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Briefing date 18.04.2024
New study calculates climate change’s economic bite will hit about $38 trillion a year by 2049

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Climate and energy news.

New study calculates climate change’s economic bite will hit about $38 trillion a year by 2049
Associated Press Read Article

Climate change will reduce global income by about 19% over the next 25 years, compared with a “fictional world that’s not warming”, reports the Associated Press. Poorest areas and those least responsible for climate change will take the “biggest monetary hit”, according to a new study by researchers at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, it adds. The impact of climate change is already set to be $38tn a year by 2049 the study finds and, by 2100, the financial cost could hit twice what previous studies estimate, the article adds. Average incomes are expected to fall by “almost a fifth within the next 26 years as a result of the climate crisis”, with damage six times higher than the price of limiting global heating to 2C, reports the Guardian. The $38tn annual cost of rising temperatures, heavier rainfall and more frequent and intense extreme weather is already locked into the world economy over the coming decades, the article adds, as a result of the “enormous emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere through the burning of gas, oil, coal and trees”. The study finds that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions have already warmed the world by 1.1C, on average, since pre-industrial times, leading to extreme weather events that have cost about $7tn over the past 30 years, Bloomberg adds. It quotes Leonie Wenz, the scientist at Potsdam who led the study, who says: “Climate change will cause massive economic damages within the next 25 years in almost all countries. We have to cut down our emissions drastically and immediately – if not, economic losses will become even bigger in the second half of the century, amounting to up to 60% on global average by 2100.” The economic impact of climate change is not fully understood and economists often disagree on its extent, reports Reuters, but the Potsdam study “stands out for the severity of its findings”. The study takes a “more granular and empirical approach than most”, accessing the actual fallout from climate-related impacts on economic growth in more than 1,600 subnational regions around the world over the past 40 years, reports BusinessGreen. It then marries this analysis with the latest climate impact projects through to 2050, to allow researchers to better project the likely impact of changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, the article adds. The report is also covered by RTÉ, Forbes and many others.

Dubai battles flood waters as historic storm causes chaos
Financial Times Read Article

The United Arab Emirates has been hit by an intense storm, with the country experiencing its heaviest rains in 75 years, according to meteorological authorities, reports the Financial Times. One Emirati man has been reportedly killed by flash flooding in Ras Al Khaimah, while in neighbouring Oman, more than a dozen people were reported killed, it adds. Almost 6 inches (152mm) of rain fell on the capital Dubai on Tuesday, a year and a half’s worth of rain in a single day, causing travel disruptions, reports the Independent. A Bloomberg article citing one person initially blamed “cloud-seeding” for the extreme rainfall, but multiple meteorologists dismissed the claim, including Prof Maarten Ambaum, a meteorologist at the University of Reading, who is reported by the Daily Telegraph saying: “Any seeding operation has a fairly short-lived – a few hours at the very most – and small-scale effect. So even if they had had some operational seeding activities in the days before, then they would not have been able to influence this particular weather system.” The Guardian quotes Omar Al Yazeedi, the deputy director general of the UAE’s National Center of Meteorology (NCM), saying: “We did not engage in any seeding operations during this particular weather event. The essence of cloud-seeding lies in targeting clouds at an earlier stage, prior to precipitation. Engaging in seeding activities during a severe thunderstorm scenario would prove futile.” The Associated Press similarly quotes Ryan Maue, a private meteorologist and former chief scientist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who says: “It’s most certainly not cloud-seeding. If that occurred with cloud-seeding, they’d have water all the time. You can’t create rain out of thin air per se and get 6 inches of water. That’s akin to perpetual motion technology.” Instead the “huge rainfall” was likely the result of a normal weather system that was exacerbated by climate change, reports Reuters. A low-pressure system in the upper atmosphere, coupled with low-surface pressure acted like a “pressure squeeze” on the air, according to Esraa Alnaqbi, a senior forecaster at the UAE government’s National Centre of Meteorology, the article continues. This “squeeze” was intensified by the warm ground level temperatures and colder temperatures higher up, creating the conditions for a powerful thunderstorm, it adds. This story is also covered by BBC News, Axios, Sky News and many others.

In related news, the death toll from flooding in Pakistan has risen to 63, the Associated Press reports. Officials announced yesterday that the number killed by lightning and heavy rains had increased by 14, following four days of extreme weather, it adds. It is the heaviest downpour “in decades” and has flooded villages on the Pakistan’s southwestern coast, the article continues. Additionally, flash floods have also killed dozens of people in neighbouring Afghanistan, AP notes.

