Today's climate and energy headlines:
- NATO urges global fight against climate change as Trump mulls Paris accord
- As Arctic Ice Vanishes, New Shipping Routes Open
- Wood pellet fuel deemed 'carbon neutral' in U.S. spending bill
- Global warming 'hiatus' doesn't change long term climate predictions – study
- SSE calls on next government to back onshore wind, EV charging and carbon price floor
- Foreign Office Had Contact with Myron Ebell while Working Under Trump
- Utility bills double because of ‘useless’ energy-saving experts
- France under Macron could delay nuclear cutbacks - source
- New York Times wants to offer diverse opinions. But on climate, facts are facts
- Letters: Green energy leaves bill-payers better off
- Reconciling controversies about the ‘global warming hiatus’
Climate change poses a global security threat that all countries must fight together, a NATO general said on Wednesday, as Donald Trump nears a decision on whether to pull out of the Paris climate deal. Reuters says the comments “were the strongest yet” from the US-European military alliance about the importance of upholding the Paris accord. “There is a huge necessity that the U.N. continues to involve all nations and coordinate the action of all nations,” to fight climate change, General Denis Mercier, NATO’s supreme allied commander for transformation, told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Norfolk, Virginia. The Independent also carries the story. Separately, Reuters reports that Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, set out to his staff yesterday how Trump’s “America First” agenda translates into foreign policy: “But in remarks lasting nearly 40 minutes, Tillerson did not address the administration’s proposed 28% budget cut for US diplomacy and foreign aid, which would reduce funding for the United Nations, climate change and cultural exchange programs. That proposal has made many American diplomats and aid workers anxious.” In other US-related news, the Washington Post reports that “environmental groups sue Trump administration over offshore drilling”, the Hill reports that EPA head Scott Pruitt says the “US needs coal to protect electric grid” due to the “problems of relying too heavily on natural gas”, and the Independent reports that a “fossil fuel champion” has been chosen by Donald Trump to run the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.
A frontpage story in the New York Times examines the latest science on how, “as global warming melts sea ice across the Arctic, shipping routes once thought impossible — including directly over the North Pole — may open up by midcentury”. It adds: “With ‘middle of the road’ warming — higher than the 2015 Paris accord target but lower than the most extreme climate change forecasts — more Arctic shipping routes could open, both for ordinary ships and those that are built to move through thicker ice. Even direct over-the-pole routes would potentially be navigable, at least during some part of the summer-fall shipping season. ‘We know what is likely to happen to sea ice,’ said Nathanael Melia, one of the researchers at the University of Reading in Britain who calculated how the routes might change as warming continues to the middle of the century. ‘It will reduce decade on decade, and open up vast swaths of the Arctic Ocean.'” Carbon Brief published a guest post by Dr Melia on this topic last September.
A week after President Donald Trump vowed to impose new tariffs on Canadian lumber imports to help the US timber industry, lawmakers have passed a spending bill that could push US government agencies to promote burning wood pellets to fuel power plants, reports Reuters. The budget bill directs the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture to “establish clear policies that reflect the carbon neutrality of biomass.” Reuters adds: “Biomass, or wood pellet fuel, is considered a renewable energy source because it is composed of trees, which can be replaced after they are cut down. It is used to heat homes and fuel power plants. Scientists say burning wood pellets actually produces more harmful greenhouse emissions than coal or natural gas.” See Carbon Brief’s recent article on this topic, following a controversial report by Chatham House.
A new Nature study takes yet another look at the slowdown in warming at the Earth’s surface between 1998 and 2012 which, according to the Guardian, “has repeatedly been cited by climate sceptics as a sign that the climate is less sensitive to greenhouse gases than previously thought – or even that global warming has stopped”. The paper adds: “The latest study rejects this view, suggesting that there was ultimately no meaningful deviation between what climate models predicted and what was observed. The new paper, which takes a retrospective look at data and model predictions covering the early 2000s, suggests that this has been largely a false controversy caused by competing research groups applying different criteria for what a “pause” constitutes – how much levelling off and for how long – to a variety of datasets.” Iselin Medhaug, who led the work at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, said: “They’ve used different definitions and different time periods. It sounds very controversial, but when you compare like with like it’s not as controversial as it might seem.” The study also examines the political and social drivers that drove some to push the “pause”: “In a time coinciding with high-level political negotiations on preventing climate change, sceptical media and politicians were using the apparent lack of warming to downplay the importance of climate change…But a few years of additional data are unlikely to overturn the vast body of evidence that supports anthropogenic climate change.” The Guardian also carries a separate blog post by Graham Readfearn about the paper: “So what to make of it all? The short version is that global warming didn’t stop, scientists knew global temperatures would wobble around and climate scientists aren’t always the best communicators.”
