while California saw power shortages as demand for air conditioners soared. In the UK, the third longest heatwave ever recorded has exposed ancient hill forts in Wales. In Ireland, an “unusually brutal drought”, has for the first time revealed signs of a 5,000 year old henge, the New York Times reports. Yet the world has been experiencing a weather phenomenon known as La Niña, “which is usually associated with cooling”, the Guardian explains. “The first six months of the year have made it the hottest La Niña year to date on record,” Clare Nullis of the World Meteorological Organisation told the paper. Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, commented: “What’s unusual is the hemispheric scale of the heatwave…It’s not just the magnitude in any one location but that high temperatures are being seen over such a large area.” Strong, persistent high pressure systems that have created a “heat dome” over much of Eurasia. In an opinion piece for the Guardian, Ian Jack muses on how “the weeks of sun that were once an innocent pleasure, I now see in the context of climate change”. Elsewhere, an op-ed in the LA Times asks: “Climate change is behind the global heat wave. Why won’t the media say it?” And the Daily Telegraph advises “How to save money on your bills in the heatwave”. Scientific American also has the story
A survey of 3,600 adults in the UK has found that 69% supported building onshore wind farms, including 60% of respondents who identified as Conservative, the Times reports. The research, which was carried out by YouGov for RenewableUK, the wind industry group, found that just 11% of Tory voters strongly opposed the development of more onshore wind. In 2015 the UK’s Conservative party pledged to end subsidies for onshore wind, and the development of onshore wind turbines has subsequently ground to a halt. However, some studies suggest that the cost of onshore wind has fallen so far it may not need extra subsidies. Emma Pinchbeck, executive director of Renewable UK, commented: “The government’s policy is massively out of step with public opinion.” Elsewhere, a feature in the Sunday Telegraph asks: “Is wind power finally ready to pay its own way”? “A rapid shift in the economics of energy has brought renewables to the brink of a major tipping point only a few years away”, Ambrose writes. “Britain could begin to host onshore wind and solar projects without the need for subsidies from the early 2020s…At the end of the next decade, offshore wind will follow suit.”
A drought that nearly forced Cape Town’s authorities to completely shut off the city’s water supply was made three times more likely by climate change. Over a three-year period, weather stations across the Western Cape recorded 30-50% less rainfall than average, Climate Home writes. A report by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) consortium of scientists found that in the absence of climate change the area would expect to experience such severe dry spell every three centuries. Now, with the world having warmed 1C since the beginning of the industrial age, the city can expect a drought of this magnitude every century. If the world warms by another 1C, a drought like this would happen roughly once every 33 years, the report warns.
North American forests have reached 78% of their capacity to sequester carbon, according to new research from the University of California at Santa Cruz. And in a best case scenario, which reflects idealised assumptions based on past forest performance and climate-change projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they will gain only 22% capacity over the next sixty years. “The assumption was that existing forests will happily grow without future disturbances, but in reality, there will likely be disturbances”, said Kai Zhu, the study’s lead author.
Bernie Sanders, the socialist American politician who campaigned for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 2016, used an address to the Durham Miners’ Gala, one of the largest trade union gatherings in Europe, to “claim coal is destroying the planet”. Sanders’ “off-message remarks” in a pre-recorded video “shocked some”, the Times reports. The event, which is in its 134th year, is “is closely associated with coal mining and is seen as a celebration of the northeast’s industrial heritage”. One said: “There were a few nervous glances from people in the audience and you could tell they were all thinking: ‘Did he just say that?’ ” Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK’s Labour party, also addressed the gala.
As global warming brings higher temperatures, more than a billion people are at risk from a lack of air conditioning and refrigeration, according to a new report by the non-profit Sustainable Energy for All group. About 1.1 billion people in Asia, Africa and Latin America were at risk among the world’s 7.6 billion people, Reuters reports. Heat stress linked to climate change is likely to cause 38,000 extra deaths a year worldwide between 2030 and 2050, according to the UN’s health agency.
Wood Mackenzie, one of “the world’s most influential oil consultancies”, has forecast that global oil demand will peak around 2036, the Financial Times reports. This is an earlier date than many energy majors use in their scenario planning. The forecast “illustrates how projections of peak oil demand, once confined to the fringes of energy planning, have become accepted within the mainstream”, the paper adds.
