Today's climate and energy headlines:
- July confirmed as hottest month on record
- China coal mine approvals surge despite climate pledges
- Climate change: Hungry nations add the least to global CO2
- Stop damaging land or face climate catastrophe, major report warns
- Climate change: how the jet stream is changing your weather
- The Times view on the British car industry’s troubles: Auto Delete
- The UK now consumes as much energy as 50 years ago – with an economy three times larger
- Estimation of heat-related deaths during heat wave episodes in South Korea (2006–2017)
- Global fire emissions buffered by the production of pyrogenic carbon
Many publications cover new satellite data confirming early reports that July this year was the warmest month ever observed worldwide. BBC News reports that this July was marginally warmer – by 0.04C – than the previous hottest month on record, July 2016. The data comes from an assessment that was carried out by researchers at the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), it adds. The Financial Times adds: “The small difference between July 2019 and July 2016 is within the margin of error between data sets, making the two months virtually tied.” The new record is “particularly notable” because it does not fall during an El Niño year, the FT notes. El Niño is a natural climate phenomenon known to bring about climate extremes in some parts of the world. The New York Timesrecounts some of the extreme events seen in the record month, which included unprecedented heatwaves in Europe, megafires in Siberia and severe melting across Greenland. The Washington Post also covers the news, quoting Carbon Brief’s Zeke Hausfather saying: “While we don’t expect every year to set a new record, the fact that it’s happening every few years is a clear sign of a warming climate.” Climate Home News also has the story.
Approvals for new coal mines in China surged in 2019, according to government documents seen by Reuters, it reports. China’s energy regulator approved 141m tonnes of new annual coal production capacity from January to June, compared to 25m tonnes over the whole of last year, according to Reuters analysis of the approval documents. Lauri Myllyvirta, a senior energy analyst at Greenpeace, tells Reuters that many of the newly approved projects would likely replace small or depleted old mines. “However, it is alarming that China’s energy planning seems to be driving at roughly maintaining current levels of coal output for the coming decade or two, which is very hard to reconcile with the goal of the Paris Agreement.”
The top 10 most food-insecure countries all generate less than half a tonne of CO2 per person, and in total just 0.08% of global emissions, according to new research reported on by BBC News. The findings, from the charity Christian Aid, highlight that “climate change is now having a disproportionate impact on the food systems of the countries that have done least to produce the carbon emissions that are driving up temperatures”, BBC News says. It adds that a person in the UK has a carbon footprint that is 200 times larger than a person in Burundi, the world’s most food-insecure country.
The Independent follows other publications in previewing the upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on climate change and land. It says: “Researchers believe any genuine plan to combat climate change must tackle the state of the land and production of food. This means putting a stop to chopping down rainforest, degrading soils, killing wildlife and draining peatlands.” MailOnline also covers the report, with the headline: “Humans must adopt vegetarian or vegan diets to stop climate change, UN report warns.” The IPCC previously responded to news coverage of leaked drafts of the report by saying that “the text can change between the drafts and the final version”.
The Financial Times’s environment and clean energy correspondent Leslie Hook reports from Ilulissat, Greenland following record melting across the ice sheet last week. “Last Friday, as the sun beat down, a small weather station laden with sensors captured something highly unusual: the temperature crept past zero and up to 3.6C – the highest since records began three decades ago. As temperatures rose across the massive ice sheet, which blankets an area five times the size of Germany, around 60% of the surface started to melt,” she writes. “The immediate trigger for the heatwave was a shift in atmospheric currents high above the earth’s surface: the North Atlantic Jet Stream, a fast current of wind that blows from west to east, had formed a buckle that was trapping warm air over Greenland.” Changes to the jet stream not only impact Greenland, but also extreme weather across Europe, Hook says. “As the world gets warmer, the behaviour of the jet stream is one of the most studied and hotly debated mysteries of climate change.”
An editorial in the Times on the impacts of “short-sighted” government policy on the British car industry criticises the government for failing to prepare for decarbonisation. It reads: “The government could do more to help the industry to weather the present storms. First is obviously to avoid a no-deal Brexit and second is to offer worthwhile incentives to ease the transition to a future free of fossil fuels. It is absurd that the Treasury still spends £9bn a year subsidising the internal combustion engine as a result of freezing fuel duty for nine years.” Meanwhile, Libby Purves writes in the lead comment article for the Sun that “the more we’re battered by climate change doom-mongering, the deafer we get to warnings”. Her comments were previously published in yesterday’s Times.
Akshat Rathi of Quartz uses Carbon Brief analysis to look at falling energy consumption in the UK in a series of charts. He says: “Each year, the UK government publishes detailed data about the country’s energy consumption and emissions. It reveals an intriguing story: The country now consumes less overall energy than it did in 1970. The feat is more impressive given that the UK economy grew more than three times larger from 1965 to today, implying that the amount of energy required to produce each pound of economic output has fallen precipitously.”
The number of deaths caused by the 2016 heatwave in South Korea might be substantially higher than previously reported, a new study says. Linking mortality to meteorological data in 16 regions in South Korea for 2006-17, the researchers estimate a total of 1,440 deaths associated with heatwaves during the 2006–17. The study suggests that 343 deaths in 2016 can be ascribed to heatwaves – which is approximately 20 times more than the number reported by the Korea Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Wildfires across the world emit around 2.2bn tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere every year. But, as a new study points out, these fires also convert “a significant fraction” of the burned vegetation into “pyrogenic carbon” – also known as biochar. Combining measurements from field and experimental fires with the Global Fire Emissions Database, the researchers quantify global pyrogenic carbon production. They estimate that it equates to 12% of the carbon emitted by wildfires each year. The results “demonstrate that pyrogenic carbon production by landscape fires could be a significant, but overlooked, sink for atmospheric CO2”.
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