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Daily Briefing

10.01.2017
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

10.01.2017 | 9:19am
DAILY BRIEFING Obama says shift to green energy is ‘irreversible’ despite Trump, Human-driven global warming is biggest threat to polar bears, & more
Obama says shift to green energy is ‘irreversible’ despite Trump, Human-driven global warming is biggest threat to polar bears, & more

News.

Obama says shift to green energy is 'irreversible' despite Trump

Renewables will continue to grow in the US, despite the antipathy of president-elect Donald Trump, says Barack Obama in a feature making the case for his clean energy legacy. The piece in the academic journal Science is the first of its kind done by a sitting president. Obama puts pressure on Trump to stick to the US’ current climate strategy, writing that it’s unlikely that power companies will switch back to coal, regardless of Trump’s plans to boost production, and arguing that if the US pulls out of the Paris climate agreement it will lose its “seat at the table”. The piece was widely covered by publications including the Guardian, InsideClimate News, the Hill, Climate Central, Ars Technica, Grist and Scientific American.

BBC News Read Article
Human-driven global warming is biggest threat to polar bears, report says

Climate change is the biggest threat to polar bears and without decisive action the bears will almost certainly disappear from much of the Arctic, officials from the US Fish and Wildlife Service said yesterday, in a conservation management plan for the bears. “It cannot be overstated that the single most important action for the recovery of polar bears is to significantly reduce the present levels of global greenhouse gas emissions”, it says. The plan outlines what must be done for the bears, which are a threatened species, although critics have called the plan toothless, Associated Press reports. Officials declined to speculate on whether the next president, who has called climate change a hoax, will follow their plan, but they had doubts about the survival of bear before the election, the Washington Post reports. “Even when we started the planning process, that was the discussion we were having … are we wasting our time here,” said Jenifer Kohout, co-chair of the group that wrote the plan.

New York Times Read Article
Global warming could see rise in toxic shellfish that can lead to memory loss and potentially kill

Rising ocean temperatures are leading to an increase in giant blooms of micro-algae, which produce a potent toxin that gets into shellfish, a new study has found. If humans eat shellfish containing enough of the poison, called Domoic acid, then it can lead “to seizures, memory loss or, on rare occasions, death”, the Independent reports. The researchers are working to predict when these algal blooms will occur, so they can spot affected shellfish before they are sold.

Independent Read Article
How ExxonMobil could benefit from Trump's presidency

Oil and gas giant ExxonMobil stands to gain nearly $1tn from Trump administration policies, according to a report from the Center for American Progress. Exxon could continue a lucrative deal drilling in the Russian Arctic with Rosneft if sanctions on Russia are lifted, gain from the “relaxation or elimination of anti-pollution laws”, and also benefit from the “likely reversal of the Obama administration’s executive order requiring a presidential permit to construct cross-border pipelines”, Business Insider reports. It may also yield influence over the Justice Department if Jeff Sessions is confirmed at attorney general, which could put an end to calls for Exxon to be investigated for allegedly knowing about the dangers of climate change as early as the 1970s, but hiding them from the public.

Business Insider Read Article
Government review likely to back Swansea Bay tidal lagoon

Plans for a £1.3bn tidal power lagoon in Swansea Bay are expected to be supported by a report from the UK government this week. The review was originally thought to be a way to kill off the ambitious project, but sources told the Guardian that the independent review by Charles Hendry will be largely positive towards it. If approved the project could unlock a multibillion-pound series of six bigger plants harnessing electricity from the tide around the UK, and generating 10% of the UK’s electricity. More than 20 manufacturers are urging the government to give the tidal lagoon the green light, according to the Financial Times.

The Guardian Read Article
Warming world harming insects' reproduction, says study

A warming world harms insects’ ability to reproduce, finds new research published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology. A temperature increase of 5.5C (9.9F) for 10 days in the lab was enough to cause permanent damage to fruit flies’ reproduction. Co-author Rhonda Snook said that she expected the results to be replicated in many other insects. Many insects are unable to move great distances when juveniles to escape an extreme heat event, the authors note. The researchers also found that insects in northern latitudes were more vulnerable than their southern-dwelling cousins.

BBC News Read Article
More than half of heritage sites at risk of irreversible damage

53% of Scotland’s historic buildings and monuments are at an “unacceptable risk” of irreparable damage, with climate change exacerbating the harm. Historic Environment Scotland analysed 352 properties of national importance in its care, and found that climate change was accelerating the effects of natural erosion and damage. One of the most at-risk sites is the Links of Noltland, a neolithic village in Orkney where the earliest representation of a human face in Scotland was found.

The Times Read Article
Wind farms deliver all Scotland's power for four straight days

All of Scotland’s power demand was matched by output from wind turbines from the 23rd-26th December last year, analysts at WWF Scotland have found. Scotland also set a new record for total daily wind power output, at 74,042MWh on Christmas Eve. Energy Live News and the Independent also have the story.

BusinessGreen Read Article

Comment.

The irreversible momentum of clean energy

In a comment piece for the journal Science, outgoing US president Barack Obama explains why he is confident that trends towards a clean-energy economy will continue, and why the transition to renewables “should not be a partisan issue”. Since 2008 the US has experienced a “decoupling” of energy sector emissions and economic growth, putting “to rest the argument that combatting climate change requires accepting lower growth or a lower standard of living”. At the same time “evidence is mounting that any economic strategy that ignores carbon pollution will impose tremendous costs to the global economy”. At a smaller scale “businesses are coming to the conclusion that reducing emissions is not just good for the environment—it can also boost bottom lines, cut costs for consumers, and deliver returns for shareholders”, while market forces and improving technology “continue to drive renewable deployment”. All these factors lead Obama to conclude: “despite the policy uncertainty that we face, I remain convinced that no country is better suited to confront the climate challenge and reap the economic benefits of a low-carbon future than the United States and that continued participation in the Paris process will yield great benefit for the American people”.

Barack Obama, Science Read Article
Don't let the Aussie vampire kangaroo suck £2.7bn out of our Green Investment Bank

“Whether one believes in climate change or not, it is hard to dispute the work of the Government-controlled Green Investment Bank (GIB)” writes the Mail’s City commentator, Alex Brummer. The UK government is selling down its stake in the bank and Brummer is concerned that it “ends up in safe hands”. But the buyer, an Australian firm named Macquarie, does not fit this criteria he argues, as “it cannot be trusted as a good owner of the nation’s vital infrastructure”, following a disappointing performance as owner of Thames Water. “Macquarie will make an instant profit on the £2.7billion outfit, but also runs roughshod over the golden share which was meant to give the Government a continuing say”, Brummer says. Elsewhere, EnergyDesk considers whether Macquarie is preparing to asset-strip the GIB.

Alex Brummer, MailOnline Read Article

Science.

Cumulative hazard: The case of nuisance flooding

A new study finds that frequent but low cost flooding events in response to sea level rise, known as nuisance floods, may equal or even surpass the cost of large, extreme events over time. The authors suggest it would be unfortunate if efforts to protect societies from low-probability extreme events left them exposed to smaller hazards with enormous costs that built up over time. They propose, instead, a Cumulative Hazard Index (CHI) to assess the relative cost of both impacts in future flood risk assessments.

Earth's Future Read Article
Research methods for exploring the links between climate change and conflict

Despite the potential links between climate change and conflict receiving much attention in recent years, there is little consensus in the relevant literature, according to new research. The paper reviews the “tremendous innovations” that have taken place in the field, their potentials and pitfalls. The authors discuss how future research can deal with a “pluralism of methods” to gain deeper insights into the relationship between climate change and conflict.

WIRES climate change Read Article

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