Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Prince William and Sir David Attenborough join forces on 'Earthshot' prize
- Harris, Pence spar over climate science, fracking and the Green New Deal
- September was world’s hottest on record, climate scientists say
- Fertiliser use is fuelling climate-warming nitrous oxide emissions: study
- EU climate clash looms as parliament backs ‘bloody hard’ emissions cuts
- How offshore wind became such a good bet
- Cleaner air must be a lasting legacy of the national crisis
- Projections of Arctic sea ice conditions and shipping routes in the twenty-first century using CMIP6 forcing scenarios
- Quantifying the contribution of temperature anomaly to stroke risk in China
Many outlets cover the news that Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and Sir David Attenborough, have launched a £50m “Earthshot Prize”, which, according to BBC News, is “the biggest environmental award ever”. The broadcaster says the pair hope the money will become the “Nobel Prize for environmentalism”. It adds that the money will be awarded in the form of five £1m prizes every year for 10 years. According to the Times, the name “Earthshot” is “[i]nspired by John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot speech”. The new prize will focus on five priorities, the paper adds, which are “to protect and restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world and fix our climate”. Reuters, the Guardian, Sky News, the Mirror and many others cover the news. An editorial in the Sun “congratulate[s]” Prince William for launching the prize: “Not just because of the difference it could make to the environment. But because he has clearly realised where green extremists go wrong.” An editorial for the Daily Mail (not online) also “commend[s]” the prince on the prize, adding: “As the Duke of Cambridge recognises, technology – not monkish self-denial – will save the Earth”. A Daily Mail comment by columnist Richard Kay says the prize “mark[s] [Prince William’s] emergence as a major player on the global environmental stage”. Separately, BBC News reports comments made by Attenborough about the need to “curb” the “excesses [of] the capitalist system” in order to restore the natural world. It reports him saying: “That doesn’t mean to say that capitalism is dead and I’m not an economist and I don’t know. But I believe the nations of the world, ordinary people worldwide, are beginning to realise that greed does not actually lead to joy.”
There is widespread coverage of last night’s US vice-presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, with a number of outlets picking out their exchanges on climate issues. According to the Hill, the pair “sparred over their commitment to the science of climate change, with the vice president [Pence] repeatedly falsely asserting a Biden administration plans to ban fracking”. The website quotes Pence saying: “The climate is changing. The issue is, what’s the cause and what do we do about it? President Trump has made it clear that we’re going to continue to listen to science.” [Scientists think that 100% of recent warming is due to humans.] The Hill adds: “Pence later said ‘climate alarmists’ would try to use natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires to try and sell the Green New Deal.” The New York Times factcheck of the debate says Pence “employed false, misleading or exaggerated statements” on climate change and other topics. Reuters carries key quotes from the debate on a range of issues, including Harris calling climate change “an existential threat”. According to the Independent, Pence refused to say that warming was an “existential threat”. Analysis from BBC News North America reporter Anthony Zurcher asks who “won” the debate and says “[b]oth sides [were] uncomfortable on climate”. He writes that Pence “dodged saying climate change was manmade or a threat to the planet” and that Harris “avoided a full-throated defence” of her ticket’s climate plans. Axios has a piece focusing on the debate’s exchanges over fracking. [Carbon Brief has a grid comparing the election rivals’ positions on topics relating to energy and climate change.]
Meanwhile, several outlets report that Biden is considering setting up a White House office, if elected, led by what Bloomberg calls a climate “czar”, who would coordinate efforts to tackle warming. The website says: “Among the candidates being discussed to head the operation are former secretary of state John Kerry,” according to “people familiar with the deliberations”. Politico also covers the story, saying the new “czar” would “help direct sweeping changes across federal agencies if [Biden] wins next month’s election”. Separately, Bloomberg has a piece looking at “the people who’ll be jockeying for influence on climate policy come January 2021, should things go Biden’s way”. It picks out “union bosses” and what it variously describes as “Obama holdovers”, “the Bernie Sanders coalition”, “clean energy barons” and the “cone of silence” – Biden’s own core staff, who it says “rarely speak to the press”. Elsewhere, the Hill reports that Biden “would face hurdles undoing Trump environmental rollbacks”, with the process potentially taking years. Another Bloomberg article says Trump’s supreme court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett – if confirmed – “could make it harder for future administrations to adapt laws that have been on the books for decades to meet emerging challenges such as climate change”. Finally, the Daily Telegraph gives an opinion slot to Republican senator Marco Rubio – who has questioned human influence on climate change and opposed policy to tackle the problem – in which he rails against “China’s lies” on “climate change and more”. Rubio adds: “[T]he [Chinese] Communist Party must be held to account for its broken promises and bad faith.”
There is continuing coverage of the news, first reported yesterday, that September was the world’s hottest on record for the month. The Times carries the story carried on its frontpage, adding that last month was also the hottest September on record for Europe. According to the New York Times, the record heat in September “kept this year on track to be one of the five hottest in recorded history”. It says September broke the record for the month set only a year ago. Press Association via the Guardian notes that this September was 0.05C hotter than the same month last year, which was previously the hottest on record. The Independent also has the story.
