Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Protesters disrupt US panel's fossil fuels pitch at climate talks
- EU talks to set CO2 emission limits for cars founder
- Ireland ranked worst in EU for performance on climate action
- East Antarctica's glaciers are stirring
- Climate change was behind 15 weather disasters in 2017
- Climate change and the UK: Five good and bad things
- Dirty air: how India became the most polluted country on earth
- Ecological memory modifies the cumulative impact of recurrent climate extremes
- Increased snowfall over the Antarctic Ice Sheet mitigated twentieth-century sea-level rise
- The private sector’s climate change risk and adaptation blind spots
Many publications around the world cover the protests that interrupted a pro-fossil fuels side-event at the COP24 climate talks in Poland. Yesterday’s event had been organised by Trump administration officials. The Guardian writes: “A Trump administration presentation extolling the virtues of fossil fuels…has been met with guffaws of laughter and chants of ‘shame on you’. Monday’s protest came during a panel discussion by the official US delegation, which used its only public appearance to promote the ‘unapologetic utilisation’ of coal, oil and gas…The event featured prominent cheerleaders for fossil fuels and nuclear power, including Wells Griffith, Donald Trump’s adviser on global energy and climate…The only non-American was Patrick Suckling, the ambassador for the environment in Australia’s coal-enthusiast government. None of the US participants mentioned climate change or global warming, focusing instead of ‘innovation and entrepreneurship’ in the technological development of nuclear power, ‘clean coal’ and carbon capture and storage.” Reuters says the protestors – who delayed the event by 10 minutes before walking out en masse leaving the room near empty, bar the media – said attempts to rebrand coal as a potentially “clean” energy source were misleading. DeSmog UK observes that “minutes after the start of the event… dozens of youth activists, indigenous campaigners and community leaders burst out laughing and stood up in front of the panel chanting ‘keep it in the ground’”. (Carbon Brief was positioned in the middle of the protest and caught it on camera.) The Financial Times says: “The Trump administration’s position is attracting a following from other big fossil fuel producers, although none has gone as far as the US and said they would withdraw from the accord. Australia, which has threatened to pull financial support from the UN climate funding body, also featured at the pro-coal event.” In a separate article, the Guardian also highlights how “Australia [was the] only nation to join US at pro-coal event at COP24 climate talks”. The New York Timessays that the US is “emerging as the leader of an informal movement to promote coal and other fossil fuels”. But Climate Home News notes that “while the White House touted its fossil fuel industry on the sidelines of a UN climate summit in Poland, state department negotiators were deeply engaged in talks on the future of the Paris deal”.
Meanwhile, in other COP24 coverage, Politico says that the talks now face a “difficult home stretch”: “Ministers will face hurdles ranging from friction between old developed countries that spearheaded the industrial revolution, and the newly wealthy; between countries wanting an open system of reporting and accounting for emissions and their climate plans, and others wary of foreigners poking around; and between countries dramatically affected by global warming and those keener on industrialising.” The Washington Post says the “real question is whether the technical process playing out right now…is capable of delivering something more than just a rule book”. (See the “progress tracker” being maintained during COP24 by Carbon Brief’s Simon Evans.) Climate Home News has an explainer on the Talanoa Dialogue, which begins its concluding two days today. Reuters notes that French officials have urged other governments not to use the “violent protests in France that were sparked by a carbon tax increase as an excuse to stem policies to curb global warming”. BusinessGreenreports that “the UK’s energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry is set to confirm that an extra £100m is to be assigned to the Renewable Energy Performance Platform, providing support for up to 40 new renewable energy projects across Africa over the next five years”.
Reuters reports that the European Union has failed to reach a compromise over how sharply to curb CO2 emissions from cars and vans. It adds: “Car-producing countries and more environmentally conscious lawmakers could not find a compromise. The EU has been divided for months over how strict to be on CO2 emissions from cars and vans. Germany, with the bloc’s biggest auto sector, has warned that tough targets could harm industry and cost jobs.” The European Commission initially proposed that emissions decline by 30% by 2030, compared to 2021 levels. Germany agreed to this. But other countries wished for it to be 35% and MEPs voted for it to be 40%. Meanwhile, EurActiv reports that, “under pressure from regulators, truck makers have softened their criticism of Europe’s first-ever regulation on CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles, focusing their comments on the lack of recharging infrastructure in cities and motorways”.