The RRS Sir David Attenborough – the ship popularly known as ‘Boaty McBoatface’ – was launched in Liverpool on Saturday by Sir David Attenborough. When the ship is deployed in the Antarctic next year, it will form part of a £200m UK investment in polar science that is expected to yield important new insights into climate change and other environmental concerns. The research vessel gained notoriety in 2016 when the Natural Environment Research Council ran an internet poll to decide what its name should be, and thousands voted for ‘Boaty McBoatface’. This name was eventually given instead to a submarine that will be used in conjunction with the ship. BBC News has a video of the event.
An iceberg 100m (330ft) tall has drifted near to the settlement of Innaarsuit, Greenland, sparking fears of a tsunami should it break up.”This iceberg is the biggest we have seen … and there are cracks and holes that make us fear it can calve anytime”, said Susanne Eliassen, a member of Innaarsuit’s council. William Colgan, researcher at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, commented: “Iceberg production in Greenland has been increasing in the past 100 years as climate change has become stronger”, which is in turn “increasing the tsunami hazards”. The New York Times and Reuters also have the story.
While spending on health research and development is “clearly a major priority”, “decarbonising our energy system must also be another, especially in the rapidly-closing window of opportunity we have to avoid catastrophic global warming”, argues Alice Bell, who is co-director of 10:10 Climate Action, in the Guardian. She discusses a new report by Richard Jones and James Wilsdon, which “invites us to question the biomedical bubble” – the concentration of research and development resources in the hands of biomedical science.
Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla, recently donated $38,900 to Protect the House, a Republican political action committee (PAC). “If Musk truly believes that burning fossil fuels is ‘the dumbest experiment in history, by far,’ he should explain why he continues to support a political party that still largely believes climate change doesn’t exist”, writes Jason Koebler, in an opinion piece for Motherboard. “Musk has at every turn talked about about how important reversing climate change is to him”, Koebler notes. But “if he cares about climate change so much, why is he spending money to protect Republican political power?” The piece concludes: “it’s too early to call Musk a hypocrite on climate change… But I do think it’s time for Musk to explain how his thoughts on climate change coexist with his support of the Republican Party”.
Tens of thousands congregated in London last Friday to protest the visit of US president Donald Trump to the UK, including protestors unhappy with the president’s track record on climate change and the environment. In a feature for the Independent, Josh Gabbatiss summarises this track record and interviews some of the protestors. “It does often get lost in the more immediate human rights abuses, but if Trump succeeds in derailing international climate action the consequences of that are going to be unthinkable,” said Claire James from the Campaign against Climate Change, who was at the protest. “Since taking power, the current US administration has spurned efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slashed funding for climate science”, Gabbatiss explains. “Mr Trump has stressed his desire to revitalise the fossil fuel industry and push ‘beautiful, clean coal’ in the US”. Climate Home also covered the protests.
Is climate change to blame for the unusually high temperatures in the UK and Europe over the past two weeks? Or are we “just experiencing the usual vagaries of our unpredictable weather”? “The answer, it turns out, is a little bit of both”, writes Matt Reynolds of Wired. “Even though it’s not possible to draw a direct link between climate change and this year’s heatwave – or even the cold snap earlier this year – it seems that these kinds of extreme weather events are becoming more common”, he explains.
Geoengineering (also known as climate engineering) researchers are no more likely to show “moral-hazard behaviour” than climate change researchers, a new study says. “Moral-hazard behaviour” here refers to the opinion that using geoengineering would reduce the need to urgently pursue mitigation. The study shows that geoengineering researchers are no more likely to sideline mitigation, and tend to perceive the risks of geoengineering to be higher than the general public.
Introducing policies to protect the world’s poor from hunger would minimise the risks associated with pursuing large-scale land-use change to limit global warming to 1.5C, a new study finds. Most projections for meeting the aspirational target of the Paris Agreement include the use of such measures, such as bioenergy production and afforestation. However, the land-use change associated with these techniques could drive food insecurity. The new research suggests this risk could be minimised by introducing support through international aid, bioenergy tax, or domestic reallocation of income.