Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Renewable energy investors 'spooked by subsidy cuts'
- Food scarcity caused by climate change could cause 500,000 deaths by 2050, study suggests
- Ministers ready to pull the plug on National Grid
- EU plans no change to climate target before 2030
- Labour calls for a ‘Plan B’ on Hinkley Point nuclear plant
- Green Investment Bank could be snapped up by foreign buyers
- The Arctic just set an ominous new record
- Climate scientists worry about the costs of sea level rise
- Climate victims and investors need Paris deal ratification
- Did global warming really slow down? Have a large injection of nuance and a side-order of abuse
- The Medieval Climate Anomaly and Byzantium: A review of the evidence on climatic fluctuations, economic performance and societal change
- The darkening of the Greenland ice sheet: trends, drivers, and projections (1981–2100)
Sudden cuts to UK renewables subsidies have spooked investors and could lead to higher energy bills, MPs say. Ministers said they needed to cut subsidies to force bills as low as possible, says the BBC, but the Energy and Climate Change Committee says the government’s sudden policy shifts on energy have hit investors’ confidence. It warns lenders may respond by putting a risk premium on future investments in clean energy. Former Shell UK chairman James Smith told the BBC that the government should now appoint an “energy tsar” to take the politics out of long-term investment decisions. The Financial Times highlighted the report’s criticism of the Levy Control Framework, something Carbon Brief has also been trying to shine a light on. “The government has not published a detailed explanation of how the new [LCF] figures were calculated, [the committee said]. Ministers should publish the data as soon as possible, they said. They must also urgently spell out the size of the subsidy spending cap beyond 2020 because their failure to do so was worrying investors considering big energy projects that take years to plan and build.” The Guardian andBusinessGreen also report the MPs’ report. BusinessGreen also has a separate roundup of the reaction to the report. Carbon Brief takes a much closer look at the report.
There is widespread coverage of a new study published by the Lancet showing that the effects of climate change on food production around the world could lead to more than 500,000 deaths by the year 2050. The Washington Post says the “grim” report shows that climate-related impacts on agriculture could lead to an overall global decline in food availability, forcing people to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and less meat. “The public health impacts of these changes could be severe.” The Telegraph zooms in to focus on the UK and says “the typical British diet will deteriorate as the effects of climate change hit crop production” which “could lead to more than 1,200 extra deaths a year in the UK by 2050”. The Guardian says the research is “the first to assess how the impacts of global warming could affect the quality of the diets”. Reuters, MailOnline, Climate Home, New Scientist and Time magazine are among the others covering the study. Carbon Brief has also covered the study in detail.
The energy regulator Ofgem is to be handed sweeping new powers to manage the country’s electricity supplies, switch off factories and request emergency back-up generation, under energy market reforms being considered by Whitehall. Documents seen by The Times show ministers are considering three main options designed to strip National Grid of its role as the UK’s power system operator, a role that grants it huge supervisory influence. Alarmed by the country’s growing reliance on importing electricity and a lack of new domestic power station developments, ministers are leaning towards a “lead option” which involves the creation of a not-for-profit company modelled loosely on Network Rail. Overseen by Ofgem, it would manage Britain’s electricity system, a role that has traditionally been handled independently by National Grid, one of the nation’s biggest companies.
In its post-Paris assessment, the European Commission has advised no change to a previously inked bloc-wide 2030 target to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% from 1990 levels, reports Climate Home. A planned global stocktake in 2023 “is relevant for considering progressively more ambitious action by all Parties for the period beyond 2030”, the communication stated. The move has disappointed climate campaigners. Niklas Hoehne, professor in climate change at Wageningen University, told Climate Home that did not add up. “With 40%, the EU is just about within the range that could be considered 2C compatible,” he said. “It is definitely not compatible with 1.5C. Raising the ambition after 2030 is too late for all countries.”
Labour has called on the government to come up with a “Plan B” in case Hinkley Point is never built, ahead of talks between David Cameron and François Hollande to discuss the proposed nuclear power station. Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow energy secretary, will warn in a speech on Friday that the delays to Hinkley Point are part of a wider energy crunch on the horizon, reports the FT. It adds: “All but one of Britain nuclear power stations are scheduled to close by 2030 and the government has promised that all coal-fired facilities will close by 2025. Ms Nandy will argue that Hinkley Point C is on track to be the most expensive power station ever built, costing more than the 2012 Olympics, Crossrail and Heathrow’s Terminal 5 combined. She will call on the government to find cheaper ways to get more nuclear stations built in future.”
A financial institution set up by government to accelerate Britain’s green power revolution could end up being sold to private equity firms and fund wind farms in Germany, the Guardian reports. “The Green Investment Bank, hailed as a world first for the UK when it was set up, is expected to bring in more than £4bn for the Treasury when it is privatised, probably by the end of this year. But it may be snapped up by foreign buyers and already has plans to expand significantly overseas.”
Mooney takes a look at the latest sea ice records being broken in the Arctic: “The bottom line is that the Arctic is clearly warming up much faster than the planet as a whole — just as climate scientists have long predicted. The consequences for from our atmosphere — thawing permafrost is expected to emit additional greenhouse gases — to our coastlines (the melting of Greenland and Arctic glaciers will raise seas) will be profound.”
New research addresses the economic costs of damages associated with sea level rise, says Abraham, who speaks to the authors. “This work is important for a few reasons. First, we need tools to better understand what a future world will look like in a changed climate. We also need to make decisions to allocate resources toward adaption or mitigation. But how do we make decisions unless we have good information about costs and consequence? This study helps get us to an informed state.”
Adow, who leads Christian Aid’s global climate policy, says that nations must take the chance to ratify the Paris Agreement as soon as possible. He also says the agreement will not necessarily be threatened by a change in political leadership in the US: “Although there has been much talk about a Republican President wrecking the Paris Agreement once it is ratified by President Obama it will become extremely difficult for any subsequent administration to unpick the deal.”
Readfearn dives into the vexed issue of the warming “slowdown”, following a new study: “What have we learned [from the episode]? Climate scientists are still working hard to refine our understanding of the climate system and sometimes they argue about it. Temperatures are still going up, global warming didn’t ‘pause’ or ‘stop’ but continues on fast-forward and climate science denialists are still getting things horribly wrong. Very little, in fact, has changed, except now you know the meaning of the word rodomontade.”
Climate change was an important contributing factor to the socio-economic changes that took place in Byzantium during the Medieval Climate Anomaly, according to new research. While it displayed some degree of resilience against high variability and winter dryness, the eastern Medieval Roman Empire became increasingly vulnerable to unfavourable conditions towards the end of the 12th century, with the empire eventually collapsing half a century later at the same time as a tropical volcano eruption in 1257 was causing a strong cooling effect.
The reflectivity, or albedo, of the Greenland ice sheet decreased in summer at a rate of 0.02 per decade between 1996 and 2012, according to data collected by satellite of the ice sheet’s surface. The scientists expect the albedo to reduce by 0.08 by 2100, compared to 2000 levels, as a result of a rise in near-surface air temperatures. But this is likely to be an underestimate as it doesn’t take into account light-absorbing impurities on the snow and ice that darken the surface and accelerate ice melt.
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