Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Heatwaves 'cook' Great Barrier Reef corals
- Wind farms less harmful to seabirds than first thought
- Households to power the grid in biggest UK trial
- Clean energy projects stifled by Tory reforms, says Labour
- Sea levels could be rising faster than predicted due to new source of Antarctic ice melting
- The UK may commit to net-zero carbon emissions. That’s a big deal.
- Can Dirt Save the Earth?
- Risks for the global freshwater system at 1.5C and 2C global warming
Marine heatwaves have had an “irreversible” impact on the Great Barrier Reef, new research shows. A study published in Nature finds that 29% of the reef’s corals died following the “catastrophic” marine heatwave of 2016, which was driven by a rise in sea surface temperatures. The researchers also note that many corals died more quickly than expected and at a lower temperatures than had previously been considered deadly, the Washington Post reports. “What we just experienced is one hell of a natural selection event,” lead author Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Queensland, told the Post. Following the news, the Financial Times reports on new technologies that scientists are developing to try to protect the reef from further marine heatwaves. This could include the deployment of ultra-thin “sun shields” over reefs during heatwaves, the FT says. The research is also covered by the Independent, the Guardian and Time. Carbon Brief also took a look at the findings.
Wind farms could be far less harmful to birds than once thought, a new report finds. An industry report backed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) monitored seabirds flying near the Vattenfall’s Thanet offshore wind farm in the English Channel using radar and video footage over a two year period. After watching more than 600,000 video clips, they recorded just six collisions between birds and wind turbines over the two-year period. The project was commissioned by 11 offshore wind developers, The Times reports, who said the research proved that the government could “rapidly and sustainably grow the offshore wind sector by 2030”. A spokesperson for the RSPB told The Times that more studies were needed. The Scotsman also has the story
Energy supplier Ovo Energy have announced the launch of the UK’s largest ever trial of electric car chargers that can sell stored electricity back to the grid, according to the Daily Telegraph. The independent supplier said on Wednesdayit will trial the “vehicle-to-grid” power systems with 1,000 of its customers who drive Nissan electric vehicles before they hit the market.
Labour has accused the government of stifling the growth of clean energy projects by allowing energy networks to make “outrageous financial demands” on renewables developers. Two companies that run local electricity grids this week began making green energy firms pay for an estimate of how much it will cost to connect their solar and windfarms to the grid. This connection estimate was previously provided for free. The shift was made possible regulatory changes made by the government earlier this year. Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, the shadow business secretary, told the Guardian: “It was the Tories’ recent reforms that allowed for these outrageous financial demands to be made, which will have serious repercussions right across the renewables sector and for the future of clean energy.”
The melting of Antarctic glaciers may be contributing to sea level rise to a larger degree than previously thought, a new study suggests. Research published in Science Advances finds that as glaciers melt, they produce fresh water that enters the ocean, making it more buoyant. This leads to a layer of water floating on the surface, which prevents warm and cool waters from mixing. The warm water trapped beneath the surface then further accelerates the rate of glacier melt, creating a positive feedback effect, the researchers say.
This week the UK inched closer to becoming the first G7 country to commit to net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century. David Roberts of Vox takes a look at UK climate policy to date and the political will of the country for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. The report draws on previous analysis from Carbon Brief looking at UK carbon emissions in 2016 and how important negative emissions technologies will be to helping the country meet the Paris goals.
The adoption of different farming practices could help to bring carbon from the air into the ground, stemming the rate of climate change, writes Moises Velasquez-Manoff in New York Times Magazine. Such practices could include agroforestry, growing trees and crops at the same time to raise carbon uptake, or no-till farming, which could decrease the rate of soil carbon erosion.
The impact of climate change on freshwater ecosystems is significantly reduced at 1.5C of global warming compared with 2C, a new study finds. Using four climate models and two global hydrological models, researchers assessed the risks of 1.5C and 2C of warming on high and low surface and groundwater flows, as well as freshwater plant and animal life. The results show the additional impact between 1.5C and 2C on high flows would be felt most by low-to-middle income countries, while the effect on soil moisture and low flows would be most felt by high income countries.