Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Millions to face hosepipe ban in north-west England
- IEA warns of 'worrying trend' as global investment in renewables falls
- China, EU reaffirm Paris climate commitment, vow more cooperation
- Exotic sharks could migrate to British waters in coming decades due to climate change
- US public backs action on global warming - but with cost concerns and muted urgency
- UK politicians 'failing to rise to the challenge of climate change'
- How Climate Change in Bangladesh Impacts Women and Girls
- Comprehensive study: carbon taxes won't hamper the economy
- Our phones and gadgets are now endangering the planet
- Behind the veil of extreme event attribution
- Antarctica’s ecological isolation will be broken by storm-driven dispersal and warming
- Carbon-focused conservation may fail to protect the most biodiverse tropical forests
Most news outlets in the UK carry the news that England’s first major hosepipe ban is to be introduced as a result of the continuing heatwave. BBC News reports that “United Utilities said a temporary ban affecting seven million people in the north-west of England from 5 August would ‘safeguard essential supplies’.” It adds: “It said reservoir levels were already low and that hot weather was forecast for the rest of July. Other water companies across England said they had adequate supplies and had no plans to impose similar bans.” The move comes during what what is believed to be the longest heatwave in the UK since 1976. Both the Daily Mail and the Daily Express place the story on their frontpages. The story is also reported by, among others, the Sun, Guardian, Independent, Times and ITV News. MailOnline asks: “When will the UK heatwave end?” It says the heatwave is forecast throughout July and August, adding that it “has raised concern about whether this is a one-off heatwave or part of a pattern brought on by global warming or climate change”. It quotes Prof Ted Shepherd, a climatologist at the University of Reading, who says: “Because of climate change we will get more hot summers in general, and this is a good example of what’s going to come so it’s a good opportunity to think of our resilience and if we’re ready for such a thing.” Elsewhere, MailOnline says that “more people are struggling to sleep as the longest heatwave in 42 years continues”. Meanwhile, other publications focus on extreme weather events occurring elsewhere in the world. Reuters says: “In parched Afghanistan, drought sharpens water dispute with Iran.” Another Reuters headline says: “Heatwave blankets Japan, kills 14 people over long weekend.” And Reuters also covers another angle of the European heatwave, with the headline: “Warm weather could mean output cuts at German nuclear plants.”
The Guardian reports that the International Energy Agency (IEA) has sounded the alarm over a “worrying” pause in the shift to clean energy after global investment in renewables fell 7% to $318bn (£240bn) last year. The IEA says the decline is set to continue into 2018. Investment in coal power dropped sharply in 2017, but was offset by an uptick in oil and gas spending, says the IEA’s World Energy Investment report. The Guardian notes that the IEA says fossil fuels increased their share of energy supply investment in 2017 for the first time since 2014, to $790bn, and “will play a significant role for years on current trends”. The Financial Times quotes Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director: “Such a decline…is worrying…While we would need this investment to go up rapidly, it is disappointing to find that it might be falling this year.” Bloomberg says the IEA’s key message is: “More of the world will run on electricity in the future, but most of the power won’t be clean.”
Reuters is among a number of publications reporting that the EU and China yesterday reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change and called for other signatories to do the same. In a joint communique, the two sides stopped short of criticising the US, says Reuters, but they did say that the Paris deal proved that “multilateralism can succeed in building fair and effective solutions to the most critical global problems of our time.” Climate Home News says the two sides, who met at a summit in Beijing, said they they “would push for agreement on the rulebook of the Paris climate deal, negotiations over which stalled this year, with continuing disagreements between Chinese and European diplomats”. They also agreed to release long-term strategies for their low carbon development by 2020. Euractiv quotes Jo Leinen, a German Social Democrat MEP who chaired the EU delegation, saying that the communique is a “vital message ahead of this year’s climate summit in Poland”.
Most UK newspapers cover a new study which concludes, as the Independent reports, that “great white sharks could soon be swimming in British waters as rising ocean temperatures allow southern species to venture north for the first time”. The Daily Mail says that “11 terrifying shark species, including great whites and hammerheads, are ditching warmer waters and heading to British shores”. The Mirror’s report begins: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water – a new study is predicting the British coastline could be home to hoards of deadly sharks in the next 30 years.” The Daily Telegraph says the study was conducted by Dr Ken Collins at the University of Southampton, who is a former member of the UK Shark Tagging Programme. He is quoted as saying: “There is considerable debate as to whether we have Great White Sharks in UK waters. I see no reason why not – they live in colder waters off South Africa and have a favourite food source, seals along the Cornish coast.” The Press Association‘s Emily Beament says the study includes a a new “shark map” revealing the places where the fish are already found in UK waters.