A number of outlets cover new research on nitrous oxide (N2O), the third most significant contributor to human-caused warming, with Reuters reporting that fertiliser use is driving up global emissions of the gas. The newswire says that the new research, published in Nature, was carried out over five years and tracks natural and human-caused emissions of N2O during 1980-2016. The Guardian carries the findings under the headline: “Intensive farming worldwide threatens Paris climate accord, report says.” It says most of the increase in atmospheric levels of N2O is due to farming. Bloomberg says that rising emissions are contributing to ozone depletion as well as climate change. InsideClimate News says that emissions of N2O are “rising faster than previously thought – at a rate that not only threatens international targets to limit global warming, but is consistent with a worst-case trajectory for climate change, a new study suggests”. MailOnline also has the story and Carbon Brief covers the findings in depth.
There is further coverage of the news that the European Parliament has backed a target of cutting EU emissions to 60% below 1990 levels by 2030, with Politico reporting that this “set[s] up a clash with member countries balking at such a deep cut”, with the proposal also “far above the 55% cut recommended by the European Commission”. Reuters says the parliament must agree the final target with EU member state governments and the commission. It adds that the EU’s current goal is a 40% reduction by 2030. Climate Home News also has the story. The Financial Times reports: “In opting for a significantly higher objective (the 60% also strips out any carbon offsetting), MEPs want to put pressure on Europe’s environmental laggards to embrace tougher greenhouse gas targets as part of the promise to reach climate neutrality by 2050.” The paper adds: “But the vote, which won by a slim majority of 27 votes, has split the parliament’s major groups and revived a politically sensitive debate about how far and how fast Europe should move towards net-zero emissions.”
In a feature for the Daily Telegraph, business reporter Rachel Millard looks at how the cost of offshore wind has plummeted over the last decade. Millard writes: “Subsidies such as the guaranteed electricity prices in the UK have been key, giving certainty to investors about returns and therefore lowering the cost of finance…Efficiency has also been fuelled by huge advances on turbine height. Developers have competed to build taller, wider turbines that can capture more wind per rotation and better wind speeds.” Another feature by Millard in the Daily Telegraph, under the headline “Wind power or hot air: can Boris build 260 turbines a year?”, quotes Carbon Brief’s Dr Simon Evans. Writing in the Sun, climate sceptic columnist Rod Liddle says of the reported £50bn price tag of meeting the UK’s new offshore wind target: “You might as well spend it on unicorn tears”. Liddle writes: “Wind turbines, especially offshore turbines, are also expensive to build, expensive to maintain, polluting to construct and they need replacing very often indeed.” [The UK government estimates that electricity from offshore wind will be cheaper than gas.] Liddle argues that nuclear power is “the way forward” for the UK “even if nuclear power stations do cost a few quid to build”. [The proposed 3.2 gigawatt (GW) Sizewell C new nuclear plant would cost a reported £20bn.] Liddle adds that the targeted 40GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 will “satisfy less than 10% of our need”. [The turbines will, in fact, generate around half the UK’s current electricity demand.] For the Guardian, Chaitanya Kumar of thinktank the New Economics Foundation writes that “more offshore wind is welcome, but we have to keep the jobs it creates in the UK”. For the Times ‘Thunderer’ column, former Labour energy minister Brian Wilson also argues that the economic benefits of offshore wind need to be channeled towards domestic business. BusinessGreen editor James Murray describes Boris Johnson’s support for offshore wind as “a direct repudiation of those Tories who in the past have argued against renewable power and the need for climate action”.
Meanwhile, the Times reports the comments of Dermot Nolan, former head of energy regulator Ofgem, saying that National Grid should be stripped of its role as operator of the country’s electricity transmission system, because the increasing role for offshore wind, as sticking with current arrangements would “increase concerns over perceived conflicts of interest with National Grid’s other businesses, such as building subsea interconnectors”. A second Times story reports Nolan’s comments on the cost of electricity system upgrades to allow for electric vehicle charging. It reports: “The costs of upgrading power networks to cope with electric cars should be paid for through general taxation, the former boss of Ofgem has said.”
In a piece for the Times Red Box, UK transport secretary Grant Shapps and business secretary Alok Sharma write: “[T]oday, on Clean Air Day 2020, we want to show how we are working with local government to tackle [air pollution] and to lock in the health benefits of cleaner air by supporting people to walk and cycle and to choose cleaner ways to travel…We know our future has to involve the transition to zero-emission vehicles. That’s why we’re consulting on ending the sale of new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars by 2035 or earlier.”
The Arctic is likely to be ice-free in summer by 2055-76, a new paper finds, which would see theTranspolar Sea Route becoming available for shipping. Arctic sea ice is also expected to become thinner over time, the study adds. The amount of ice thicker than 120cm is expected to decline by 34-100% by the end of the century, the research says. The authors say: “These findings may aid in developing strategic planning by governments for the Arctic and providing strategic advice for the global maritime industry.”
The risk of stroke increases by 20% with extreme heat in China, a new study says. The research looked at the associations between nationwide stroke data and temperature anomaly data in China from 2000-16. “The long-term trend was dominated by the increase in events involving heat,” the authors say.
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