Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Hitting toughest climate target will save world $30tn in damages, analysis shows
- Rice, the staple food of billions, could become less nutritious because of climate change
- China could meet emissions pledge early; carbon market on track: officials
- India Disappointed by Rich Nations' Climate Treaty Track Record
- Few energy technologies, sectors on track for climate goals: IEA
- Ireland: EU report ‘shows failure to tackle climate change’
- In an internal memo, the White House considered whether to simply ‘ignore’ federal climate research
- World Needs to Set Rules for Geoengineering Experiments, Experts Say
- Markets may be underpricing climate-related risk
- The August 2015 mega‐heatwave in Poland in the context of past events
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels this century will alter the protein, micronutrients, and vitamin content of rice grains with potential health consequences for the poorest rice-dependent countries
Almost all nations would benefit economically from keeping global warming below 1.5C, according to a new study reported by the Guardian. Meeting the most ambitious target of the Paris Agreement would avoid $30tn in damages, far more than the cost of cutting emissions, the study says. Only a handful of countries would be better off with 1.5C of warming, the Guardian notes, pointing to Russia, Canada and Scandinavian nations. Meeting the 1.5C goal would avoid damages running to tens of trillions of dollars this century from heat waves, droughts and floods, reports Reuters. It adds that the world’s poor nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America would see the greatest benefits in avoided damages. Some 90% of the world’s population “stand to reap major economic benefits by avoiding costs linked to higher temperatures”, says AFP’s coverage published by the Japan Times.
Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions threaten to make rice less nutritious, says a new study covered by the Washington Post and others. Rice had lower levels of key vitamins when grown under higher CO2 concentrations, according to the study of 18 rice varieties grown at sites in China and Japan. The experimental sites had raised CO2 levels of 570-590 parts per million (ppm), which could be reached by the second half of this century, the Independent says. It adds that concentrations recently reached 410ppm, the highest in at least 800,000 years. Rice grown under elevated CO2 had significantly less protein, iron and zinc, the New York Times reports, adding that more than two billion people rely on the crop as their primary food source. It says the latest research follows similar findings for wheat, peas and soybeans. The New York Times continues: “The finding that extra CO2 can make crops less nutritious may sound counterintuitive. Plants, after all, rely on carbon dioxide as an ingredient for photosynthesis…[But] the chemical composition of a plant depends on the balance of the CO2 it takes in from the air and the nutrients it absorbs from the soil.” The Guardian also has the story.
It’s possible that China pledge to cap greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 could be met early the country’s top climate envoy said yesterday, Reuters reports. Xie Zhenhua said China had already met several of its 2020 climate goals three years early, Reuters adds. It also cites a “senior environmental official” saying plans for China’s national carbon market are on track despite a major departmental reshuffle.
Indian officials are “disappointed” by the level of pre-2020 climate ambition shown by rich nations, reports Bloomberg, citing the head of climate change in India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The official also says there is a lack of “constructive involvement” from the US in climate negotiations. The article quotes a South African climate negotiator adding rich nations have failed to meet financial commitments.
Only four of 38 energy technologies and sectors are on track to meet long-term climate and air pollution goals, according to an update from the International Energy Agency reported by Reuters. Only solar, lighting, data centres and electric vehicles are growing in line with climate goals, the agency says.
The Irish government’s climate plan has been criticised by the European Commission for failing to offer new plans to tackle emissions, reports the Irish edition of the Times. The EU report says Ireland is set to miss its 2020 emissions reduction targets and will have to buy offsets from other member states to make up the difference. If Ireland misses its target and fails to buy offsets, it faces fines of up to €600m, the Times says.
“White House officials last year weighed whether to simply ‘ignore’ climate studies produced by government scientists or to instead develop ‘a coherent, fact-based message about climate science,” reports the Washington Post, citing a September 2017 memo it has obtained. The document highlights the dilemma facing the administration, the paper says: its agencies continue to produce reports showing climate change is real, human-caused and a threat to the US even as the administration works to scrap climate policies. The administration has largely chosen to option to ignore these reports rather than directly addressing them, the Post notes.
With interest in geoengineering research rising and the risks uncertain, the world needs to start discussing governance rules, say experts quoted by Chelsea Harvey for E&E News.
California’s insurance commissioner is worried about the transition to a low-carbon economy affecting the financial health of the sector, explains a feature in the Economist. The state’s 672 large insurers have investment portfolios that are poorly aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement, it says, prompting fears of a “carbon bubble” of overvalued businesses “that could suffer if the climate threat is tackled resolutely”. A related study found electricity producers would have to retire around 20% of existing coal capacity and cancel all planned projects if the Paris goals are to be met, the Economist adds. Yet “many investors seem unconcerned”, it continues, perhaps due to short investment horizons.
The 2015 “mega-heatwave” in Poland was the most extreme heat event in the region since the second world war, a new study says. Using observed weather data from 10 major cities in Poland and neighbouring countries, researchers assessed past mega-heatwaves – defined as events with at least six consecutive days with a maximum air temperature above 30C. The 2015 heatwave was the most extreme of the studied events, the study finds, lasting from nine days in Bialystok to 14 days in Warsaw and Poznan.
Rice grown under higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere could be less nutritious, a new study suggests. In a series of “FACE (free-air CO2 enrichment)” experiments, researchers grew 18 varieties of rice under the atmospheric CO2 levels that are possible later this century. The resulting yields had lower amounts of protein, iron, zinc, and a range of vitamins. The health impacts are likely to be greatest in countries with low GDP and the largest reliance on rice as a source of calories and protein, the researchers say – “suggesting potential consequences for a global population of approximately 600 million”.