Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Nature crisis: Humans 'threaten 1m species with extinction'
- Britain’s 125 hours without burning coal sets a record
- US rattles Arctic talks with a sharp warning to China and Russia
- Lib Dems to press for tougher EU-wide commitment to curb climate change if Brexit stopped
- Jay Inslee unveils his carbon-neutral, zero emissions energy plan
- The Times view on the threats to biodiversity: Creatures Great and Small
- Reaching net-zero emissions will not be easy
- Less hope, more change
- Higher frequency of Central Pacific El Niño events in recent decades relative to past centuries
- Children can foster climate change concern among their parents
- The effects of climate extremes on global agricultural yields
There is extensive global coverage of a major new United Nations-led report which concludes that human activity threatens up to one million species with extinction. The report is from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an international group of more than 140 scientists and policymakers. Among its headline findings, the report says land-use change driven by humans has caused the largest threat to nature, with climate change also being a “key factor”, BBC News reports. BBC News also carries “five key takeaways” from the new report, as well as an article of five key graphics from the report. One of these graphics compares the impact of climate change to other key drivers of species loss. The Guardian and the i newspaper carry the report’s findings on their frontpages. The Guardian notes that the report says the loss of species could have “ominous” repercussions in terms of driving “climate instability”. The Times carries a profile of Sir Bob Watson, chair of the IPBES. Watson is a former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Financial Times notes that some of the report’s findings echo those of the IPCC report on 1.5C of global warming. The FT article says: “Rising temperatures – already 1C above pre-industrial levels – combined with more extreme weather and average sea levels rising by 3mm per year are affecting wildlife worldwide. Climate change has already altered the distribution of almost half of land mammals.”. The Daily Telegraph focuses on the report’s recommendations for how individuals could help stem biodiversity loss, including by “eating organic” and sponsoring local beekeepers. Meanwhile, the New York Times says that the report calls for “transformative change”. The article adds: “The authors note that the devastation of nature has become so severe that piecemeal efforts to protect individual species or to set up wildlife refuges will no longer be sufficient. Instead, they call for ‘transformative changes’ that include curbing wasteful consumption, slimming down agriculture’s environmental footprint and cracking down on illegal logging and fishing.” InsideClimate News looks into what the new report says about the threats posed to wildlife by climate change. Reuters reports that, in wake of the report, French president Emmanuel Macron said his government will work on new measures to protect biodiversity. Unearthed has released an in-depth feature on the biodiversity crisis in wake of the report. The report’s findings are also covered by, among many others, CNN, Nature, Independent, Hill, MailOnline and Press Association.
The UK went 125 hours without burning any coal over the bank holiday weekend, reports the Times – the longest period since the Industrial Revolution. According to the National Grid, enough wind power and lower demand for electricity, due to closed factories, meant that coal-fired stations were not needed for more than five days. The previous record of 90 hours and 45 minutes was set at the Easter weekend. A spokesperson for the National Grid tells the Daily Telegraph that long periods without coal power are becoming “a more regular occurrence now”, adding: “More people have installed solar, more coal is coming off and there’s more wind in the system.” The UK “has already gone more than 1,000 hours in total without needing coal in 2019, and this year is on course to smash all previous records”, says the Independent. The Sun and MailOnline also have the story.
Several publications report on US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s comments to the Arctic Council, an international organisation made up of eight Arctic countries and indigenous groups. The New York Times reports that Pompeo described the region as a “land of opportunity and abundance” and said that melting sea ice could open up new shipping routes. The Independent and the Hill also cover Pompeo’s comments about melting sea ice. A second story in the Hill leads with Pompeo saying that “he can’t rank climate change on a list of national security challenges”.
An “EU-wide commitment to wipe out contributions to global warming by 2050” will be the central theme of the Liberal Democrat manifesto for the upcoming European elections, the Independent reports. The party will press for tougher action on climate change “if Brexit is stopped”, the Independent says. At present, the EU has pledged a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030. Elsewhere, the Guardian reported on Friday that the Green Party had gained nearly 90 seats in the UK’s local elections. The Green co-leader Jonathan Bartley told the Guardian that the party had received a boost from “the prominence of climate change issues after the Extinction Rebellion protests and the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s UK visit”. BusinessGreen also covers the Green’s performance. Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reports on a leaked document which shows the Labour party “would continue to support coal” – despite declaring for a climate emergency.
Many US publications cover the climate-and-energy plan unveiled by Washington governor and presidential hopeful Jay Inslee. The Democrat’s proposal would require all US electricity to be “carbon-neutral” by 2030 and all new cars to be “zero emissions” by the same date, according to Axios. The New York Times says that Inslee is billing himself as the “climate candidate” in the presidential race. His proposal would also require all coal-fired power plants to be closed in a decade, the New York Times reports. The Hill notes that much of Inslee’s proposal “mirrors” his work as governor of Washington. “For example, Inslee put a plan in place to end coal-fired plant production by 2025. He’s also boosted electric car infrastructure and created a clean energy fund to finance green projects,” the Hill says. A second story in the Hill notes that the Sunrise Movement, a youth climate organisation that endorses the Green New Deal, has given its backing to Inslee’s plan. Vox and the Atlantic take an in-depth look at Inslee’s proposed “climate mission”. Buzzfeed also has the story. Meanwhile, the Hill reports on how climate change has become the leading issue for Democrat presidential hopefuls.