There is widespread coverage in the Irish media of a major new assessment which shows that Ireland’s performance on climate action has been ranked as the worst in the EU and among the worst in the world. The Irish Times reports that the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2019, which is based on analysis by Germanwatch and the NewClimate Institute, concludes that Ireland’s existing climate mitigation efforts “will not enable [it] to achieve either its EU 2020 or 2030 targets”. The paper adds: “The report examines a total of 56 developed countries plus the EU average, and ranks them across a number of criteria to assess the extent to which their actions and commitments are in line with commitments under the 2015 Paris Accord.” RTE, the Irish Independent and the Irish edition of the Times are among the publications covering the story.
BBC News reports a finding presented at this year’s AGU conference in Washington DC, which shows that Nasa has detected the first signs of significant melting in a swathe of glaciers in East Antarctica. BBC News adds: “The region has long been considered stable and unaffected by some of the more dramatic changes occurring elsewhere on the continent. But satellites have now shown that ice streams running into the ocean along one-eighth of the eastern coastline have thinned and sped up. If this trend continues, it has consequences for future sea levels. There is enough ice in the drainage basins in this sector of Antarctica to raise the height of the global oceans by 28m – if it were all to melt out.” Separately, BBC News reports another finding presented at AGU, which concludes that “glaciers that flank the Himalayas and other high mountains in Asia are moving slower over time”.
The latest in an annual series of reports published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society shows that 15 extreme weather events in 2017 were made more likely by human-caused climate change. These included, reports the Washington Post, “catastrophic floods that submerged more than a third of Bangladesh” and “record-shattering heat waves which killed scores of people in Europe and China”. The report says that “at least one episode — a devastating marine heat wave off the coast of Australia that cooked ecosystems and damaged fisheries — would have been ‘virtually impossible’ without human influence”. InsideClimate News adds: “The scientists found that the year’s heat waves, flooding and other extremes that occurred only rarely in the past are now two or three times more likely than in a world without warming.”
BBC News’s environment analyst examines whether the UK is a leader on climate change – as the current government claims. “Here’s a list of the good and bad in terms of the UK’s climate change record – depending on your point of view,” says Harrabin in his introduction. He then lists five good things “from the government’s perspective”. These include the Climate Change Act, the Committee on Climate Change, the science (“the UK consistently over-achieves on climate science”) and “auctioning subsidies”. The “bad” (“from an environmentalist perspective”) include that ministers have “virtually block[ed] new onshore wind power in the UK”, roads (“government is accused of favouring big infrastructure over small with policies such as an expansion of aviation”) and homes (“the government cut grants, insulation numbers dropped by 90%”). Meanwhile, the Guardian carries an opinion piece by its former environment editor John Vidal under the headline: “The seeds are sown to halt climate change.”
The FT has published a long feature about why India has some of the worst air pollution in the world. The feature is accompanied by a series of data visualisations. It concludes: “India’s 246 coal-fired power plants — most of them inefficient and highly polluting — account for 60% of India’s total electricity production [capacity], with a combined capacity of 188GW [gigawatts], and coal is likely to dominate the country’s energy mix for decades to come. While India has imposed tough emissions standards for power plants, state utilities, which own many of India’s ageing coal power plants, have failed to comply, though environmentalists are pushing to hold them to account.”
Coral reefs have an “ecological memory” where the impacts of bleaching events in one year are influenced by those in previous years, new research suggests. The authors modelled the “unprecedented back-to-back mass bleaching” of corals along the 2,300 km length of the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017. Despite being exposed to higher temperatures in 2017, the corals were more resistant to bleaching in 2017 than the year before, the researchers say. The findings emphasise the importance of assessing sequences of climate-driven events, the authors note.
As increase in snowfall over Antarctica has offset global sea level rise by around 10mm over the 20th century, a new study finds. Using a newly-compiled database of ice core records, the researchers reconstruct Antarctic-wide snow accumulation for the past 200 years. The rate at which snowfall offset sea level rise increased through the century, the results show, increasing from around 1.1mm per decade since 1901 to 2.5mm per decade after 1979.
Corporations have “significant blind spots” in their assessments of climate change impacts and plans for adaptation, a new perspective paper says. While investors are increasingly asking companies to disclose climate change risks, this review of more than 1,600 corporate adaptation strategies says many are found wanting. More comprehensive adaptation assessments – that consider risks to supply chains, customers and employees as well as ecosystem-based responses – could “limit the ‘tragedy of the horizon’ characterised by inadequate and too-late action”, the authors conclude.
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