Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Renewable energy will be world's main power source by 2040, says BP
- US-owned utility to close two coal plants, in blow to Trump
- Theresa May has been urged to back fracking as company says it has found '30 years worth of gas' in East Midlands
- Weak El Niño likely to prevail through spring: US forecaster
- Skipping school to save the Earth
- The green new deal is what realistic environmental policy looks like
- Towards a more complete quantification of the global carbon cycle
- Implications of various effort-sharing approaches for national carbon budgets and emission pathways
Several outlets report on BP’s latest annual “energy outlook”, which sets out a range of scenarios for the future development of the energy industry. The annual report expects that renewable energy sources to become the world’s main source of power within two decades, reports the Guardian. The oil company said wind, solar and other renewables could account for about 30% of the world’s electricity supplies by 2040, up from 25% in BP’s 2040 estimates last year, and about 10% today. However, demand for oil would prove resilient over the next two decades, even if the targets set in the Paris Agreement are met, says the Financial Times. This year’s report suggests China’s energy growth will decelerate sharply as its economic expansion slows, says Reuters. China would likely remain the largest energy consumer into 2040, the report notes, although India should overtake it in terms of demand growth beginning in the next decade. “The outlook again brings into sharp focus just how fast the world’s energy systems are changing, and how the dual challenge of more energy with fewer emissions is framing the future,” said BP chief executive Bob Dudley, as reported by BusinessGreen. “Meeting this challenge will undoubtedly require many forms of energy to play a role,” he said. Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist, said that buying the company’s shares should be considered an “ethical investment”, reports the Times, since its continued investment in oil and gas was in line with meeting the Paris climate targets and would help to meet growing energy demand that would lift billions of people out of poverty. The Daily Telegraph picks up on the outlook’s view that single-use plastics could cut demand for oil faster than previously expected over the next two decades. (Carbon Brief will be publishing its own analysis of the outlook later today.)
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted yesterday to close two aging coal-fired power plants, reports Reuters, just days after President Trump publicly called on them to keep one of them open. The 870MW Bull Run coal plant in Tennessee will close by December 2023 and the 971MW Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky will be shut by December 2020. Both are about 50 years old. Trump had tweeted on Monday that coal “is an important part of our electricity generation mix”, notes the Hill, and that the TVA “should give serious consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants”. Three of the four people appointed to the TVA board by Trump joined the 6-1 majority voting to close down the Paradise coal unit, reports the Washington Post, and all four joined the unanimous vote to retire Bull Run. The utility’s President and CEO, Bill Johnson, said both decisions needed to be based on facts informed by a thorough review, reports InsideClimate News. “Let me tell you what this decision is not about—it’s not about coal,” Johnson told the board. “This decision is about economics.” Both plants have outlived their design life by about a decade and are only able to operate about 10% of the time, he added. The demise of the plants “isn’t good news for two staunch Trump allies, coal magnate Bob Murray, founder of Murray Energy, and Joe Craft III, CEO of Alliance Resource Partners”, says Politico. Both were big donors to Trump’s election campaign, the article notes, and were suppliers of coal to the plants.
In coal news in Australia, ABC News reports that Australia’s coal future is “under threat” from two recent decisions: Chancellor Angela Merkel confirming that Germany would exit coal power by 2038, and a court in New South Wales rejecting plans for a new coal mine on the grounds it would increase greenhouse gas emissions. And the Guardian reports that Australia’s “emissions reduction fund” could be used to help pay for an upgrade at a 40-year-old coal-fired power plant after its owners successfully applied to register under the scheme.
In an “exclusive”, the Sun reports that the results of new testing suggest that the East Midlands is sitting on “30-years’ worth of gas”. Ineos, Britain’s biggest private company, claims drilling results from its field in Nottinghamshire suggest “US levels” of shale gas under the soil. Ineos Shale chief operating officer Tom Pickering told the Sun that “it’s obviously early days but these are the highest readings in the UK we have ever seen”.
In related news, the Guardian reports that an oil company drilling off the Dorset coastline is attempting to extend its licence into the spring, challenging the conditions imposed to protect the sea’s wildlife species.
US scientists have confirmed that a weak El Niño has formed in the Pacific Ocean and has a 55% chance of prevailing through the northern hemisphere spring. “El Niño is a periodic natural warming of seawater in the tropical Pacific,” explains USA Today, adding: “It is among the biggest influences on weather and climate in the United States and around the world.” In its monthly forecast, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) says it does not expect the event to last more than three or four months, notes the Associated Press. The forecasters say it is unlikely to have a significant impact on the world’s weather. Mike Halpert, deputy director of the CPC, described the event as “kind of limping along”.
