Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Hinkley investment decision soon, says EDF chief after finance director resigns
- Bananas facing a bleak future as staple African crops decline
- EU open to increasing 2030 carbon target, says top climate negotiator
- Oil rises above $40 a barrel as rally extends
- Obama administration pays out $500m to climate change project
- There is no silver bullet to solve Britain's energy crisis
- A blow to Britain’s plan for nuclear renaissance
- The Guardian view on energy policy: keeping the lights on is what governments are for
- Nuclear Disaster
- Cropping frequency and area response to climate variability can exceed yield response
- More extreme precipitation in the world's dry and wet regions
- Shipwreck rates reveal Caribbean tropical cyclone response to past radiative forcing
The departure of EDF’s finance chief has yielded a lot of soul-searching from those involved in the Hinkley Point C nuclear project, and a lot of explanations from newspapers of what the long-term troubles with it are. EDF chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy has said that the company wants to reach a final decision on investing in the plant “soon” and that he regretted the “hastiness” of Thomas Piquemal’s departure. The Financial Times reports that his departure, which occurred after a “strong disagreement” with Levy, laid bare the tensions at EDF over the project. The Guardianreports that ministers in France and the UK have said the project remains on track, despite strong doubts — the Financial Times says they have launched a “coordinated response” to “kill the rebellion”. The Times reports findings by analysts that taxpayers will save more than £17 billion if ministers scrap Hinkley plans. The Financial Times, the Guardian and the Independent all write explanations of why the project is so troubled.
Climate change will leave vast areas of Africa unable to produce staple crops such as maize, bananas and beans by the end of the century, according to a new study. Rising temperatures could force “significant areas” to find alternative crops, improve irrigation systems or even abandon crop-based agriculture completely by 2100, it says. Co-author Julian Ramirez-Villegas told the BBC that there were options available, but they need to be imposed by deadlines. Another new study on nutrition, covered by the Independent, looks at the impacts of climate change on farmers in Brazil. Crop yields are reduced because farmers can end up planting fewer crops, the study finds. The Daily Mail looks at the study, while Carbon Brief has also written up the African study.
The EU Commission appears to have softened its stance on increasing its 2030 ambition on climate change. The EU appeared last week to rule out any advance on its target to reduce emissions by “at least 40%” by 2030, but lead negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger has said: “The question of the level of ambition for 2030 is open, as long as it is a binding EU target of at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990.” The EU goal as it currently stands is seen as an inadequate contribution to meeting the global goals set in Paris.
The price of oil rose about $40 a barrel for this first time this year on Monday, as more traders bet that the worst of the 20-month long rout is over. Sentiment has improved as major oil-producing countries prepare to meet to discuss a possible output freeze. Saudi Arabia, Russia, Qatar and Venezuela agreed last month to freeze production levels providing other countries join them. The UAE’s energy minister told reporters that it was “logical” for everyone to freeze their production.
The US administration has paid out the first instalment of its $3bn pledge to help poor countries tackle climate change, made through the Green Climate Fund. The Guardian says that the contribution was seen as “critical” to providing reassurance that Obama would be able to deliver the pledges he made in Paris in 2015. Obama is expected to announce a number of joint climate initiatives this week, when Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau visits Washington DC this week.
Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow secretary for energy and climate change, criticises the government’s energy policy off the back of the announcement of the most recent setback to the Hinkley Point nuclear project. She says that there is “no single silver bullet” to solve Britain’s energy crisis, but that we need a mix of gas, nuclear and renewables. The Energy Bill currently before the House of Commons could be amended so that it reflects these needs, including introducing a national strategy for CCS and pushing through wind farms that have local support. Currently, it does the reverse, she says. Next week’s Budget is also a chance for the Chancellor to make important changes.
The Financial Times joins a selection of newspapers in including an editorial on the beleaguered Hinkley Point project. The nuclear reactor would be a good deal for France, it says, as it needs to prove that the technology works, and could prove extremely profitable if it manages to bring it into operation. But that does’t make it a good deal for British taxpayers or EDF’s private sector shareholders. The UK should look at other options, it says, such as other nuclear projects in Wales and Cumbria, while ministers have hinted they could look at smaller, simpler reactors in the future. It concludes: “It is time to move on.”
An editorial in the Guardian takes a scathing attitude to the Hinkley nuclear project following the resignation of EDF’s finance director. But without Hinkley, which was supposed to provide 7% of the UK’s energy, the country is in a “perilous bind” when it comes to keeping the lights on. The suggestions in last week’s National Infrastructure Report contains some partial solutions, says the editorial — the state should use its borrowing power to support this, it concludes.
An editorial in the Times has nothing good to say about the proposed Hinkley Point nuclear power station, which received another setback this week with the resignation of EDF’s finance director. The project manager resigned last month. Neither seems to have had much faith in the project, suggests the Times. Hinkley is now being propelled by its own momentum and by politics, rather than the interests of consumers and investors, it says, and Britain would do better to rely on smaller, cheaper reactors.
The biggest impact of climate change on growing crops might be on how much land people choose to farm and the number of harvests they aim for each year – rather than directly on crop yields, a new study says. Using satellite data for 2002-08, researchers monitored yields, cropping frequency and farmed area in Mato Grosso in Brazil, which produces 10% of the world’s soybeans. Roughly 70% of the change in agricultural output caused by climate was a result of changes in cropping frequency and farmed area, the study finds. Considering the impact on yields alone may mean missing other losses, the researchers say.
Extreme rainfall over land has increased over both the wettest and driest regions of the world during the last 60 years, a new study finds. Using observed data and models, the researchers estimate that daily rainfall extremes have increased by about 1–2% per decade across both kinds of regions since 1950. This trend is likely to keep intensifying through the 21st century, the researchers say, putting both dry and wet regions at higher risk of flooding.
A new study uses data on Spanish shipwrecks and tree-ring records to show that the period 1645 to 1715 had an unusually low number of Caribbean hurricanes. The researchers compiled an annual record of hurricanes going back to the year 1500 from books of shipwrecks, ship logs, and tree ring records from the Florida Keys. During 1645-1715, there was a 75% drop in the number of hurricanes, the researchers say, and this coincides with a period of cool northern hemisphere temperatures when the Earth was receiving less energy from the sun.
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