Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Last decade was warmest since Industrial Revolution, report warns
- Climate change warning after fatal rail landslide
- Wind and solar double global share of electricity in five years
- Boris Johnson poised to stop UK funding overseas fossil fuel projects
- UK pensions group seeks ban on new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2025
- What Kamala Harris means for Biden's climate change plans
- Soil carbon loss by experimental warming in a tropical forest
- Temporal variability of seasonal warming rates in China
- Increasing trend in rapid intensification magnitude of tropical cyclones over the western North Pacific
The decade 2010-19 was the warmest since the Industrial Revolution, Sky News reports, picking up what it calls a “bleak new assessment of the state of the global climate” published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS). Last year was one of the three warmest on record, Sky News adds, with the last decade some 0.2C hotter than the first decade of the 21st century. According to the Guardian’s coverage of the report: “The increase in average global temperature is rapidly gathering pace, with the last decade up to 0.39C warmer than the long-term average.” Reuters says the annual state of the global climate report is by 528 climate scientists from 61 countries and finds “glaciers melting, sea levels rising and a spate of wildfires, heatwaves and droughts”. Each decade since 1980 has been hotter than the one before, reports the Press Association via the Independent. The i newspaper and the Daily Mail also have the story.
Meanwhile, a story on the front page of the Times covers the BAMS findings, but leads on the news that “Britain has experienced its longest stretch of temperatures above 34C since the 1960s, after the level was reached for six days in a row.” It says that thunderstorms are set to break the heatwave, causing flooding, damage to buildings and travel disruption. The story adds:“Britons have also endured a run of ‘tropical nights’, when temperatures stay above 20C. These happened only eight times between 1961 and 1995.” Sky News reports that whereas “tropical nights used to be a rare phenomenon” in the UK, climate change will increase their frequency. The Guardian also covers the UK’s longest stretch above 34C since the 1960s. The Independent reports that London schools could close when classroom temperatures exceed 30C, under new guidance on adapting to climate change.
In news that dominates the front pages of many UK newspapers, the Times reports on a landslide that caused a fatal derailment near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire. The story, which is the front page splash for the Scottish edition of the paper, reports that rail chiefs were warned that the rail network was vulnerable to extreme weather, just weeks before the accident. It quotes a researcher saying: “The regulator had warned [track operator] Network Rail again, just four weeks ago, that its plans to address climate change were not in step with the new frequency and severity of flooding on the railway. The Stonehaven tragedy shows the rail industry must adapt to climate change.” The Times adds that there were six times more flooding events on Britain’s railways in 2019-20 than in the previous 12 months. BBC News has the story, including analysis by science editor David Shukman saying: “It’s long been recognised that landslips are one of the greatest risks to Britain’s railways and that a changing climate will make them more likely…with rising global temperatures set to bring extremes of weather never anticipated by the Victorian engineers who built the lines, Network Rail has been studying how best to keep the tracks safe.” Sky News points to a report last month from the rail regulator that criticised Network Rail for “not keeping up with the frequency and severity of these events” with its plans to address climate change and extreme weather. The broadcaster adds: “Responding to the report, Network Rail said its network was designed for a temperate climate and has been ‘challenged’ by longer periods of high and low temperatures, storms and floods.” In a piece by transport correspondent Gwyn Topham, the Guardian reports that the “Stonehaven tragedy highlights [the] threat to rail from [the] climate crisis”. The Daily Telegraph, ITV News, Guardian, CNN and the Mirror are among those also reporting the climate change warnings in their coverage of Britain’s first fatal rail accident in 13 years.
The share of global electricity generated by wind and solar has doubled to nearly 10% in five years, Bloomberg reports, citing new analysis from “UK environmental group” Ember. Coal’s share of the global total has dropped by around five percentage points over the same period to 33% in the first half of 2020, Bloomberg adds, according to the analysis of generation in 48 countries covering 83% of global electricity. Reuters also covers the findings, adding that “steeper change is needed to meet targets set under the 2015 Paris climate agreement”, according to Ember.
