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Daily Briefing

03.07.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
Tom Prater

Tom Prater

03.07.2018 | 9:55am
DAILY BRIEFING Rhode Island sues oil companies over climate change, first state to do so
Rhode Island sues oil companies over climate change, first state to do so

News.

Rhode Island Sues Oil Companies Over Climate Change, First State to Do So

Rhode Island has become the first state in the US to sue oil companies over the effects of climate change. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin filed the complaint yesterday, seeking damages for the costs associated with protecting the state from rising seas and severe weather. Kilmartin compared the case to the lawsuits filed decades ago against tobacco companies, saying “Big oil knew for decades that greenhouse gas pollution from their operations and their products were having a significant and detrimental impact on the earth’s climate”. The lawsuit names 14 oil and gas companies, notes Reuters, including Exxon, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron. The Hill also has the story. Elsewhere, the Washington Post reports on how a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agency removed multiple mentions of the phrase “climate change” from its website shortly after Donald Trump’s election win in 2016.

InsideClimate News Read Article
Chinese-US nuclear reactor delivers first electricity as tariffs loom

A new nuclear reactor in China has delivered its first electricity to the grid, the FT reports. The Sanmen nuclear power plant, designed by the US company Westinghouse, is the first in a series of AP1000 reactors that China agreed to license and build in a $8bn US-Chinese partnership signed in 2006. The agreement also included developing a supply chain of nuclear components on the back of more reactors being built. However, nuclear reactor parts are listed among the Chinese exports threatened by US tariffs. Meanwhile, the Guardianreports that the UK government will take a multibillion-pound nuclear cleanup contract back into public ownership following legal challenges to a tender process. The government will take over the decommissioning of 12 sites, including the former nuclear power stations at Dungeness in Kent and Hinkley Point in Somerset, bringing an early end to the contract with international consortium Cavendish Fluor Partnership.

The Financial Times Read Article
UK heatwave helps solar power to record weekly highs

Britain’s heatwave has helped break several solar power-generation records, and renewables briefly eclipsed gas power stations over the weekend as the UK’s top source of electricity. Solar broke the record for weekly output between 21 and 28 June, producing 533 gigawatt hours (GWh) of power. It also generated more than 75GWh on five of the seven days – another record. Duncan Burt, director of system operations at National Grid, told the Guardian: “During the past 12 months alone, we have seen renewable generation records broken and we expect this trend to continue, as technology advances and we find new ways to accommodate and manage more wind and solar power on our network”. Elsewhere, the Independent reports that Germany produced enough renewable electricity in the first half of 2018 to power every household in the country for a year. While Reuters reports that Sweden’s grid operator has warned that it will have to import more electricity this winter as the country continues its shift from nuclear to wind power.

The Guardian Read Article
Woman confronts Pruitt at restaurant, tells him to resign

A woman publicly confronted Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt over lunch yesterday and urged him to resign. Kristin Mink, a schoolteacher in Washington D.C., posted a Facebook video of her telling Pruitt that “we deserve to have somebody at the EPA who actually does protect our environment, somebody who believes in climate change and takes it seriously for the benefit of all of us”. Listing the various investigations into Pruitt’s short tenure, Mink urged him “to resign before your scandals push you out”. The Huffington Post has the video of the encounter. Pruitt “then left the restaurant with several members of his security detail without saying a word”, reports HuffPo. Separately, Washington Post reports that two of Pruitt’s top aides have provided fresh details to congressional investigators. The Trump administration appointees said Pruitt sought help to find a six-figure job for his wife at a politically connected group, requested aid from senior EPA officials in a dispute with a Washington landlord and disregarded concerns about his first-class travel. Elsewhere, The Hill also reports that more than 20 national and state conservative groups have written a letter to President Trump to urge him pull the US out of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which aims to reduce emissions of global warming-causing hydrofluorocarbons. (Carbon Brief has an explainer on why the Kigali Amendment matters.)

The Hill Read Article
Narwhals most at risk from newly opened Arctic shipping routes

Narwhals top the list of sea mammals most at risk from ships using previously ice-bound regions of the Arctic, a new study warns. The research assessed the vulnerability of 80 subpopulations of seven Arctic marine mammal species to shipping in September, when the Arctic Ocean has the most open water. The narwhals – famous for their distinctive long tusks – “have all the traits that make them vulnerable to vessel disturbances”, one of the authors tells the Independent: “They stick to really specific areas, they’re pretty inflexible in where they spend the summer, they live in only about a quarter of the Arctic, and they’re smack dab in the middle of shipping routes”. The Mail Online also has the story.

Press Association via BT.com Read Article
China carbon emissions in retreat after 'structural break' in economy: study

China’s CO2 emissions declined between 2014 to 2016 and might “already have peaked”, a new study says, with structural economic changes allowing Beijing to meet targets earlier than expected. China aims to bring CO2 emissions to a peak by “around 2030”, but “in retrospect, the commitment may have been fulfilled even as it was being made”, the study says. Emissions hit a record 9.53bn tonnes in 2013 before dropping to 9.2bn tonnes in 2016. While emissions rose by an average of 9.3% per year from 2000 to 2013, China’s economy underwent a “structural break” in 2014, and is shifting to less carbon-intensive high technology sectors, the researchers say. However, as a Carbon Brief guest post explained earlier this year, China’s emissions have since grown by 1.4% in 2017. Bloomberg also covers the research.

Reuters Read Article

Comment.

Trump Has Done More Than Pull Out of Paris

“There’s new evidence that President Donald Trump has already made the planet hotter,” writes Robinson Meyer in the Atlantic. Since taking office, Trump “has done something substantively worse for the climate than pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate change”, says Meyer: “He has slashed at a large body of climate-focused rules issued by President Obama”. Meyer quotes a new report that estimates US emissions will drop by 17% by 2025 (compared to 2005 levels), rather than the original aim of 28%. The Trump administration’s rollbacks are “obviously having an effect,” the lead author tells Meyer: “They’re already deferring investments that might otherwise have led us to a better pathway.”

Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic Read Article

Science.

Highland cropland expansion and forest loss in Southeast Asia in the twenty-first century

Southeast Asia is a hotspot of tropical deforestation for agriculture. Most of the deforestation was perviously thought to occur in lowland forests, whereas the region’s mountainous highlands undergo very limited deforestation. This paper investigates patterns of forest change and cropland expansion in the region for the twenty-first century based on satellite imagery. They find large increases in cultivated areas that have not been documented or projected. They estimate that an area of 82 billion square meters has been developed into croplands in the Southeast Asian highlands, with a substantial proportion from new forest loss. Their findings are in marked contrast with projections of land-cover trends that currently inform the prediction of future climate change, terrestrial carbon storage, biomass, biodiversity, and land degradation.

Nature Geoscience Read Article
Links among warming, carbon and microbial dynamics mediated by soil mineral weathering

Quantifying soil carbon dynamics is essential because soils play an important role in carbon sequestration. Our current understanding of both present and future carbon dynamics is limited because we fail to accurately represent soil processes across temporal and spatial scales. This paper uses observations from a 3 million year record of soil deposits to show how soil carbon dynamics are driven by the relationship between short-term biotic responses and long-term mineral weathering. They demonstrate that biogeochemical alteration of the soil rather than short-term warming controls the composition of microbial communities and strategies to metabolize nutrients.

Nature Geoscience Read Article

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