Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Drilling down: Public support for fracking hits lowest level yet
- Study reveals global warming impact of keeping pets
- Interview: U.S. climate advocate gives thumbs up to China's efforts to fight climate change
- British Gas steps up attack on ministers over energy bill rise
- Senate confirms Bush 43 veteran to be deputy Energy secretary
- Al Gore's Inconvenient Sequel could just make climate rift worse
- The Church of England Takes on Climate Change—and Generates a 17 Percent Return
- On Environment and Energy, Trump Often Picks His Own Facts
- Seek climate advice through established routes
- Toward an ice-free Barents Sea
Public support for fracking has reached a record low, according to new research from the UK government. The quarterly Pubic Attitudes Tracker shows that shows that support for fracking has dropped from 21% a year ago to just 16% of those surveyed in June to July this year. This is the lowest level of support since respondents were first asked the question in 2013. Despite this 48% said that they neither supported nor opposed it, a level which has remained consistent. The survey also showed continued high support for clean energy, at 77%, and tackling climate change. Elisabeth Whitebread, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK commented: “More than three-quarters of people support renewables, so the government should listen to their own opinion polls, stay true to their manifesto promise and support offshore wind and solar instead of a new fossil fuel industry”. A Business and Energy Department spokesman said: “We have more than 50 years of drilling experience in the UK and we’d encourage people to look beyond the scaremongering to the benefits that this industry could bring”. The Guardian also has the story.
Feeding cats and dogs plays a ‘significant role in causing global warming’, according to new research from Research from the University of California, Los Angeles. Their meat-based diets require more energy, land and water to produce, and so feeding cats and dogs is creating the equivalent of 64 millions tons of carbon dioxide a year in the US alone. The study found that this has the same impact on the climate as a year’s worth of driving from 13.6 million cars. Pets are responsible for 25-30% of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the US, the Mail Online writes.
Ken Berlin, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Climate Reality Project, has given the thumbs up to Chinese efforts to deal with climate change, while warning the US withdrawal from the Paris climate pact would hurt the US economy, reports Xinhua, China’s state news agency. “China has a very comprehensive program to address the climate change…China is completely on the right track [on coal]” Berlin said at the 2017 JCI Global Partnership Summit. “The fossil fuel industry, the coal industry in particular, is not growing in the United States. But in the meantime, the renewable energy is growing very, very rapidly. So, if you discourage new and renewable energy, you will lose tremendous job opportunities”, Berlin continued.
British Gas, Britain’s biggest energy supplier, row with the UK government deepened after the company claimed that energy policies would soon account for more of an electricity bill than wholesale costs. It claims that the cost of government policies on electricity bills will hit £165 per household next year, up from £81 in 2014. A spokeswoman for the government said that it did not “recognise these figures” published yesterday by British Gas, adding that “policies driving energy efficiency improvements have more than offset the cost of energy policies and have resulted in lower energy bills.” She also highlighted that Centrica submitted very different figures to Ofgem. This discrepancy is partly because British Gas includes the carbon tax as a policy cost, whereas submissions to Ofgem are required to count it within the wholesale price, the Times writes.
Dan Brouillette, a former US Energy Department official in the George W Bush administration, is to return to the agency as deputy secretary, the Senate confirmed yesterday. “He is one of a few fairly noncontroversial energy or environment nominees to come before the Senate so far during the Trump administration”, the Hill writes.
Al Gore has “acted as a lightning rod for the bitter divide that has scarred the US public and political discourse on [climate change]” ever since the release of his Oscar-winning film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, says Adam Corner, Research Director at Climate Outreach, in New Scientist. Now he’s back with ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’, but since then “public attitudes to the political establishment have changed markedly”. “In this context, is a film fronted by a highly polarising political figure the right choice for a big-budget climate campaign in 2017?”, Corner asks. “The documentary can only hope to further galvanise the already-concerned”, he concludes, adding that “An Inconvenient Sequel would have more chance of sparking conversations among the disengaged if it gave more prominence to perspectives other than Gore’s”.
A feature in Bloomberg examines the impact that the Church of England has had on encouraging carbon-producing companies to act on climate change. Through their £7.9 billion ($10 billion) fund, that that finances the church’s mission activities, cathedral costs, and clergy pensions, “the church has been quietly—and successfully—engaging with European companies in the energy and mining industries”. For example it was “instrumental” partner in passing Exxon shareholder resolution. Since then BP, BHP Billiton, and Royal Dutch Shell “have all voluntarily adopted similar climate change steps to those sought at Exxon”.
Many of the things Trump says about coal, climate change and the environment “bear a strained relationship with the truth”, says a New York Times factcheck. The feature investigates five of the US president’s most prominent climate and environmental claims as president, from stating that coal has made a comeback to claiming that the Paris Agreement was binding. “These exaggerations have become common refrains for the president”, the piece concludes, “but he appears to have dropped some of his previous assertions since taking office”, such as “calling climate change a hoax, at least in public statements”.
Scott Pruitt, administrator for the US Environmental Protection Agency, is considering an adversarial approach to finding answers about climate change, where two scientific teams would go head-to-head in a debate of some sort. But it’s “not at all clear” that this “spurious ‘red team–blue team’ debate” will advance that goal, says an editorial in Nature. The piece points out that the “exercise could create the false impression that there is a debate in the scientific community about the fundamentals, when in fact researchers are busy trying to work out an array of (very important) details and bolster confidence in their projections”. Instead the Trump administration should follow the “time-tested process” of submitting its questions to the national academy, the editorial concludes.
The Barents Sea region of the Arctic, north of Finland and western Russia, has seen dramatic sea ice loss over the past few decades. A new study combines observations since 1850 with climate model simulations to examine the recent record low winter Barents Sea ice extent. They find that current winter sea ice extent is 66% lower than it was prior to 1979, and is also much lower than suggested by all climate models assessed. This sea ice loss is unprecedented in the observational record. Climate model projections suggest a winter ice-free Barents Sea between 2061–2088. The large spread in projections of ice-free conditions highlights the importance of internal variability in driving recent and future sea ice loss.
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