Numerous outlets and commentators share their views on the thousands of schoolchildren in the UK who are walking out of their classrooms today to protest at the lack of action on climate change. This is part of a global movement known as the “Youth Strike 4 Climate”, explains Ceylan Yeginsu, a London-based reporter for the New York Times. Headteachers are having to “wrestle with their consciences”, says the Guardian’s education editor Richard Adams, “caught between their duties as teachers and instincts as educators”. The Times reports that “tension is growing between supporters and opponents of children missing school to protest about climate change”. Both the Daily Mail and the Guardianhave profiles of Greta Thunberg, the 16-year old Swede who kickstarted the protests last summer. The Guardian also carries an interview with 18-year-old activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez who is suing the Trump administration for climate inaction and calling for more students to join the strikes. In addition, the Guardian carries an opinion piece by Rosie Smart-Knight, one of the school strikers. Similarly, the Independent has a comment piece from 17-year old protestor Lottie Tellyn, who writes: “Our generation will no longer accept catastrophic changes that are negatively affecting our future. Years of limited action against climate change, years of covered-up information on the climate crisis, and now we are finally saying enough is enough.” Tellyn is also quoted in a Climate Home News article about the strikes. An editorial in the Sun describes the protests as “politically-motivated drivel”, criticising MPs who are encouraging “today’s mass school truancy dressed up as a ‘climate strike’”. The Daily Telegraph features writer Judith Woods says she is “all for” the protests, but only is “these pint-sized protestors know what, exactly, they are shouting about”. Toby Young, associate editor of the Spectator, describes the protests as “an argument for raising the voting age to 21, not lowering it to 16”. He writes: “If children really must wag their fingers at older generations for some imaginary sin, I wish they’d do it at the weekend. Better yet, they could combine it with picking up litter, which really might do something for the environment.”
There is continued commentary on the proposed green new deal in the US. “Everyone is lining up to endorse the green new deal – or to mock it,” says author Jedediah Britton-Purdy in New York Times. While some have criticised the wide-reaching aims of the deal, Britton-Purdy points out that “this everything-and-the-carbon-sink strategy is actually a feature of the approach, not a bug, and not only for reasons of ideological branding”. “In the 21st century, environmental policy is economic policy. Keeping the two separate isn’t a feat of intellectual discipline. It’s an anachronism,” he says. The Washington Post factchecks the claim by US congresswoman Liz Cheney – daughter of former vice-president Dick Cheney – that the green new deal would “eliminate air travel”. The article notes that “nothing in the resolution would ‘outlaw’ plane travel, cars, gasoline or the US military, as Cheney posited”. Elsewhere, Politicoreports that senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has said Democrats would not be intimidated by the “cynical stunt” of voting on the green new deal resolution. Majority leader Mitch McConnell had said the senate would vote on the deal in a move designed “to show internal divisions within the Democratic caucus about how to tackle climate change”, explains Politico. And the Hillreports that acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Andrew Wheeler has criticised the green new deal and its rollout as “not really ready for prime time”. In the UK, Climate Home News report that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “met with one of the architects of the US green new deal this week, while inside his Labour party two camps began forming competing visions for a UK version”.
Also on US politics, both the Washington Post and InsideClimate News report on how the House science committee has “turned over a new leaf” on climate change now that it is led by Democrats. Its new leader, Eddie Bernice Johnson, “is taking a stronger stance on climate change”, says the Post. “She decided to make the topic the focus of the committee’s first full hearing this session and promised many more discussions about the science behind it in the coming two years.”
The main parts of global carbon budget are the emissions from burning fossil fuels, cement production, and land-use change, partly balanced by ocean CO2 uptake and CO2 increase in the atmosphere. The difference between these sources and sinks is referred to as the residual sink, assumed to correspond to increasing carbon storage in the terrestrial biosphere. This paper quantifies emissions from cement carbonation and fluxes into increasing pools of plastic, bitumen, harvested-wood products, and landfill deposition after disposal of these products, and carbon fluxes to the oceans via wind erosion and non-CO2 fluxes of the intermediate breakdown products of methane and other volatile organic compounds. They estimate that the inclusion of these fluxes would reduce the residual sink from 3.6GtC per year down to 2.1GtC per year.
The bottom-up approach of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in the Paris Agreement led countries to self-determine their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets. The planned ‘ratcheting-up’ process, which aims to ensure that the NDCs comply with the overall goal of limiting global average temperature increase to well below 2C or even 1.5C, will most likely include some evaluation of ‘fairness’ of these reduction targets. This research, analyses how country-level emission targets and carbon budgets can be derived based on principles of equity. They study the following approaches: equal cumulative per capita emissions, contraction and convergence, grandfathering, greenhouse development rights and ability to pay. Results show that effort-sharing approaches can lead to large negative remaining carbon budgets for developed countries. For developed countries cost-optimal approaches do not lead to outcomes that can be regarded as fair according to most effort-sharing approaches.
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