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Daily Briefing

21.12.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

21.12.2018 | 9:41am
DAILY BRIEFING Latest Trump plans would open Alaskan Arctic to drilling, new UK renewables record
Latest Trump plans would open Alaskan Arctic to drilling, new UK renewables record

News.

Latest Trump plans would open Alaskan Arctic to drilling by next summer

The US Interior Department has rolled out a “long-awaited proposal” that could open up Alaska’s Arctic to oil and gas drilling as early as next summer, the Hill writes. The move marks the second stage in the Trump administration’s unprecedented bid to allow fossil fuel extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The department claims that the proposals would protect the animals there, but they will, in fact, “end decades of environmental protections”, the New York Times says. Interior secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement: “An energy-dominant America starts with an energy-dominant Alaska…taking these steps toward opening the 1002 section of Alaska’s North Slope stands out among the most impactful toward bolstering America’s economic strength and security”. Meanwhile, nine East Coast states have joined a lawsuit challenging a move to allow offshore oil and natural gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, according to a separate article in the Hill.

The Hill Read Article
New offshore windfarms push UK renewables to record

The addition of new offshore windfarms to the UK grid “pushed” renewables to a record 33.1% of electricity generation between July and September, according to new statistics from the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Guardian reports. Renewables had a 30% share in the same quarter last year. Low-carbon electricity now accounts for a record 56% of the UK’s electricity supply, despite the fact that “the 50% mark was only hit two years ago”. Gas and coal fell to a “new low” of 41.1%. The Press Association and BusinessGreen also have the story. In related news, the Scotsman reports that Scotland generated record levels of electricity from renewable sources last year: 70% up from 54% in 2016.

The Guardian Read Article
Risks of 'domino effect' of tipping points greater than thought, study says

Policymakers “have severely underestimated” the risks of ecological “tipping points” – feedback mechanisms that could occur if certain thresholds are passed – a new study has found. Research published in the journal Science suggests that 45% of potential environmental collapses are interrelated and could amplify one another, highlighting “how overstressed and overlapping natural systems are combining to throw up a growing number of unwelcome surprises”, the Guardian writes. Just 19% of the 30 types of ecosystem transitions studied were happening in isolation.

he Guardian Read Article
EU countries agree to 30% cut in truck CO2 emissions

EU nations have agreed to reduce emissions from trucks and buses by 30% by 2030, Reuters reports, with the potential to review this in 2022. The deal balanced “the interests of Germany and the continent’s largest auto sector with other countries, such as Sweden, which pushed for a sharper cut”, Reuters writes. Countries also agreed to an interim target of a 15% reduction by 2025, relative to 2019 levels.

Reuters Read Article
Coal is Australia’s most valuable export in 2018

Coal will replace iron ore as Australia’s most valuable export this financial year “as supply concerns lead to a steep price rise”, the Sydney Morning Herald explains. Coking coal export values are predicted to reach a total of $67bn in 2018-19, according to a new report from Australia’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. “Coal’s rise comes despite growing public opinion against the mineral”, the paper notes. In other news, new government figures show that Australia will miss its 2030 emissions target by a “vast margin”, the Guardian reports.

The Sydney Morning Herald Read Article

Comment.

Parenting the climate change generation

David Wallace-Wells, columnist for the New York Magazine, reflects on the morality of having children who will face increasingly severe environmental challenges because of climate change and global warming. Wallace-Wells begins: “When we first conceived of conceiving a child, it was in relative ignorance about warming…By the time we’d actually conceived, we were no longer under that illusion, thanks to unprecedented hurricanes and wildfires and floods”. This was not an unusual accident of the year his daughter was born: “Take any chunk of nine months over the last decade and the picture of climate change is sure to have darkened in that time”. He notes that some parents “worry about bringing new children into a damaged world, full of suffering, and about ‘contributing’ to the problem by crowding the climate stage with more players”, while others wrestle with the question of how to talk to their children about global warming. For himself, Wallace-Wells plans to tells his daughter that “further degradation isn’t inescapable, it is optional”. We close off our horizons “when we say anything about the future being inevitable”, he argues. The piece concludes: “there are climate horrors to come, some of which will inevitably be visited on my kids…But I also know that those horrors are not yet scripted. We are staging them by inaction, and by action, can stop them.”

David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine Intelligencer Read Article
2018 – hottest La Niña year ever recorded

“Once the final official global annual surface temperature is published, 2018 will be the hottest La Niña year on record, by a wide margin”, writes environmental scientist Dana Nuccitelli. “New hottest year records are usually set during El Niño events”, Nuccitelli explains, when the weather phenomenon brings “warm water to the ocean surface”. He concludes that: “Every year now seems to be setting some sort of climate record”.

Dana Nuccitelli, Yale Climate Connections Read Article

Science.

Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum prolonged by fossil carbon oxidation

The Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum was a remarkably warm period 55 million years ago marked by a rapid and massive release of carbon. This is detectable due to a large global negative carbon isotope excursion. The delayed recovery of the carbon isotope excursion, however, indicates that CO2 inputs continued well after the initial rapid onset. This study suggests this continued CO2 input might have come in part from the oxidation of remobilized sedimentary fossil carbon. This work provides evidence for an order of magnitude increase in fossil carbon delivery to the oceans that began ~10–20 kyr after the event onset. The estimated mass is sufficient to have sustained the elevated atmospheric CO2 levels required by the prolonged global carbon isotope excursion. The enhanced erosion, mobilization and oxidation of ancient sedimentary carbon contributed to the delayed recovery of the climate system for many thousands of years.

Nature Geoscience Read Article

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