Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Ireland to become first country to divest from fossil fuels
- UK seeks post-Brexit climate tie-up with EU
- Japan faces 'frequent' disasters as flood toll reaches 200
- EU court rejects challenge to Hinkley Point subsidies
- UN security council considers 'cycle of conflict and climate disaster'
- Undercooked: An Expensive Push to Save Lives and Protect the Planet Falls Short
- Fahrenheit 100: could this be the summer Britain wakes up to climate change?
- Controls on millennial‐scale atmospheric CO2 variability during the last glacial period
- Ocean‐induced melt triggers glacier retreat in Northwest Greenland
- Ongoing primary forest loss in Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia
The Irish parliament has passed a bill forcing the country’s €9m ($10bn) sovereign wealth fund to divest its holdings of oil, gas, coal and peat companies “as soon as is practicable”, the Financial Times and others report. The move will make Ireland the first country in the world to divest from fossil fuels, the FT says. The rule will bar investments in “any company or project that derives more than 20% of its revenue from fossil fuels”, the paper adds. The passing of the bill was greeted by applause from the public gallery in parliament, reports theJournal.ie. Ireland’s sovereign fund currently holds fossil fuel investments that stood at €318m across 150 companies as of June 2017, says the Irish Times. The bill passed parliament with “all-party support”, reports the Guardian. It adds that Norway’s much larger $1tn sovereign wealth fund has only partially divested from fossil fuels. The decision is a “victory for the global divestment movement”, says the New York Times, which cites the bill’s sponsor saying it has the support of Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar. Groups behind the global divestment movement says other nations must “urgently follow Ireland’s lead”, reports the Independent. Ireland is one of the few European countries not on course to meet its EU emissions reduction targets for 2020, notes BBC News‘s coverage. BusinessGreen, Reuters, npr and the Hill all cover the story.
The UK will seek to continue its climate cooperation with the EU after it leaves the union in 2019, reports Climate Home News, based on the white paper released by Theresa May’s government yesterday. The document says the UK: “Recognises the UK’s and the EU’s shared interest in global action on climate change and the mutual benefits of a broad agreement on climate change cooperation.” However, the document lacks clear outlines of how this relationship will work and argues the UK “does not believe that participation in the [EU internal energy market] should require a common rulebook on wider environmental and climate change rules”, Climate Home News’s story notes. However, the white paper does include proposals for a non-regression requirement to ensure the UK does not backslide on environmental standards, reports BusinessGreen. On climate change, the document says: “The UK’s world leading climate ambitions are set out in domestic law and are more stretching than those that arise from its current obligations under EU law. The UK will maintain these high standards after withdrawal.” The paper sheds little new light on the UK’s future role in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), says Carbon Pulse. A cross-party group of 74 MPs and peers have raised fears over environmental protection after Brexit – despite assurances of no regression – reports BBC News.
Japan faces more frequent severe weather and must find ways to alleviate disasters, a government spokesperson said yesterday, reports Reuters. The comments come in the wake of last week’s deadly floods and landslides, with intense heat and water shortages complicating recovery efforts this week, Reuters reports. It quotes chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga saying: “It’s an undeniable fact that this sort of disaster due to torrential, unprecedented rain is becoming more frequent in recent years”. Reuters notes: “Severe weather has been battering the country more regularly in recent years, raising questions about the impact of global warming.” A second Reuters story says drought “creates a perfect storm for wildfires in US west”. It quotes a scientist saying: “We’re in a global (temperature) change drought.”
A legal challenge against subsidies for the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset has been thrown out by the EU’s second highest court, reports the Times. The court rejected a claim by Austria, which said the subsidies were illegal state aid. The court ruling said: “The UK was entitled to define the development of nuclear energy as being a public-interest objective, even though that objective is not shared by all of the [EU] member states,” reports the Financial Times. Austria is pursuing a similar legal challenge against a planned new nuclear plant in Hungary, reports Reuters.
Climate change is contributing to instability in many parts of the world, the UN security council heard on Wednesday in its first debate dedicated to the topic in seven years, reports Climate Home News. The meeting was chaired by Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström, it adds, with Sweden holding the rotating presidency of the security council this month. The country will launch a climate security knowledge hub later this summer.
A feature in ProPublica looks at the relatively “modest” gains from efforts to tackle the threats to health and climate due to smoke from cooking fires. After eight years, the article says, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves has “fallen well short of its ambitious health and climate goals”, with millions of supposedly clean cookstoves delivering not much in the way of climate benefits. “It turns out emissions from cooking fires were less of a warming threat than feared, and that — outside of some de-forestation hot spots — the harvesting of wood for cooking fires only modestly reduces the sustainability of forests,” the article explains.
“I hoped 2003’s record heatwave would make people more aware [of climate change],” writes Michael McCarthy in the Guardian. He argues that temperatures in fahrenheit hold more meaning for the baby boomer generation and that there was a symbolic moment in 2003 when the 100F threshold was first broken in the UK. “When the 100F threshold is broken, I thought, everyone will see at once that we are in new territory in terms of climate; everyone will perceive the reality of global warming, in an instinctive way. And in August 2003 the day finally came, and I remember vividly how hot it was; and the day went; and people carried on with their business just as before, and have forgotten it completely. Yet my own view is that we did indeed enter new territory that day; and if we have waited 15 years to get back there (and maybe we will wait still longer), it merely illustrates what we know, that climate change proceeds in a non-linear way, in irregular jumps rather than a smooth ascent.”
Ice cores provide unique records of variations in atmospheric CO2 prior to the instrumental era. While it is clear that changes in atmospheric CO2 played a significant role in driving past climate change, it is unclear what in turn drove changes in atmospheric CO2. This study investigates enigmatic changes in atmospheric CO2 levels during the last glacial period (~50,000 to 35,000 years ago) that are associated with abrupt changes in polar climate. They found that the primary source of carbon to the atmosphere was sourced from a deep ocean reservoir that waxed and waned following changes in either the productivity of the surface ocean or stratification of the deep ocean. They also found that atmospheric CO2 can change on the centennial time‐scale during abrupt climate transitions in the Northern Hemisphere. This observation adds to a growing body of evidence that abrupt changes in atmospheric CO2 are an important component of past carbon cycle variability.
In recent decades glaciers in Northwest Greenland have contributed significantly to sea level rise but also exhibited a complex spatial pattern of retreat that remained unexplained. This study used NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) data in combination with an ocean model outputs to assess the role of the ocean in triggering the retreat of these glaciers. They found that the timing of glacier retreat coincides with the timing of increased ocean‐induced melting of the ice faces. While glacier retreat is initiated by the ocean, the calving of icebergs remains the dominant process of mass loss at the ice fronts.
Tropical forests provide numerous global ecosystem services, but are under continuing threat of clearing. This study provides a new estimate of tropical forest extent and loss from 2002–2014 for the largest rainforest countries of Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Indonesia. Brazil’s total area of primary forest loss is more than twice that of Indonesia and five times that of DRC. Despite unprecedented success in slowing deforestation along its forest frontier, Brazil’s most remote forests are increasingly nearer to loss, as extractive activities such as logging and mining intrude upon previously intact forests. In 2014, Indonesia had the least area of remaining primary forest. Despite an announced moratorium on concession licenses in 2011, Indonesia exhibited a rate of primary forest loss twice that of DRC and triple that of Brazil by the end of the study period. Forest loss dynamics in Indonesia range from industrial-scale clearing of coastal peatlands to logging of interior rainforests.
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