Deadly African heatwave 'impossible' without warming
BBC News Read Article

The deadly heatwave that hit West Africa and the Sahel over recent weeks would have been “impossible” without human-induced climate change, scientists have said, reports BBC News. Temperatures in Mali soared to above 48C, with one hospital linking hundreds of deaths to the extreme heat, it continues. Researchers found that human activities such as burning fossil fuels made temperatures up to 1.4C hotter than normal, the article adds. On 3 April, temperatures hit 48.5C in the south-western city of Kayes in Mali, with intense heat continuing for more than five days and nights, giving no time for vulnerable people to recover, reports the Guardian. In Mali’s capital Bamako, the Gabriel-Touré hospital reported 102 deaths over the first four days of April, with more than half over the age of 60 and many related to heat, it continues. The health impact of the extreme heat was compounded by electricity shortages, leaving many without air conditioning, as national energy company, EDM, is struggling to pay a £410m fuel bill for its power plants, it adds. The study by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) group used observations and climate models to show “heatwaves with the magnitude observed in March and April 2024 in the region would have been impossible to occur without the global warming of 1.2C to date”, which they linked to “human-induced climate change”, reports AFP via France24.

In related news, the “unprecedented” warming of the oceans over the past year has had widespread repercussions on marine life, an EU environment chief has warned, reports the Financial Times. This includes impacting already dwindling native fish species such as Baltic Sea Cod, the European commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said, citing the migration of the cod towards colder waters near Russia and Norway as an example of the impact on biodiversity of rising temperatures, it adds. 

Billions more in overseas aid needed to avert climate disaster, say economists
The Guardian Read Article

Civil society experts and economists have said billions more in international aid must be pledged by governments, channelled through the World Bank, in order to tackle climate change, reports the Guardian. The International Development Association fund, the arm of the World Bank that disburses loans and grants to poor countries, is worth about $93bn (£75bn), but this must roughly triple by 2030, the article continues. The call comes as governments are expected to discuss new aid pledges this week at the World Bank’s annual spring meetings in Washington DC, the Guardian notes. At the event, Ajay Banga, the president of the World Bank, told journalists the climate crisis would be a priority, saying: “The world is facing a set of intertwined challenges: the climate crisis, debt, food insecurity, pandemics, fragility, and there is clearly a need to accelerate access to clean air, water and energy,” reports the Guardian. The “long-simmering theme” of who will pay for the economic and physical damage of climate change quickly surfaced at the meetings, reports the Financial Times. “Dealing with the climate emergency…requires a volume of resources that cannot be fully mobilised domestically in emerging market and developing economies,” Fernando Haddad, Brazil’s finance minister, said earlier this week, it notes. This follows a report released earlier this month by the IMF that identified 69 low-income countries where governments need to reduce high debt levels to “allocate part of their revenues to critical climate change adaptation investments”, the FT adds. 

Scotland ministers to water down climate change goals
The Times Read Article

Scottish ministers are set to backtrack on its target of reducing carbon emissions by 75% by 2030, following a “damaging” report that warned they cannot be met, reports the Times. The “significant climbdown” is expected to cause tension with the Green party (which has a “cooperation agreement” with the Scottish National Party in government) when Màiri McAllan, the SNP’s net-zero secretary, officially announces the stepdown, it adds. Scotland has missed eight of its 12 annual targets and its wider plans are “beyond what is credible”, according to a new report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC), reports Sky News. Friends of the Earth Scotland has described the move as “the worst environmental decision in the history of the Scottish parliament”, the article adds. In addition to the 2030 target, the government’s annual climate targets may also go, reports BBC News. The decision follows the CCC’s warning in 2022 that Scotland had lost its lead over the rest of the UK in tackling climate change, and then in 2023, ministers failed to publish a plan as required under the Climate Change Bill, it explains. McAllan is expected to announce the changes today, which will also “include a major focus on actions” to increase progress in reducing emissions – with “transport and agriculture set for severe measures to kickstart improvements”, reports the Scotsman. The Daily Record notes that the CCC’s report was published in March, with chief executive Chris Stark saying: “This is the first time, anywhere in the UK, that we’ve said there’s a target that can’t be met. It’s a shame we have to give that message to the Scottish government but what’s behind it is a lack of progress all around.”

Amazon: Deforestation on Indigenous land has reduced by 42%, the lowest in six years
O Globo Read Article

A report by Imazon, a Brazilian research institute, cited by O Globo reveals that Indigenous lands across the Amazon have seen a 42% annual reduction in deforestation, the lowest figure recorded in six years. The newspaper notes that the Apyterewa Indigenous land, in Pará, is no longer on the list of the most deforested areas, possibly due to the “expulsion” of non-Indigenous people in the area, according to the report.

In Argentina, experts have warned about the impacts on the soya harvest following an intense rainfall which saw “100 millimetres lash” the nation’s main agricultural region last week, La Nación reports. The newspaper cites the Rosario Board of Trade, which says that the rainfall was produced by an “atypical and very stationary” low-pressure system. La Nación adds that farmers are concerned about delays to their harvests.

In Peru, El Comercio reports that dengue fever cases have now been recorded in more than 21 regions, with 22,933 infections registered in the first week of April. Peru’s minister of health César Vásquez tells the newspaper that high temperatures due to climate change are the “main cause” of the country’s dengue outbreak.

