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Daily Briefing

09.08.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

09.08.2018 | 9:18am
DAILY BRIEFING Reflecting sun’s rays would cause crops to fail, scientists warn
Reflecting sun’s rays would cause crops to fail, scientists warn

News.

Reflecting sun's rays would cause crops to fail, scientists warn

A geoengineering method that proposes to combat climate change by reflecting sunlight back into space would not stop damage to crops worldwide, a new study suggests. The scientists examined the effects of past volcanic eruptions on agriculture – which has a similar effect to the proposed geoengineering method – and concluded that any improvements to yield as the result of by cooler temperatures would be cancelled out by lower productivity due to reduced sunlight. Hugh Hunt, reader in engineering at Cambridge University, who was not involved in the research, told the Guardian: “Solar radiation management [SRM], rather like chemotherapy, is not something one would wish on a healthy planet. The Earth is sick and it is likely that any cure such as SRM will have unpleasant side effects. What we really ought to be doing is to halt the rise of atmospheric greenhouse gases, not just sometime in the future but now.” Yet the scientists behind the paper “do not believe their new research represents a decisive argument against geoengineering”, the New York Magazine reports. The research was widely covered elswhere, including by Carbon Brief, the IndependentScientific AmericanWired, the Washington PostReutersVox and the MailOnline.

The Guardian Read Article
YouTube is now fact-checking videos about climate change

As part of an effort to “combat the rampant misinformation and conspiratorial fodder on its platform”, YouTube has begun fact-checking videos that question climate change science, Buzzfeed News reports. Since July 9 the video sharing platform has added a section of text underneath some climate change videos, stating that “multiple lines of scientific evidence show that the climate system is warming” – a quote drawn from the Wikipedia entry for ‘global warming’. The affected videos include both those questioning the science and scientifically accurate explainers, and their owners were not notified of the changes by YouTube. The changes follow the company’s announcement in March that it would “place descriptions from Wikipedia and Encyclopædia Britannica next to videos on topics that spur conspiracy theories”, BuzzFeed News explains. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, commented: “I welcome this change…I appreciate that YouTube is taking their responsibility seriously to help people understand the difference.”

Buzzfeed News Read Article
Are climate-related food price hikes already starting to bite?

New research by HSBC’s global research unit “provides further evidence that extreme weather is putting inflationary pressure on crucial foodstuffs”, BusinessGreen reports. The paper, released yesterday, highlights recent price spikes for commodities including wheat, soybeans and maize, and warns that heatwaves and droughts in the US and Europe are an increasing threat to food security and supply chains. “Whilst summer months typically see higher prices for grains, climate events are responsible for above-average spikes this year, in our view”, the paper says.

BusinessGreen Read Article
Climate change is ‘PERMANENT REALITY’ France warns as heatwave continues sweeps Europe

The Daily Express reports that France’s environment and energy minister Nicolas Hulot has warned that climate change was no longer a crisis, but a “permanent reality”. Hulot tells France’s Europe 1 radio station: “I don’t even know whether the word urgency means anything anymore. The urgency was yesterday. We should have taken action to combat climate change yesterday. We’ve got ourselves into a situation that is no longer a crisis situation, but a permanent reality. We’re not going to solve the problem by looking for scapegoats, the responsibility is collective…We need to adapt to climate change, but also continue to combat its causes to stop the phenomenon from getting worse and spiralling out of control.”

Daily Express Read Article
Record-breaking heatwave pushing hospitals into emergency measures

The NHS is struggling to cope with illnesses caused by the heatwave in the UK, the Guardian reports, with hospitals being forced to adopt “winter-style” emergency measures. Ambulances are queueing outside hospitals and patients are being treated in corridors in “unprecedented scenes” for what is usually the quietest time of the year. The number of people visiting a family doctor in England in recent weeks because of heatstroke has reached the highest level for five years, the paper reports.

The Guardian Read Article

Comment.

Is it time to stop discussing the heatwave and start talking about climate change?

This summer’s heatwave has refocused “jaded minds on global warming”, says Times feature writer Damian Whitworth, in a lengthy feature on the topic. He writes that “there are still some who believe humans may not be responsible”, quoting an article by Guus Berkhout for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate-sceptic lobby group. But Whitworth goes on say that: “Personally I believe in man-made climate change because it seems as if most scientists do.” He describes how a data visualisation of global warming by NASA, shown to him by Professor Ed Hawkins, “hit home…most clearly”.

Damian Whitworth, The Times Read Article
We won’t stop California’s wildfires if we don’t talk about climate change

“As much as the president might prefer to point fingers elsewhere, it is impossible to talk about California’s blazes without considering the role of climate change”, argues an editorial in the Washington Post. “Four of the five largest conflagrations the state has had to battle have come since 2012”, the piece notes, concluding that: “[California] may offer an alarming taste of the troubles to come.” In a separate opinion piece for the Washington Post, Peter Gleick discusses president Trump’s “confused and ill-conceived tweets” over the past few days, regarding California’s water and wildfire policies, dismissing the tweets as “unmitigated nonsense and dangerous thinking”. Trump claimed on Monday that water “is “foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean.” But “there’s no shortage of water to fight these fires. Indeed, water is one of the least useful tools for containing them”, Gleick explains. He adds that Trump’s comments: “completely ignore the role of human-caused climate change as a growing factor in the extreme fires that the nation is now experiencing. Climate change is worsening long-term drought conditions, adding dry vegetation to fuel the fires and increasing the temperatures and extreme weather that accelerate their spread and intensity.” Elsewhere, in the Letters section of the Guardian, readers argue: “With the world on fire, we must act now to tackle climate change”.

Editorial, Washington Post Read Article
Will July’s heat become the new normal?

“Are we going to keep experiencing heatwaves like this as the climate changes?”, ask two academics from the University of Bristol’s geological sciences department. Mitchell and Uhe have been developing “complex” computer simulations to compare what the world will look like if we meet the Paris Agreement targets. Their preliminary results suggest that in our current climate, which has already experience 1C of warming, heatwaves like the current one in Europe are likely to happen “about once every 5-6 years”. Under 1.5C of warming, they found that “temperatures at least this high would occur every other year”, while in a 2C world “four out of five summers would likely have heat events that are at least as hot as our current one”. Yet “worryingly, our current greenhouse gas emission trajectory is leading us closer to 3C”, they write. The piece concludes: “cutting our emissions now will save us a hell of a headache later.”

Dr Dann Mitchell and Peter Uhe, Cabot Institute Read Article

Science.

Global land change from 1982 to 2016

Forest cover across the Earth’s surface has increased by 7% since 1982, new research shows. Analysing satellite data for the period 1982-2016, the researchers find that forest cover has increase by more than two million square kilometres. “This overall net gain is the result of a net loss in the tropics being outweighed by a net gain in the extratropics,” the researchers say. Of all land changes since 1982 – including, for example, a 3% decline in bare ground cover – 60% are associated with direct human activities and 40% with indirect drivers such as climate change, the study concludes.

Nature Read Article
Reduced exposure to extreme precipitation from 0.5C less warming in global land monsoon regions

Limiting warming to 1.5C rather than 2C would reduce both the area and population exposed to dangerous extreme rainfall events in monsoon regions, a new study suggests. Using a collection of climate models, the researchers find that the area and population affected by one-in-20-year extreme rainfall is 25% and 36% smaller, respectively, at 1.5C compared to 2C. “The avoided impacts are more remarkable for more intense extremes,” the researchers note.

Nature Communications Read Article

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