Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Hurricane Michael: Record-breaking 'hell' storm mauls US
- Huge reduction in meat-eating ‘essential’ to avoid climate breakdown
- UK's housing stock 'needs massive retrofit to meet climate targets'
- EU ministers agree 35% car emissions reduction by 2030
- Darling and Howard back call for post-Brexit carbon tax
- Campaigner in High Court bid to stop fracking in Lancashire
- World Bank dumps Kosovo plant, ending support for coal worldwide
- Wind turbine noise can be bad for hearing
- We’ve missed many chances to curb global warming. This may be our last
- Trade-offs in using European forests to meet climate objectives
The most powerful hurricane to hit Florida in 80 years has flooded beach towns and submerged homes, causing at least one death and leaving half a million people without power. Hurricane Michael made landfall yesterday afternoon as a category three storm with 125mph winds in the state’s Panhandle region, says BBC News. It was so powerful that it remained a hurricane as it moved further inland. According to Reuters and the Hill, Michael was actually a category four storm when it came ashore. “Its sustained winds were just 2mph shy of an extremely rare category five,” notes Reuters. It is the third most powerful storm to hit the mainland US, according to Time. Michael was later downgraded to category one and then to a tropical storm as it reached central Georgia, says Reuters. It’s projected path will take it up through the US east coast today. 840,000 homes are threatened by the storm, says E&E News, and damages are likely to reach as much as $13–19bn. Evacuations of oil & gas staff and shutdowns of platforms has reduced 42% of daily crude oil production in the Gulf and nearly a third of natural gas output, says Reuters. The intensity of the hurricane – and the speed of intensification – was likely a result of the very warm sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, reports another Reutersarticle. Michael’s wind speeds increased by 72% in less than 33 hours, notes the Associated Press. The New York Times reports on how “scientists are increasingly confident of the links between global warming and hurricanes”. And New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof looks back at some of the past comments by Florida politicians on their scepticism about climate change. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that hundreds of thousands of people have been left without power in India after tropical cyclone “Titli” hit its eastern seaboard last night.
Substantial reductions in meat-eating are essential to avoid dangerous climate change, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of the food system’s impact on the environment. In western countries, beef consumption needs to fall by 90% and be replaced by five times more beans and pulses. The study, published in the journal Nature, combined data from every country to assess the impact of food production on the global environment. If the world wants to limit climate change, water scarcity and pollution, then people need to embrace “flexitarian” diets, says BBC News. “We can eat a range of healthy diets but what they all have in common, according to the latest scientific evidence, is that they are all relatively plant based,” said lead author Dr Marco Springmann. Other changes are also necessary to feed a future population of 10 billion people sustainably, notes the Daily Telegraph – halving global food waste and improving farming practices are also required. Sun columnist Rod Liddle is not happy, arguing that “the stuff I’ve been hearing about the effect of meat-eating on climate change is beyond parody”. The Independent also covers the research. A separate Guardian article suggests that food could be labelled for its environmental impact in the same way as household appliances.
Hundreds of millions of pounds must be spent on the UK’s draughty housing stock to meet the government’s climate change targets, a new report says. The research, by the Institution of Engineering and Technology and Nottingham Trent University, finds that meeting government targets of 80% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century would require sweeping policy change. Every house in the country should have a ‘deep retrofit’ with solar panels and triple glazing, says the Daily Mail. Rather than deploying such changes in a piecemeal way, each dwelling should receive a one-off refurbishment covering all the needed improvements to make the homes fit for the next 30 years at least, the report says. The New Scientist also covers the report, as does Carbon Brief.
European environment ministers have agreed to cut car and van CO2 emissions by 35% by 2030, clearing the way for negotiations on the final EU targets with the more ambitious European Parliament. They also included a target of a 15% CO2 cut by 2025 and an opt-out for smaller manufacturers. Some central and eastern EU countries originally resisted any increase over the initial proposal of a 30% cut, but agreed to the compromise after an extra bonus for low and zero-emission vehicles sold in lower-GDP countries was added. The deal was endorsed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, reports Reuters, despite protests from her country’s own car manufacturers, which said the target was unrealistic and pursuing it would cost jobs. Meanwhile, EurActiv reports that members of the European Parliament voted on yesterday in favour of increasing the EU’s Paris Agreement emissions pledge by 2020. The Parliament’s environment committee decided in its COP24 resolution that the EU should reconsider its greenhouse gas emissions reduction pledge, currently fixed at 40%, and increase it up to “at least 55%”.
