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Daily Briefing

08.03.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

08.03.2018 | 9:35am
DAILY BRIEFING Ofgem sets out tougher price controls for energy networks
Ofgem sets out tougher price controls for energy networks

News.

Ofgem sets out tougher price controls for energy networks

The companies that run Britain’s electricity and gas networks will see their rates of return cut dramatically as part of a “tougher approach” announced yesterday by industry regulator Ofgem. The plans will cut the revenue the companies can make from network levies by using a “cost of equity” baseline – the amount that network companies pay their shareholders – of 3-5%, says the Times. The levies account for more than 20% of the average dual-fuel domestic bill. Ofgem had assumed a 6-7% baseline when it set the present controls, but companies have been earning much higher returns of 7.5-12%. Some of the companies affected include Cadent, National Grid, SSE and Scottish Power, notes the Press Association. “In total, we estimate this would result in savings of over £5bn for household consumers, or about £15-25 per year on the dual fuel household bill, who pay for the network through their energy bills,” Ofgem said, reports Reuters. Stakeholders have until 2 May to respond to the proposals before Ofgem finalises the framework this summer, says the Daily Telegraph. Meanwhile, analysis reported in the Independent shows that the climate change levy – added to business and household energy bills to fund energy conservation and renewables schemes – hits the poorest households the hardest, and that they also receive less money back in the form of home improvements than they contribute in the first place.

The Financial Times Read Article
UK carbon emissions drop to 1890 levels

In continued coverage of Carbon Brief analysis, the FT reports that declining coal use has pushed UK carbon emissions to levels last consistently seen in 1890. The story is trailed on the front page. Emissions fell by 2.6% in 2017, driven by a nearly one-fifth reduction in the use of coal as the energy industry shifts towards cleaner sources of electricity generation. “Overall, CO2 emissions have declined faster in the UK since the early 1990s than in almost any other large economy,” said Carbon Brief’s Zeke Hausfather. But the UK still has long way to go to it meets its legal target of cutting emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, notes Business Green. “Currently, emissions are 38% below 1990 levels and need to fall a further 68% to reach the target.” iNewsYale Environment 360Gizmodo and Verdict also cover the story.

The Financial Times Read Article
Fracking delayed at North Yorkshire site until autumn

Third Energy has postponed plans to frack for shale gas at a site in North Yorkshire until the autumn. The company was intending to complete test fracks at its site in the village of Kirby Misperton late last year, but the process was delayed while they awaited government approval. Third Energy has confirmed it will not now go ahead until the autumn, but has said fracking will still happen “on completion of the approval process”. Anti-fracking campaigners who set up a camp on site in 2016 began to dismantle it last Friday, notes the BBC. Meanwhile, the Guardian also reports that UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) has applied for a broad injunction to prevent campaigners from mounting protests to disrupt its operations. If granted, the injunction would cover all campaigners who organise protests at the firm’s three sites in the south-east of England where it wants to drill for oil.

Press Association via Guardian Read Article
Rick Perry: Cleaner fossil fuels are key to Trump's 'new energy realism'

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry has hailed the Trump administration’s efforts to make fossil fuels cleaner as a key part of the transition to an energy system that’s more reliant on renewable sources. Speaking at the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston, Perry announced “a new direction. I call it the new energy realism”. “Let us unleash innovation, let us invest in emission-free resources like nuclear and hydro [power] while at the same time making fossil fuels cleaner,” he said. Perry argued that the US is on the cusp of energy independence, reports the Independent. “We don’t have to choose between growing the economy and caring for the environment,” he added. Perry also argued that it is “immoral” to shift away from fossil fuels, as doing so would threaten economic developments in poorer nations. Think Progress and Texas Monthly also cover the speech.

The Washington Examiner Read Article
U.S. loses bid to halt children's climate change lawsuit

A federal appeals court has rejected the US government’s bid to halt a lawsuit by young people claiming that US administration is violating their constitutional rights by ignoring the harms caused by climate change. By a 3-0 vote, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the administration had not met the “high bar” under federal law to dismiss the Oregon lawsuit. Federal attorneys had argued that the lawsuit’s basis is too speculative and broad, and that the courts shouldn’t let it move forward, notes The Hill. The decision “probably [means] sending the ambitious case back to a lower court in Oregon for trial”, says the Washington Post. The case was originally brought in 2015 against the administration of President Barack Obama. InsideClimate News also has the story. Elsewhere, the Guardian reports on a new study that says taking into account land subsidence means the San Francisco area faces a far worse threat from rising seas than previously thought.