SSE, one of the so-called “Big Six” utility companied, says the next government must continue to back the low-carbon transition and has urged action to allow onshore wind to play a “major role” in UK energy. In a briefing note, the energy giant calls on the next government to provide a route to market for onshore wind developers, who claim they can deliver new energy capacity at a lower cost than any other technology, including new gas-fired power plants. The Telegraph also carries the story: “SSE has also called for a carbon price floor to incentivise investment in low-carbon energy options saying it is the most cost effective option. To date, the tax on carbon has helped drive a boom in cleaner power. However, SSE added that a boom in low carbon transport could catch the Government off guard unless steps are taken now to upgrade the country’s electricity networks to manage a boom in electric vehicles.”
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was in touch with the notorious climate sceptic Myron Ebell during his time as head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team, reports DeSmog UK. “According to a Freedom of Information Request, the FCO corresponded with Ebell in his role under President Trump prior to Ebell’s visit to London in January. However, the content of their discussions remains unknown. The FCO Climate Diplomacy Team refused to release any details after several requests for clarification and further information about their discussions. Ebell is the director of energy and environment at the libertarian US dark money think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). He is also chair of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group of organisations ‘that question global warming alarmism and oppose energy rationing policies’.”
Homeowners and companies are paying double the amount they expect for gas and electricity because building modellers are “illiterate” when it comes to energy-saving measures, reports the Times. “Thousands of new homes, schools and offices are using twice as much energy as predicted by computer models used during their design, according to a study by the University of Bath. The same computer models have failed to predict the temperature of glass-fronted offices in summer, resulting in overheating affecting thousands of office workers, the research found. Academics likened the problem to the Volkswagen emissions scandal…The ‘massive underestimation’ of building energy use is also undermining Britain’s chances of meeting its greenhouse gas reduction targets, the study adds, with buildings accounting for nearly half the nation’s emissions.”
French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron may delay plans to reduce the share of nuclear power in the French power mix and is considering a UK-style subsidy mechanism to build new nuclear reactors, a source close to the Macron campaign team said. EDF shares jumped as much as 5% in heavy trading on the news. An official spokesman for Macron said the candidate would stick to the policy outlined in his campaign platform, which specifies he would respect the outgoing socialist government’s target to reduce the share of nuclear in French power production to 50% by 2025 from about 75% now. Carbon Brief has summarised the final two candidates’ energy and climate policies.
The Guardian’s head of media joins the on-going debate about the New York Times’ decision to hire a climate sceptic columnist called Brett Stephens. In particular, Martison focuses on the latest column by the NYT’s public editor, Liz Spayd: “Despite the adage that all publicity is good publicity, the reaction to Stephens’ first column should worry Times executives. As Spayd herself has written: ‘The Times has proclaimed a public commitment to reflecting a broader range of perspectives in its pages. What its mostly liberal or left-leaning base of readers thinks about that strategy obviously matters. They represent the business model, after all’…In an email, Spayd recognised the difficult line between fact and opinion. ‘There is no requirement to be neutral on the Opinion pages,’ she wrote. ‘You’re paid to have positions. The point that some readers make is that everyone needs to work off the same set of facts.’ Few newspapers reliant on advertising and subscribers want to be the representative of such a small elite that there are too few willing to pay for them. Despite this, publishing something that questions science-based facts must surely cross a red line, no matter how beautifully written. Go too far down the line of controversy – not just publishing an op-ed by Marine Le Pen, but views that deny scientific consensus – and anything can be published in the name of neutrality. Even “alternative facts” – otherwise known as lies.” A group of climate scientists have written an open letter to the NYT stressing how they are “deeply concerned about inaccurate and misleading statements about the science of climate change”.
The Telegraph has published a letter by Ben Goldsmith, chairman of the Conservative Environment Network, responding to a column last Saturday by the (undeclared) GWPF trustee Charles Moore: “Moore couldn’t have got it more wrong in writing that climate change fears are elitist and limited to those in metropolitan areas. MPs up and down the country report increasing numbers of constituents raising this issue with them. There is in fact huge public backing for action on climate change, and in particular support for energy efficiency and renewables. Moreover, it is a myth that climate policies are driving up energy bills: wind and gas are now demonstrably the cheapest sources of electricity in Britain. Bill-payers are better off as a result of green policy measures which drive greater efficiency. And, ultimately, our economy is stronger because of the world-leading contribution our country makes to green industries. As we leave the European Union, we must continue to show leadership, encourage innovation, work towards energy self-sufficiency and invest in long-term sustainable energy solutions – no matter what the ever-shrinking collection of climate naysayers do to try to hinder such progress.”
A new paper examines a period of time – roughly spanning the 2000s – in which temperature at Earth’s surface appeared to rise more slowly than in other decades. But most of the confusion that exists around apparently contradictory conclusions about the so-called “surface warming hiatus” in the scientific literature stems from different definitions, the paper explains. A combination of changes in forcing, heat uptake by the oceans, natural variability and incomplete observations reconciles the apparent divergence between climate models and data, say the authors.
Expert analysis directly to your inbox.