In a comment piece for Chile’s La Tercera, Catarina de Albuquerque, chief executive officer of the UNICEF-hosted Sanitation and Water for All partnership, writes that ensuring water supply and sanitation in Latin America and the Caribbean requires an annual investment of nearly 1.3% of the continent’s GDP. She says finance ministers in the region have not invested in water and sanitation, even though they “are essentials not only as human rights but to face climate change and meet development goals”.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Alleged argument that ‘China’s overcapacity impacts the global market’ is a false proposition
Xinhua Read Article

State news agency Xinhua reports that foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian has called Western arguments about overcapacity a “false proposition”, adding that “relevant countries” should “maintain an open attitude and uphold fair competition” in the global market. State newspaper China Daily has published an article by Anthony Moretti, a US scholar, saying that US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen seemed to be saying during her recent visit to Beijing that “it is perfectly acceptable for the US to advocate for the ‘containment’ of China’s diverse and robust economic engine”. Xinhua also reports that the China-US economic working group held its fourth meeting, at which the Chinese side expressed concerns over the US economic and trade restrictions against China and gave “further responses on capacity issues”. The Financial Times carries an opinion article by Thomas Hale arguing that Western manufacturers and companies need to prepare for a new wave of Chinese competition in order to adapt to the “pace of post-pandemic development”.

Meanwhile, energy news outlet BJX News reports that the total electricity consumption of the “whole society” in China reached 794 gigawatt-hours (GWh) in March, a 7.4% year-on-year increase, according to the National Energy Administration (NEA). The state-run China Energy Net reports that, in the first two months of 2024, China’s total production of lithium-ion batteries exceeded 117GWh, a 15% year-on-year increase, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). Xinhua covers the MIIT’s announcement that the Chinese solar industry has seen the total export value of solar products exceed $6.2bn. Economic newspaper Caixin publishes an interview with Timur Gül, energy technology chief at the International Energy Agency (IEA), in which he says that, although China has embraced “pretty much all of the clean-energy technologies”, the country has not made “big strides” in developing carbon-capture technology.

In other China stories, the state-run outlet Economic Daily says that the new guidelines on financial support for “green and low-carbon development” by the People’s Bank of China and others will “enhance the standardisation, authority and transparency of carbon accounting by financial institutions, and unify the use of funds raised by green bonds, information disclosure and regulatory requirements”. Finally, Gui Zhenhua, the executive chairman of China Green Development Fund, is interviewed by Science and Technology Daily, in which he says that China should attract more international capital to “participate” in clean-energy development.

Climate and energy comment.

If 10 straight months of record-breaking heat isn't a climate emergency, what is?
The Los Angeles Times Read Article

The world is experiencing a “horrifying streak of record-breaking heat” that “would be shocking if it wasn’t so predictable”, says an editorial in the LA Times. Despite “everything we know” about the cause of climate change, “we are going in the wrong direction with self-destructive abandon” it continues, pointing to the 1.1% global increase in greenhouse gas pollution last year. The record heat “should be a flashing, red warning light that we are entering dangerous new territory and need to change course”, it argues. One of the most significant things Americans can do to tackle climate change now is exercise their political power at the ballot box, and the “stakes are especially high this year”, the editorial adds. “A former president who has arguably the worst climate record in US history, having rolled back more than 100 environmental protections, is polling neck and neck with a president who has done more to fight climate change than anyone before him, even if it’s still not enough,” the article states. It concludes by noting the choice between US presidential candidates should be clear, if “we want to stop setting records, month after month and year after year”. 

The case for progressive realism
Foreign Affairs Read Article

The UK Labour party’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy sets out the case for “progressive realism” in an article in Foreign Affairs. If elected, the Labour party would invest in a “green transition”, it would stop issuing new licenses to explore oil and gas in the North Sea and decarbonise its electricity system by 2030 by expanding renewable energy, he writes. The party’s approach would be broader than domestic development, though: “Climate diplomacy is at the centre of progressive realism, and a Labour government would make advancing the fight against greenhouse gases central to our agenda.” Beyond this, he argues leading powers have still not done enough to prevent climate disaster and the “scramble for critical raw materials” will not help poorer nations transition. Lammy writes that progressive realism demands a more cooperative approach, recognising that if “fairness is not part of a global climate bargain, it will fail”. Lammy concludes: “Progressive policy without realism is empty idealism. Realism without a sense of progress can become cynical and tactical. But when progressives act realistically and practically, they change the world.”

In other comment, an editorial in the Times argues that when it comes to “lab-cultivated” pork, people can “pig out”. Elsewhere, an editorial in New Scientist makes the case for pessimism, noting that while negative thinking is unpopular, “it could drive more realistic efforts to limit harm from global warming”.

New climate research.

Greater climate sensitivity implied by anvil cloud thinning
Nature Geoscience Read Article

As the climate warms, high clouds produced by tropical convection are expected to shrink in area – but what this means for global temperature has been the topic of intense scientific debate. Contrary to recent research suggesting the overall effect is a negative feedback that acts to cool the atmosphere, a new study suggests the expected changes could lead to a positive feedback – or a weak warming effect. Drawing on an ensemble of high-resolution atmospheric models, the paper’s findings point to an increase in the median estimate of “equilibrium climate sensitivity” of 0.3C, which the authors suggest “differs markedly” from previous estimates.

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