Reuters Read Article
South Africa's Cape Town moves back to August 'Day Zero' forecast

“Day Zero” in Cape Town, when water supplies are expected to be turned off because of a lengthy drought, has been pushed back from 9 July to 27 August. However, as the end of August is well within the normal winter rainfall period, Day Zero might now be avoided. “Provided we continue our current water savings efforts, Day Zero can be avoided completely this year,” deputy mayor Ian Neilson said in a statement. Grist also has the story.

Reuters Read Article

Comment.

You can deny environmental calamity – until you check the facts

Guardian columnist George Monbiot runs the rule over the new book, Enlightenment Now, from psychology professor Steven Pinker. “I expected something bracing, original, well sourced and well reasoned,” says Monbiot, but the “alarm began to sound” when he described the environmental movement as “laced with misanthropy, including an indifference to starvation, an indulgence in ghoulish fantasies of a depopulated planet, and Nazi-like comparisons of human beings to vermin, pathogens and cancer”. “But this is just the beginning of the problem,” says Monbiot. “Rather than using primary sources, Pinker draws on anecdote, cherry-picking and discredited talking points developed by anti-environmental thinktanks.” Citing Pinker’s sources on topics such as limits to growth, “peak car” and the rate of species extinctions, Monbiot concludes that “I doubt such poor scholarship will dim the adulation with which his claims are received”.

George Monbiot, The Guardian Read Article
Climate change 'impacts women more than men'

On International Women’s Day, BBC science reporter Mary Halton looks at how “women are more likely than men to be affected by climate change”. “UN figures indicate that 80% of people displaced by climate change are women,” Halton says, and women’s “roles as primary caregivers and providers of food and fuel make them more vulnerable when flooding and drought occur”. Using examples from around the world, Halton discusses how women have to walk much further to collect water as Lake Chad recedes and African American women were among the worst affected by flooding in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Mary Halton, BBC News Read Article

Science.

Unprecedented 2015/16 Indo-Pacific heat transfer speeds up Tropical Pacific heat recharge

El Nino events are characterized by anomalously warm surface waters in the equatorial Pacific and heat loss of the upper ocean, a precursor for the swing towards cooler La Nina conditions. This study finds that El Nino 2015/16 departed from this norm: despite extreme peak surface temperatures, the Tropical Pacific upper ocean actually gained heat, which is in stark contrast to previous El Ninos. They find that unprecedented reduction of oceanic transports by the Indonesian throughflow played a key role in the anomalous 2015/16 event. Transports through this passage usually export warm water from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, but their reduction was strong enough to outweigh Pacific heat loss typical for El Nino. Enhanced warming and sea level rise in the Indian Ocean over the past decade reduced the sea level difference between Western Pacific and Indian Ocean, preparing the ground for the extreme throughflow reduction in 2015/16. These results explain the weak and short-lived La Nina conditions in 2016/17 and demonstrate how decadal changes in the Indian Ocean influenced the 2015/16 El Nino.

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article
Global climate change and local land subsidence exacerbate inundation risk to the San Francisco Bay Area

The current global projections of future sea level rise are the basis for developing inundation hazard maps. However, contributions from coastal subsidence have generally not been considered in these projections. This study uses radar measurements and global navigation satellite data to show subsidence rates of less than 2 mm/year along most of the coastal areas along San Francisco Bay. However, rates exceed 10 mm/year in some areas underlain by compacting artificial landfill. The maps estimating 100-year inundation hazards solely based on the projection of sea level rise from various emission scenarios underestimate the area at risk of flooding by 3.7 to 90.9%, compared with revised maps that account for the contribution of local land subsidence. Given ongoing land subsidence, they project that an area of 125 to 429 km2 will be vulnerable to inundation, as opposed to 51 to 413 km2 considering sea level rise alone.

Science Advances Read Article

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