The Times has published an editorial on preserving biodiversity in wake of the new UN-backed IPBES report. “In drawing attention to the problem, the authors of the UN report have sparked an important debate. Yet they do not get the solution right,” the editorial reads. “Environmentalists should be slow to dismiss economic growth, which governments will need if they are to forge ahead with some of the ‘transformative’ changes that campaigners want to see. The transition to renewable energy, for instance, will not come cheap.” Sir Bob Watson, who chairs the IPBES report into species extinction and is a former chair of the IPCC, argues in the Guardian that “we cannot solve the threats of human-induced climate change and loss of biodiversity in isolation. We either solve both or we solve neither”, adding: “The IPBES report shows that governments and businesses are nowhere close to doing enough.”
Elsewhere, the Observer has an editorial on the “pressing need to save the Arctic”, in light of the US’s recent actions towards the Arctic Council. “Intensifying great power competition in the Arctic is a foolish distraction from incomparably more urgent global climate concerns. Arctic Council members must stand up this week. They should tell the US to get real – or get lost,” the editorial says. DeSmogBlog carries a comment by indigenous representative Bernadette Demientieff on why the Arctic is “sacred ground that must be protected”.
An editorial in the Irish Times says Ireland needs “to show a similar intent to the UK” in reducing greenhouse gases. Elsewhere, an opinion article in the Daily Telegraph looks at how we can “bridge the gap between politics and the planet”. The Sun carries a comment piece today from Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland Foods, who argues MPs “need to leave their Brexit obsession aside and focus on climate change”.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail carries a comment from Dominic Lawson criticising actor and Extinction Rebellion activist Emma Thompson after the Mail on Sunday splashed on an “exclusive” story showing that she had been photographed sitting in the first class cabin of a British Airways flight to New York. In response, the Guardian’s Zoe Williams has a piece titled: “Sorry, Emma Thompson, but you’ll never be perfect enough to save the planet.”
Financial Times columnist Pilita Clark gives her thoughts on the Committee on Climate Change’s recent report calling for the UK government to achieve “net-zero emissions” by 2050. “When I began reporting on climate change for this newspaper in 2011, it would have been inconceivable to imagine the documentthe government’s official climate advisers issued on Thursday.” She adds: “The good news is this shift is technically feasible and public support for it is rising. It is now up to our politicians to make it politically possible as well.” A second Financial Times article by Jonathan Ford, however, gives “reasons to doubt the CCC’s optimism”. He says: “They continue to look at the problem through the wrong end of the telescope. The real issue is not Britain’s emissions output, it’s the wider carbon footprint.” Vox and Quartz publish deep looks at the proposed plan for net-zero emissions in the UK. The Sunday Times carries an opinion from Dominic Lawson titled: “The zero-carbon mania is just so much hot air.” Meanwhile, BusinessGreen carries an in-depth interview with CCC chief Chris Stark.
There’s some new evidence that the Democratic Party is changing its approach to climate policy, and I think that’s good news,” writes New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, commenting on the climate proposals from presidential hopefuls Beto O’Rourke and Jay Inslee. “Neither one talks about a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade program, which were the focus of Democratic proposals for the last couple of decades,” says Leonhardt. That approach failed, Leonhardt argues, at federal and state levels and in other countries: “The political problem with them is that they focus people’s attention on the short-terms costs of moving away from dirty energy.” Inslee and O’Rourke are instead focusing on the “more promising approach”, says Leonhardt, which emphasises “the benefits of clean energy: less pollution, better health, jobs in new industries and, of course, less destruction from climate change”.
A new study looks at the changing frequency of different types of El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean – differentiating between “eastern” events that have the strongest sea surface temperature anomalies in the far eastern equatorial Pacific, and “central” events where peak ocean warming occurs further west. Using a network of 27 coral records, the researchers find “a simultaneous increase in central Pacific events and a decrease in eastern Pacific events since the late twentieth century”. The study concludes: “Compared to the past four centuries, the most recent 30 year period includes fewer, but more intense, eastern Pacific El Niño events.”
Child-to-parent intergenerational learning, or “the transfer of knowledge, attitudes or behaviours from children to parent”, could be used to overcome “socio-ideological barriers to climate concern”, a new study suggests. Researchers conducted an experiment designed to build climate change concern among parents indirectly through their middle school-aged children in North Carolina in the US. Parents of children in the treatment group expressed higher levels of climate change concern than parents in the control group, the researchers found. The approach was particularly effective with “male parents and conservative parents”, the study says, and “daughters appeared to be especially effective in influencing parents”.
A new paper assesses the impact of climate extremes on regional yields of some of the world’s most important crops. Using sub-national yield data and a machine-learning algorithm, the researchers found that climate-related factors explain up to 49% of year-to-year variability in crop yields – with up to 43% of this variability “attributable to climate extremes”. The study identifies “hotspot regions that are critical for global production and particularly susceptible to the effects of climate extremes”. These include: “North America for maize, spring wheat and soy production, Asia in the case of maize and rice production as well as Europe for spring wheat production.”
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