Prime minister Boris Johnson is “poised to sign off new rules barring the UK government’s chief foreign lender form offering financial support to foreign fossil fuel projects”, the Guardian reports. The new policy was passed to the prime minister’s office this week and could get the green light “within days, according to sources”, it adds. The move would end future loans and financial guarantees from UK Export Finance, the paper explains. The news comes “just weeks after [the agency] agreed to a £1bn financial package to support work on a gas project in Mozambique”, the Guardian says.
A pension group that manages more than £300bn in assets is calling for a ban on petrol, diesel and hybrid cars to be brought forward to 2025, Reuters reports, in a response to a government consultation on bringing the date forward from 2040 to 2035. The Guardian reports that “moderate Tories” have joined calls for the ban to be brought forward to 2030. It says the “One Nation” group of 100 Conservative MPs represents around a third of the parliamentary party. Writing for BusinessGreen, Policy Exchange’s Ed Birkett argues that the UK government should introduce California-style zero-emission vehicle mandates on the path to a ban on conventional cars.
There is continuing coverage of California senator Kamala Harris, newly announced running mate for Democratic US presidential hopeful Joe Biden. According to Axios, Harris “could heighten the ticket’s focus on environmental justice while prompting fresh Trump campaign political attacks on Democrats’ energy plans”. The website says that Harris’s overall stance on climate and energy is consistent with Biden’s, but that there are also some differences. It points to her “more explicit” support for carbon pricing and previous statements in support of a ban on fracking, as well as her co-sponsorship of the “Climate Equity Act” legislation with fellow Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The New York Times reports that the choice of Harris as running mate “signalled that Democrats will try to ensure that communities burdened by pollution would benefit from a transition to clean energy”, according to “climate change leaders”. Its headline says that with a Biden-Harris ticket, “environmental justice is a focus”, and the article notes that Harris “has a long history” of working on the issue. According to Bloomberg: “Less than two hours after Kamala Harris was named Joe Biden’s running mate, president Donald Trump had cast the California Democrat as an oil industry and fracking foe.” It continues: “It’s a line Trump will surely use again and again against Harris…But the criticism may have limited appeal beyond Trump’s political base and is likely to boost enthusiasm for the Democratic ticket among progressive voters.” Climate Home News reports that the Harris pick “could reinvigorate stalled world action on climate change…if the Democrats defeat Donald Trump”. InsideClimate News says Harris has a “record and profile for action” on climate change. It adds: “As Joe Biden’s running mate, the California senator will draw in the activist community that Biden hopes to have behind his candidacy.” According to E&E News, Harris “has a record of supporting ambitious carbon goals but lacks experience in fighting for them legislatively”. BusinessGreen also reports on the Harris news.
Elsewhere in the US, the Hill reports that six former US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrators from both Democratic and Republican administrations are calling for a “reset” at the agency. It quotes the former officials writing in a letter: “While we are concerned about the current state of affairs at EPA, we are hopeful for the agency’s future.“ Axios also has the story and publishes the former officials’ letter in full.
A new study demonstrates that “soil carbon in tropical forests is highly sensitive to warming, creating a potentially substantial positive feedback to climate change”. Undertaking an “in situ experimental warming of a lowland tropical forest soil on Barro Colorado Island, Panama”, the researchers recorded “an unexpectedly large increase in soil CO2 emissions”. Specifically, “two years of warming of the whole soil profile by 4C increased CO2 emissions by 55% compared to soils at ambient temperature”. This “worrying” result suggests that “tropical-forest soils might be more vulnerable to warming than was thought”, an accompanying News & Views article says.
A new study calculates the rate of warming in China’s different regions and seasons. Using data from almost 2,500 weather stations for 1958-2017, the authors find that the warming rate is “higher than 0.5C per decade in numerous stations”. The amount of seasonal warming is “highest in winter, followed by spring, then autumn and was lowest in summer”, the researchers say, and “northern China has shown stronger warming than southern China”.
“Rapid intensification” (RI) of tropical cyclones – where storms intensify over a short period of time – has increased over the western North Pacific since 1979, a new study suggests. This increasing trend in RI magnitude “primarily results from the significant increasing number of strong RI events, defined as 24-hour intensity increases of at least 50 knots”. These changes are “likely induced by the warming ocean but appear uncorrelated with changes in the atmospheric environment”, the researchers say.
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