Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Rex Tillerson took a different tone on climate change when the cameras were off
- US climate skeptic meets UK Prime Minister advisers
- EU ‘ready to fight’ for climate change action despite Trump
- Scotland launches consultation on fracking
- Laurence Tubiana: prepare for G20 climate showdown
- Deutsche Bank pulls out of coal projects to meet Paris climate pledge
- Climate change denial is not dead
- Climate change reduces extent of temperate drylands and intensifies drought in deep soils
- Global solar wind variations over the last four centuries
Buzzfeed News has obtained Rex Tillerson’s unpublished written answers to questions posed by two senators in which the Trump’s nominee for secretary of state questions the consensus among climate scientists about humanity’s role in warming the planet. “I agree with the consensus view that combustion of fossil fuels is a leading cause for increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” he wrote to Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. “I understand these gases to be a factor in rising temperature, but I do not believe the scientific consensus supports their characterization as the ‘key’ factor.” Tillerson also appeared to give himself more wiggle room on the Paris Agreement compared to his confirmation hearing last month. “If confirmed,” Tillerson wrote, “I will support U.S. membership in only those international agreements that advance our national interest and do not cause harm to the American people or our economic competitiveness.” Meanwhile, there has been a slew of other US-related developments over the past day. The Guardian reports that a Washington state judge in an environmental activist’s trial says climate change is matter of debate. The Washington Post reports that the Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered to issue the final permit needed to complete the Dakota pipeline. ThinkProgress lists the Democrats who are already gearing up to oppose Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s pick to fill the Supreme Court justice vacancy. The Hill says that Democrats are mulling a boycott of today’s nomination hearing for Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. And the Hill also reports that House Republicans have laid out plans to strike down an Obama-era coal rule which prohibits the coal industry from polluting water sources near mines.
A former adviser to Donald Trump, who denies the world is experiencing global warming, was photographed leaving 10 Downing Street yesterday following a meeting with her advisers. Myron Ebell headed Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team and has since returned to being the director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a fossil fuel industry-funded group that campaigns against policies for tackling climate change. Ebell has a long history of questioning climate science. The Financial Times reports a Downing St spokesman saying that “climate change was not discussed”. Climate Home and the Independent also carry the story. Meanwhile, in BusinessGreen, Michael Holder notes that Ebell, who answered questions from reporters on Monday at an event organised by the UK climate sceptic lobby group GWPF, seems to “to be in denial about China’s strategy to harness the global green economy to extend its influence, airily dismissing recent announcements from Beijing about how its plans to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in renewable energy, and fill any geopolitical power vacuum created should the US exit the Paris deal”.
Europe stands “ready to lead the fight” for global emissions reductions even if Donald Trump undercuts the bloc’s efforts to tackle the issue, says the European Commission’s energy chief. The FT reports that Maros Sefcovic, a commission vice-president, called on the new US president to heed overwhelming scientific evidence. “How many Katrinas, Sandys, [polar] vortexes do we need in the US to simply realise that climate change is happening and that we, the human beings, are the primary cause of that?” asked Sefcovic. He added that Europe was “clearly ready to continue the global leadership on the fight against climate change”, including helping the developing world. “plead” with its US partners. He acknowledged that “without the US, [Paris] might be more difficult. But nevertheless, it will not deter us from our path, from our goal, and I believe that history will vindicate our choice.”
Scotland has launched a consultation on whether to allow unconventional oil and gas extraction such as fracking, its government said on Tuesday, with a vote expected at the end of the year. “The consultation does not set out or advocate a preferred Scottish Government position or policy. Instead, we want to create space for dialogue and allow different perspectives to come forward,” said Paul Wheelhouse, Scotland’s minister for business, innovation and energy. The consultation is open to members of the public as well as industry.
Laurence Tubiana, France’s climate change ambassador from 2014-2016 and one of the architects of the 2015 Paris Agreement, has told Climate Home that climate change could be a flashpoint at the G20 meeting in Hamburg ion July. “It is key,” she ays. “It is something we should prepare for carefully, it should be a test of governments, civil society, companies to stick to the [Paris Agreement] goals.” An EU source recently told Climate Home Germany and China had discussed taking over the Major Economies Forum, a group of 17 nations founded by the US in 2009 to talk climate. Tubiana says: “I think Germany is thinking who it could invite to a new MEF.”
Deutsche Bank, the biggest bank in Germany, has said it will stop financing coal projects as part of its commitments under the Paris agreement to tackle global warming. “Deutsche Bank and its subsidiaries will not grant new financing for greenfield thermal coal mining and new coal-fired power plant construction,” it said in a statement. The lender said the decision was in line with the pledges it made at last year’s Paris climate conference, along with 400 other public and private companies, to help fight global warming.
Prof Michael Mann, the director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center, asks “why dignify the notion of climate change denial by writing about it?” He answers his own question: “For we are firmly back in the madhouse. Climate change denial is once again in vogue in Washington, D.C. As of Jan. 20, it is now the official policy of our executive branch.” He adds: “We scientists are, in general, a reticent lot who would much rather spend our time in the lab, out in the field, teaching and doing research. It is only the most unusual of circumstances that gets us marching in the streets. Trump’s assault on science is just such a circumstance. And we are seeing a rebellion continue to mount.” Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, Chris Mooney has written an article, headlined: “A new battle over politics and science could be brewing. And scientists are ready for it.”
Over the 21st century, temperate drylands may contract in size by a third, according to new research. Currently covering 40% of the global terrestrial surface, drylands provide important ecosystem services but rising temperatures could see many temperate regions converted to subtropical drylands. Deep soil layers becoming increasingly dry during the growing season illustrates the importance of appropriate drought measures, say the authors.
A reconstruction of sun spots over the last 400 years finds that the “Maunder minimum” in solar activity between 1650-1710 saw factor of two lower solar winds speed relative to the modern era. A similar magnitude event is likely to occur in the next few decades, say the researchers, which could mean the Northern Lights are no longer visible from the UK. Any impact on global temperature will pale in comparison to the far more significant global heating effects of greenhouse gas emissions, the study notes.
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