Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Prince William urges action to combat climate change in Davos
- Record numbers of Americans say they care about global warming, poll finds
- Experts say it’s safe to raise limit for tremors at Britain's fracking sites
- German vows to insulate industry from costs of culling coal
- Electric cars will not stop rising oil demand, says energy agency chief
- Analysis warns of lack of progress on 2020 global emissions target
- The Guardian view on rising sea levels: a warning from Greenland
- The battle on the frontline of climate change in Mali
- The impact of extreme weather events on livestock populations: the case of the 2011 drought in Mexico
Coverage of the World Economic Forum in Davos continues, with news that Prince William has lent his support for action to combat climate change, during an interview he conducted with veteran naturalist Sir David Attenborough, reports the Financial Times. The prince asked Attenborough why those in key positions had “taken so long” to tackle climate change, reports the Guardian. It quotes Attenborough saying: “We’re now so numerous, so powerful, so all-pervasive, the mechanisms we have for destruction are so wholesale and so frightening, that we can actually exterminate whole ecosystems without even noticing it.“ BBC News carries a video of the interview. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation News reports comments from New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern at Davos, saying world leaders they should have “nothing to fear” from acting on climate change. “This is about being on the right side of history,” Ardern said. The Guardian has a video of Ardern’s comments. Separately, the Guardian reports that a record number of private jets are expected at this year’s Davos meeting. Also speaking at Davos, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has “alarm[ed] climate activists with [a] pro-business speech”, reports the Guardian. In the Financial Times, Pilita Clark asks if global climate cooperation will survive current pressures on the liberal democratic world order. Clark writes: “Three years on from the Paris accord, rising forces of nationalism and populism continue to sow doubt about the future of the agreement and, by extension, other efforts to tackle widening environmental dilemmas.”
A record 73% of Americans understand that climate change is real, according to the New York Times, citing a new Ipsos poll for the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. This is an increase of 10 percentage points since 2015 and three points since March 2018, the paper notes, quoting the lead researcher saying: “I’ve never seen jumps in some of the key indicators like this.” Some 69% of respondents were “worried” about global warming, the NYT adds, up eight points since March. The Guardian, NPR, Axios, CNN, Rolling Stone, InsideClimate News and others also cover the Yale polling. Separately, a poll for the Associated Press NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds 74% of Americans say extreme weather events over the past five years have influenced their opinions on climate change. AP notes that, according to its findings: “The share of Americans who said they think the climate is changing has held roughly steady over the last year.” The Hill and HuffPost both cover the AP results. Meanwhile, TV meteorologist Jeff Berardelli writes in a Washington Postcomment that his profession can “make more people take climate change seriously”. He adds: “I firmly believe that, when we look back, 2015 to 2018 will be viewed as the turning-point years – the years when climate change ‘got real’.”
The UK could safely raise the limit for tremors at shale gas fracking sites, two seismologists said on Tuesday, reports Reuters. It quotes the British Geological Survey’s head of seismology and a researcher from the University of Liverpool, speaking at a briefing with journalists. Both argue for a limit of magnitude 1.5 – up from the current 0.5. The government has no plans to raise the limit, Reuters notes. The scientists say the existing “traffic light” regulations should be reviewed, reports BBC News. It notes that both scientists “have carried out paid work for the UK’s Oil and Gas Authority”. A government spokesperson repeated that there were no plans to review the limits, “but declined to rule out such a review in future”, reports the Times. The Independent also has the story. The Guardian reports that lorries, on-site generators, demonstrators and police have driven up air pollution levels around Third Energy’s exploratory well at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire.
German manufacturing industry will be compensated if electricity prices rise as a result of the country’s planned coal phaseout, reports Reuters. It quotes German economy minister Peter Altmaier saying: “We will take clear and responsible steps to compensate energy-intensive companies.” Germany’s coal commission is set to publish its findings, including a timeline for phaseout, on 25 January “and no later than 1 February”, Reuters notes. A second Reuters article says the coal commission will propose price protection for both households and manufacturers, citing a “133-page draft document seen by Reuters”. Funding would come from the German state, it explains, adding that the phaseout plans are due to be reviewed in 2023, 2026 and 2029 “with a view to security of supply, prices, climate protection and structural change”. German industry lobby groups have published a press release describing compensation as a “mandatory precondition” for their consent to a coal exit, reports Clean Energy Wire.
Despite rapid growth, electric vehicles (EVs) are doing little to curb rising oil demand, according to the International Energy Agency’s Fatih Birol, reports Climate Home News. Speaking at the World Economic Form in Davos, Birol said trucks, petrochemicals and air travel are driving rising global oil needs, which is expected to increase by 1.3 million barrels per day [around 1%], whereas EVs are offsetting just tens of thousands of barrels per day of demand. The Daily Telegraph also covers Birol’s comments.
The world is progressing too slowly on climate change across almost every part of the global economy, according to analysis from the World Resources Institute covered by the Guardian. “Removing coal from the global energy mix is taking too long, too many forests are still being destroyed, and fossil fuel subsidies are ongoing despite their distorting effect on the market,” the paper notes. Separately, the Guardian reports the findings of a European Commission study that found the UK has the largest fossil fuel subsidies in the EU. The commission’s measure includes the UK’s reduced-rate VAT on household energy bills, the Guardian notes, whereas the government says it does not provide any fossil fuel subsidies “under its own definition and that of the International Energy Agency”. [Carbon Brief looked at the challenge of defining fossil fuel subsidies in 2017.]
“Dramatic increases in the rate at which ice on Greenland and East Antarctica is melting are…among the latest manifestations of the changes our planet and its atmosphere are undergoing,” begins a Guardian editorial on rising seas. It says the latest research showing retreat of Antarctic glaciers previously thought to be stable makes for “unnerving reading”. It concludes: “While trying to limit future emissions remains the most pressing task, these ominous findings highlight the need to address the consequences of carbon already emitted…We will have to adapt to our world’s changing shape.”
Climate change is aggravating the conflict in Mali and making it harder to survive. writes Lyse Doucet, the chief international correspondent for BBC News. [A film by Doucet was also shown on the BBC’s 10 O’Clock News last night.] On top of the rising threat posed by extremist groups in the country, Doucet writes, is “another gathering storm”. She says: “On a visit to northern Mali with the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross], it was startling to see how the consequences of climate change are woven through the fabric of lives in what has always been a harsh existence on the edge of the encroaching Sahara desert…Mali is now lurching between droughts and floods. They are both lasting longer and inflicting a huge cost on crops and livestock.”
The 2011-12 drought in Mexico – the worst in 70 years – caused populations of cattle and goats to fall by 3% across the country, new research finds. Using modelling, the researchers also show that severe climate change would increase the frequency of extreme drought to one in every three years, which “would have negative impacts on livestock production”, the authors say. “Climate change together with already existing trends in overgrazing and soil erosion could further increase the sensitivity of livestock production across the country.”
Expert analysis directly to your inbox.