A new poll for ABC News has found that “public awareness of global warming is up and support for action is broad, with eight in 10 Americans saying the federal government should try to achieve the same deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions called for in the international treaty rejected by Donald Trump”. It adds: “Sixty-one percent in a new national survey also say the federal government should be doing ‘a great deal’ or ‘a lot’ about global warming, up 8 points since 2015 to the most since 2009. A mere 10% say the government in fact is doing that much – down 5 points in three years. That said, three-quarters of Americans express concern that efforts to address the issue will raise prices on things they buy and just two in 10 are very confident that those efforts in fact would reduce global warming.” Meanwhile, Cory Doctorow in BoingBoing says that “amidst a global heatwave, some good news from the National Surveys on Energy and the Environment: a record-setting 73% of Americans believe that climate change is real and 60% believe humans are “at least partially responsible” for this fact”.
The Guardian reports that Lord Deben, the chair of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), says politicians and policymakers are failing to rise to the challenge of a rapidly warming planet and will be judged harshly by future generations unless they act now. Deben says “anyone who read the news” could see mounting evidence of alarming trends – from melting polar ice to record heatwaves and rising sea levels. He calls on politicians to “make the connections” between these events and act with more urgency. He adds: “The thing that I want to bring home to policymakers is that this is increasingly urgent and that these things will be laid at your door if you don’t recognise that and act accordingly.” Last week, Carbon Brief published an in-depth interview with Chris Stark, the CCC’s new chief executive. The previous week, Carbon Brief summarised the CCC’s latest annual report to parliament, which concluded that new UK renewables “could be cheaper than existing gas plants by 2030”.
Teen Vogue continues its run of articles about climate change with a feature on why, in Bangladesh, “one of the main social challenges presented by climate change is the furthered entrenchment of preexisting systemic gender inequality”. It continues: “As climate change negatively impacts vital local industries such as rice farming and fishing, women and girls experience a compound set of issues.”
The Guardian columnist says that the energy used in our digital consumption is set to have a bigger impact on global warming than the entire aviation industry: “If you worry about climate change and a cause celebre such as the expansion of Heathrow airport, it is worth considering that data centres are set to soon have a bigger carbon footprint than the entire aviation industry.” He concludes that “even the most well-intentioned corporations may yet find that their supposedly unlimited digital delights are, in the dictionary definition of the term, unsustainable”.
Nuccitelli looks at the results of a recent event held at Stanford which examined the economic and environmental impacts of a carbon tax: “Among the eleven modelling teams the key findings were consistent. First, a carbon tax is effective at reducing carbon pollution, although the structure of the tax (the price and the rate at which it rises) are important. Second, this type of revenue-neutral carbon tax would have a very modest impact on the economy in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). In all likelihood it would slightly slow economic growth, but by an amount that would be more than offset by the benefits of cutting pollution and slowing global warming.” Meanwhile, in BusinessGreen, Michael Holder looks at a new report by Policy Exchange, a right-leaning UK thinktank, which argues that a unified carbon tax in the UK with revenues paid as a dividend to taxpayers could cut emissions and tackle carbon leakage: “the report highlights an important opportunity for the UK to rethink its long-term blueprint for incentivising decarbonisation once it leaves the EU.”
A new paper looks at how to frame different types of “extreme event attribution” (EEA) studies, which link extreme weather events to human-caused climate change. Using interviews with researchers and 105 case studies from five BAMS (Bulletin of American Meteorological Society) special issues on extreme events, the authors define EEA as “the ensemble of scientific ways to interpret the question ‘was this event influenced by climate change?’ and answer it”. The paper then looks how to break down the subtleties of EEA, identifying three main problems a researcher has to deal with when framing an EEA case study.
Global warming has the potential to allow invasive species to establish in the Antarctic even without being introduced by humans, a new study says. Antarctica has long been considered “biologically isolated”, the authors say, protected from incoming species by the Southern Ocean’s strong, circumpolar winds, ocean currents and fronts. However, their analysis shows that storm waves recently carried rafts of kelp seaweed more than 20,000km from the mid-latitudes to Antarctica’s shores. As the continent warms, such invasive species could become established, which would “drastically alter ecosystem dynamics”, the authors warn.
Measures to protect the carbon stored in tropical forests will not necessarily also safeguard biodiversity, a new study warns. The researchers spent 18 months measuring the carbon content and species richness of plants, birds and dung beetles in 234 tropical forests in the Amazon. They found that forests with the greatest carbon content did not necessarily house the most species. This means that conservation efforts that focus on carbon may miss large swathes of tropical forest biodiversity. To ensure that the most ecologically valuable forests are protected, “biodiversity needs to be incorporated into carbon conservation planning”, the authors conclude.
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