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Daily Briefing

01.03.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

01.03.2019 | 9:29am
DAILY BRIEFING MPs debate climate after school strike – but only a handful turn up
MPs debate climate after school strike – but only a handful turn up

News.

MPs debate climate after school strike – but only a handful turn up

Only a handful of government MPs attended a debate on climate change in parliament yesterday, reports the Guardian. Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said she had secured the discussion after being inspired by the thousands of UK schoolchildren who went on strike over climate change last month, adds the Guardian. Climate change had not been debated in the main chamber of the House of Commons for two years, according to Moran. Greenpeace campaigner Mel Evans has a piece in the Scotsman on the debate, arguing “politicians should be calling an end to business-as-usual”.

Writing in the Conversation, Rebecca Willis, a researcher in environmental policy and politics at Lancaster University, explains her research with UK politicians, where she found “a reluctance to speak out on climate change, as many prefer a low-key approach”. She adds: “Some members of parliament even told me that they deliberately avoid mentioning climate change in speeches to the House of Commons or in their constituency, fearing it could backfire.”

The Guardian Read Article
Senate confirms ex-coal lobbyist to lead US environment regulator

There is widespread coverage in the US media of the confirmation by the senate yesterday of Donald Trump’s candidate to lead the nation’s top environmental regulator. Andrew Wheeler, a “Washington insider” and former coal lobbyist, was nominated by Trump in January to permanently replace Scott Pruitt after his resignation in July, says Reuters. The confirmation has infuriated Democrats and conservation groups who say Wheeler’s policies are endangering public health, adds Reuters. The vote was 52-47, mostly split on party lines, says the Hill. The only Republican to vote against him – Senator Susan Collins – said she would not vote for him because of his track record backing policies that weaken rules protecting air pollution and lowering car emissions, adds the Hill. Vox has “three things to know” about Wheeler, including comments that he does not think climate change is the “greatest crisis”. The Washington Post also has the story.

Separately, Reuters reports that the White House is advancing plans to form a presidential panel that will “question science” on the threats of climate change used in US military and intelligence reports. The panel would be aimed at questioning the US National Climate Assessment, which “concluded decisively” that the burning of fossil fuels was warming the atmosphere, says the New York Times. The Washington Post says that Trump is “escalat[ing]” his fight against climate science ahead of the 2020 election by creating the working group.

Meanwhile, Democrats are grappling over how to vote on the “green new deal” climate change proposal, reports the Hill. More than 700 state and local leaders, environmental groups and individuals sent a letter yesterday to speaker Nancy Pelosi to take on “an ambitious climate agenda”, says another Hill article. Republicans are beginning to publicly acknowledge climate change and a few are even considering policies addressing it, reports Axios. But another Axios article reports comments from Republican Paul Goser who said on Wednesday that climate change is not real because of “photosynthesis”.

The Guardian, meanwhile, has an interview with Isha Clarke, one of several young people seen in a recent “viral standoff” with California senator Dianne Feinstein over climate action.

Reuters Read Article
Fish stocks continuing to fall as oceans warm, study finds

Fish catches have “declined markedly” and are likely to fall further due to warming oceans, reports the Guardian. A new study published in the journal Science found that, overall, catches of commercially important fish have fallen by just over 4%, adds the Guardian. However, in some regions catches have plunged by about a third since early in the last century, it adds. “We were stunned to find that fisheries around the world have already responded to ocean warming,” Dr Malin Pinsky, an ecologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, who contributed to the research, tells the Independent. “These aren’t hypothetical changes sometime in the future.” The study is widely covered elsewhere in the media, including USA TodayMother JonesNational GeographicHuffPostCNNInsideClimate News and ScienceCarbon Brief has also covered the study.

Separately, Axios reports on another new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which found climate change could make it harder for blue whales to find food. And Bloomberg reports that Maine has joined the “growing chorus of states” pledging to source all their electricity from renewables, warning that global warming is a threat to its lobsters.

The Guardian Read Article
Finland approves ban on coal for energy use from 2029

The Finnish parliament has approved a government proposal to ban the use of coal to produce energy from May 2029, according to a parliamentary official, Reuters reports. A separate Reuters article says China’s coal use rise last year for the second year in absolute terms, although its share in the energy mix fell. The Guardian says Australia is “the only developed country that allows climate change funding to be used to upgrade coal-fired power plants”, according to Climate Bonds Initiative.

Reuters Read Article

Comment.

Climate change and population growth are making the world’s water woes more urgent

Three main factors will drive the continued growth in demand on water – population, prosperity and climate change – says an Economist special report on the topic. “The world’s water endowment is already highly unequal…Climate change will exacerbate this inequity,” says the article, which adds that the “most dramatic short-term effects have been the increasing number of extreme weather events”.

Simon Long, The Economist Read Article

Science.

Arctic warming amplified by interactive chlorophyll under greenhouse warming

The interaction between marine phytoplankton and climate systems may intensify Arctic warming, as an increased spring chlorophyll bloom absorbs more incoming sunlight. However, the changes of chlorophyll variability and its impact on the Arctic future climate were previously unknown. This study suggests decreased interannual chlorophyll variability may amplify Arctic surface warming (+ 10% in both regions) and sea ice melting (− 13% and − 10%) in Kara-Barents Seas and East Siberian-Chukchi Seas in boreal winter, respectively. Projections of earth system models show a future decrease in chlorophyll both mean concentration and interannual variability. This additional biological warming will contribute to future Arctic warming, and is not current considered by earth system models.

Climate Dynamics Read Article
Climate‐induced changes in the risk of hydrological failure of major dams in California

Dams are critical manmade infrastructure that provide resilience against extremes (eg, droughts and floods) and regulate water resources. In 2017, California experienced a series of flooding events, which triggered incidents such as structural failure of the Oroville Dam’s spillway. This study inspected the possible impacts of climate change on the future flooding hazard for several major dams in California. They show that in the warmer future climate, the risk of dam failure increases for most of the major dams in California.

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article

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