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Daily Briefing

21.03.2017
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Record-breaking climate change pushes world into ‘uncharted territory’, Energy related CO2 emissions can be gone by 2060, & more
Record-breaking climate change pushes world into ‘uncharted territory’, Energy related CO2 emissions can be gone by 2060, & more

News.

Record-breaking climate change pushes world into ‘uncharted territory’

Unprecedented heat across the globe in 2016 and 2017 is pushing the world into “truly uncharted territory”, according to the World Meteorological Organisation’s latest assessment of the climate. The report highlighted multiple signs that earth’s weather is getting more extreme, including: record low levels of sea ice in both the Arctic and Antarctica, a record average temperature of 1.1C above preindustrial levels in 2016, famine in Africa after rainfall was up to 60% below average, China’s wettest year on record, unusually warm oceans, a sharp rise in global sea levels and natural disasters in Tasmania and south-east Asia. The Arctic has experienced the “polar equivalent of a heatwave” at least three times this year, the WMO says. In the report foreword Petteri Taalas said: “The influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident…This influence is increasingly being demonstrated by attribution studies for some of the most critical weather and climate extremes…It is vital that [the Paris Agreement’s] implementation becomes a reality”. David Carlson, director of the WMO’s world climate research programme told the Guardian: “Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory”. The release of the report also prompted criticism of Trump’s attitude to climate: “The Trump Administration and senior Republicans in Congress continue to bury their heads in the sand and state that climate change is a hoax and does not need to be addressed…How much more evidence does the world need to recognise the dangers confronting our society?”, asked Professor Sir Robert Watson, of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. The Independent, the Daily Express and New Scientist also have the story.

Guardian Read Article
Energy related CO2 emissions can be gone by 2060

A new report by the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA), says it expects to see green growth result in significant economic gains by 2050, by which time 70% greenhouse gas reductions could be achieved, Energy Live News reports. Renewables should rise to 80% of global power generation by 2050 from 24% today, the report suggests, although additional investment of $29 trillion (£23.34tn) will be needed by then. The report was written in collaboration with the International Energy Agency (IEA), which took a different approach to the methods assumptions and priorities that are needed to keep global warming below 2C, Climate Home reports, reflecting the different priorities of the institutions. The IEA, which is focused on energy security, favoured a technology neutral model with large scale nuclear power and carbon capture and storage. The IEA warns that oil and gas companies that failing to adapt to the lower carbon energy could lead to $1.3 trillion worth of assets being stranded by 2050, the Telegraph says. However both agree that overhauling the energy system will have net benefits in terms of employment and economic growth.

Energy Live News Read Article
UN Asks U.K. to Pause Hinkley Nuclear Plant Work for Assessment

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe has asked the UK to suspend work on the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset pending assessment of the environmental impact, Bloomberg reports. The committee said the UK should wait until it has received a reply from countries including Germany, Norway and the Netherlands on whether it would be helpful for them to be formally notified under a treaty on transboundary environmental impacts. The request is an embarrassment for the government, the Guardian says, which has faced several delays over the project.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance Read Article
Trump freezes Obama-era energy rules

The US Department of Energy is postponing five energy efficiency rules, including test procedures for walk-in coolers and freezers, central air conditioners and heat pumps, that “played a key role” in president Obama’s climate agenda, the Hill reports. Most of these rules will be delayed until May, June or July.

The Hill Read Article
Mail on Sunday Corrects Warming ‘Pause’ Error, Deflects Blame

In an article on February 19 David Rose wrote that “the world average temperature in January 2017 was about the same as January 1998”, implying that this was evidence for a global warming pause. The Mail on Sunday has now acknowledged that this statement is false, and that the average temperature in January 2017 was 0.25C higher than in 1998. But it hasn’t clarified how the mistake came about, DeSmogUK notes.

DeSmogUK Read Article

Comment.

The era of U.S. climate leadership is officially over

At the request of the US, any mention of climate change finance has been dropped from the draft G20 meeting statement. This “signals a marked break from 2016, when finance ministers called for all signatories of the landmark Paris climate agreement to ratify the agreement and bring it into force as soon as possible”, Natasha Geiling writes, in a piece that explores the US’ new position on climate change.

Natasha Geiling, Think Progress Read Article
How Trump’s Supreme Court pick keeps environmental cases out of court

Faced with the Trump administration’s assault on Obama’s climate-friendly regulations, environmentalists are turning to the courts to limit some of the fall-out. A feature in Grist looks at how Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch might handle these cases – and whether he would even allow them in court at all. “Throughout his career, Gorsuch has found creative ways of throwing judicial roadblocks in front of environmental litigation. In many instances, Gorsuch has ruled that environmentalist groups don’t have what is called “standing” to bring a case”, Leber reports.

Rebecca Leber, Grist Read Article
Could shifting focus towards fossil fuel sectors tempt US to stay in the Paris Agreement?

Trump’s officials have reportedly said that the US may continue participating in the Paris climate agreement if the focus shifts towards technologies that curb emissions from the fossil fuel industries, like carbon capture and storage (CCS). A feature in BusinessGreen considers the likelihood and implications of such an outcome. “Any attempt to incorporate more support for CCS into the Paris Agreement appears to be based on a misconception on how the treaty works. There is currently nothing to stop the US or other countries backing CCS as part of the national climate action plans”, Holder notes.

Michael Holder, BusinessGreen Read Article

Science.

The projected demise of Barnes Ice Cap: evidence of an unusually warm 21st century Arctic

The remaining piece of the vast ice sheet that once covered North America during the last glacial period is likely to melt within 300 years, a new study says. The Barnes Ice Cap in Baffin Island in Canada is all that’s left of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. Climate model projections under a range of scenarios suggest it will disappear within 150-530 years. The results provide evidence that the current level of warming is almost unheard of in the past 2.5 million years, the researchers say.

Geophysical Research Letters Read Article
Silicon heterojunction solar cell with interdigitated back contacts for a photoconversion efficiency over 26%

Improving the efficiency with which silicon solar cells convert light to electricity (“photoconversion”) is crucial to further the deployment of renewable electricity. A new study says it has produced the first silicon solar cell to exceed 26% efficiency. This is an improvement of 2.7% relative to the previous record efficiency of 25.6%. The authors also propose a path to approaching the theoretical efficiency limit of silicon solar cells of 29.1%.

Nature Energy Read Article

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