Companies selling fossil fuels in Britain should face a steadily rising carbon tax to tackle climate change after Brexit, according to the former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling and the former Conservative leader Michael Howard. Launching a report by the Policy Exchange thinktank calling for the introduction of an economy-wide carbon tax, Darling and Howard said unilateral action was necessary to tackle climate change.“The UK has a duty both to assist developing nations to adapt to the negative effects of climate change and to cut our own emissions faster than those without the means to do so,” they said in a joint statement. The report recommends the UK should remain a member of the EU’s emissions trading system until the end of the third trading period at the start of 2021, reports Bloomberg. The government could then introduce a carbon tax set at the level of the ETS, which could then be steadily increased in future years. Meanwhile, in an interview with the Guardian, Chris Stark, the chief executive of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, says the UK’s obligations to cut emissions to meet a 1.5C warming limit will be controversial and politically fraught, taking the country into “uncharted territory” and testing the political consensus on climate change.
An environmental campaigner is going to the High Court today in a bid to stop energy firm Cuadrilla from fracking the UK’s first horizontal shale gas well, reports the Press Association. The campaigner, Bob Dennett, is attempting to win a blocking order over plans to frack a well at Preston New Road in Lancashire. In the Independent, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, writes that “fracking is a travesty for local democracy, bad news for the environment and our climate”. She decries government regulatory changes that: “Have made fracking as easy as building a garden wall”. Also in the Independent, in its “Independent Minds” comment and analysis section, the paper’s science and environment writer Josh Gabbatiss asks “why does everyone hate fracking so much?” In the piece, Gabbatiss “asks if opposition to fracking in the UK is justified”.
The World Bank has ended support for a lignite-fired coal power plant in Kosovo, Climate Home News reports. The bank’s president, Jim Yong Kim, said the plant – which was the last coal scheme in the world to have its support – could not compete on price with renewables. Reuters quotes Kim saying the bank was required by its rules to “go with the lowest cost option, and renewables have now come below the cost of coal”.
The Daily Mail and the Express cover a new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on noise regulations for Europe. Both lead with the findings on wind turbines, reporting that they have been “labelled a potential health hazard by researchers at the UN”. However, as Dr Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, explained in a tweet, the WHO report “says nothing of the sort”. Instead, it concludes that “evidence on health effects from wind turbine noise (apart from annoyance) is either absent or rated low/very low quality”.
Commenting on the IPCC’s special report on 1.5C, a New Scientist editorial compares the challenge of meeting the 1.5C limit to “the two world wars, the Apollo programme, the cold war, the abolition of slavery, the Manhattan project, the building of the railways and the rollout of sanitation and electrification, all in one”. While “the history of humanity is one of stupidity, denial and dawdling”, the editorial says, it can be “followed by heroic rearguard action to prevail against all odds”. “Does our generation have the gumption?,” it asks. Elsewhere, Financial Times senior commentator Anjana Ahuja writes that the report “should have prompted days of analysis and political hand-wringing”. “Instead,” she says, “the international silence was deafening”. In New York Magazine, David Wallace-Wells strikes a pessimistic tone, pointing out that “the real meaning of the report is not ‘climate change is much worse than you think’, because anyone who knows the state of the research will find nothing surprising in it. The real meaning is, ‘you now have permission to freak out’.” And in the Pacific Standard, independent journalist Sophie Yeo speaks to several scientists to understand the purpose of the report. “Was the report a waste of scientists’ time, or a valuable contribution?,” asks Yeo. “The proof will lie not within the pages of the IPCC report itself, but rather in the actions it spurs now that it’s in front of politicians”. Elsewhere, in a full page comment in the Daily Mail, columnist Steven Glover writes that although it “would be rash to ignore the consensus among the thousands of experts” on climate change, “that doesn’t mean we should meekly swallow all the latest crystal ball gazing by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”. Glover criticises the IPCC because they “and other supposedly knowledgeable international bodies have produced dire warnings in the past which have not borne fruit”. And writing in the Wall Street Journal, climate-sceptic author Bjorn Lomborg has an opinion piece on why the new IPCC report “ignores the economics of climate”. Carbon Brief’s Simon Evans has a Tweet thread on the errors in the piece.
Planting new forests across Europe to tackle climate change could come with trade-offs, including a rise in local levels of warming, new research says. Afforestation is a process where new forests are planted across land without trees. As a forest grows, it naturally removes CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it in its trees. However, the new research finds that planting trees in Europe would darken the landscape, leading it to absorb more sunlight. “Consequently, forest management could offset CO2 emissions without halting global temperature rise,” the researchers say.
Get a Daily or Weekly round-up of all the important articles and papers selected by Carbon Brief by email.
Expert analysis directly to your inbox.
Get a Daily or Weekly round-up of all the important articles and papers selected by Carbon Brief by email.