Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Rich nations must make pandemic recovery plans green: global investors
- Tesla applies for UK electricity provider licence
- National Trust stop cleaning rivers while tree planting lies in doubt after losing £200m during lockdown
- Our leaders have bungled the virus… do you still trust them to solve climate crisis?
- Michael Moore's 'Planet of the Humans' documentary peddles dangerous climate denial
- Larger drought and flood hazards and adverse impacts on population and economic productivity under 2C than 1.5C warming
Reuters reports that leading global investor groups are urging the world’s richest nations to make sure that their Covid-19 recovery plans are sustainable and help meet the goals of the Paris climate accord. In a statement issued today, the group known as Investor Agenda – which includes the Institutional Investor Group on Climate Change, BlackRock, United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment, Ceres, CDP, Investor Group on Climate Change, Asia Investor Group on Climate Change and the UNEP Finance Initiative – says that “recovery plans that exacerbate climate change would expose investors and national economies to escalating financial, health and social risks in the coming years”. It adds: “Governments should avoid the prioritisation of risky, short-term emissions-intensive projects.”
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that “cities around the world are already planning for life after Covid-19, with a series of environmental initiatives being rolled out from Bogotá to Barcelona to ensure public safety and bolster the fight against climate breakdown”. The Daily Express carries the comments of Prof Peter de Menocal, the director of the Center for Climate and Life at Lamont, who says the chaos caused by Covid-19 will “pale in comparison” to the effects of climate change. CNBC reports on an “interactive tool shows you how the coronavirus pandemic is – and is not – affecting climate change”.
Several outlets continuing reporting on the impact the Covid-19 crisis is having on energy demand around the world. The i newspaper has an “exclusive” showing that “analysis of energy usage from leading consultancy firm Sia Partners found daily CO2 emissions reduced by 36% in the UK as the lockdown resulted in reduced economic activity and big falls in large carbon-emitting sectors such as transport, power generation, and manufacturing”. Bloomberg reports that “some of the world’s largest oil producers are starting to see evidence of a rebound in demand from China”. It adds: “While it’s still early days into the Chinese recovery, limited initial sales data was encouraging, Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp. said in its first-quarter earnings presentation…BP Chief Executive Officer Bernard Looney told CNBC that the company was seeing its road transportation business in China back to 90-95% of pre-coronavirus levels, while aviation had recovered to about 50%.” In India, Reuters analysis notes that “solar and gas-fired electricity generation rose in April even as overall power demand fell at the steepest monthly rate in at least 13 years”. Finally, Bloomberg reports that “Coal India Ltd’s shipments in April slumped 25.5% from a year earlier after more than a month-long nationwide lockdown halted economic activity, eroding demand for India’s most dominant energy source”.
Several UK outlets, led by the Sunday Telegraph, report that Tesla has taken its first step to becoming an energy provider in the UK. The Sunday Telegraph says it has “reviewed documents” which show that: “In a move that analysts predict could shake up the country’s power landscape, the electric car company has applied to the UK’s energy regulator for a licence to generate electricity. The application does not make clear why Tesla has applied for the licence. The California-based company declined to comment.” The newspaper adds: “Having built a significant battery business in recent years, industry sources say that Tesla is now preparing to enter the British market with its technology. In Australia, the company designed the largest lithium-ion power storage facility in the world, which is capable of storing enough energy to power 30,000 homes. Experts predict that such large-scale batteries will be essential in the future to manage power demand, as fossil fuels are phased out. Another purpose for the licence may be to introduce the company’s ‘Autobidder’ platform, according to a company source. Acting as a middleman, the platform aggregates renewable power generators and trades their energy.” The Times and Press Association also cover the story.
The Times adds: “Batteries are seen as increasingly important to help to manage the shift to greener energy in Britain, including greater use of intermittent renewable power sources such as wind and solar.” The newspaper then references its scoop published on Saturday by its energy editor Emily Gosden under the headline: “Blackout risk as low demand for power brings plea to switch off wind farms.” The story says: “Britain could be at risk of blackouts as extremely low energy demand threatens to leave the electricity grid overwhelmed by surplus power. National Grid asked the regulator yesterday for emergency powers to switch off solar and wind farms to prevent the grid from being swamped on the May 8 bank holiday, when demand is expected to be especially low. In its urgent request to Ofgem, it warned of ‘a significant risk of disruption to security of supply’ if the ‘last resort’ powers to order plant disconnections were not granted.”
The Daily Telegraph reports that the National Trust “has been forced to stop cleaning rivers and put its tree-planting scheme under threat after losing £200m during the lockdown”. In an accompanying comment piece for the Daily Telegraph, the National Trust’s director general Hilary McGrady says: “A sharp drop in income is now threatening the very existence of many of those that look after nature sites and create natural solutions to climate change around the country…Ministers urgently need to address nature, wildlife and environmental organisations with an immediate offer of support, and set out how the sector will contribute towards its green recovery plan. On a practical level, this means urgent and more creative solutions to climate change; more trees and naturalised rivers can help us deal better with the devastating, financially crippling flooding experienced by large sections of the country this year – a problem that will not go away.” Meanwhile, the Mail on Sunday interviews Adair Turner, who now chairs the Energy Transitions Commission: “He reveals that in the coming days, the global coalition – whose members include Shell, BP and Heathrow – will send a policy paper to governments in China, Europe and the UK that will set out how to use the recovery from coronavirus to ‘speed progress’ towards net-zero carbon emissions across sectors from aviation and shipping to chemicals and cement. With the oil price at record lows, Lord Turner concedes that fossil fuels ‘are suddenly going to look cheap’ as travel resumes – potentially making a switch to cleaner energy less attractive. But he is adamant that investment in green fuel would create jobs and give Britain’s post-coronavirus economy a much-needed boost.”
Many commentators draw parallels between tackling Covid-19 and climate change. Daily Mirror columnist Brian Reade argues: “The people running the world, many through rigged elections or nepotism, don’t give a toss about it. So why should they be allowed to decide what kind of planet will be left to future generations? If scientific data about the threat of cross-infection in Asian wet markets is ignored and medical experts who warned governments to prepare for a global pandemic are dismissed as doom-mongers, what price Climate Armageddon any time soon?…If you were a young person, would you let corrupt old men like Trump, Xi Jinping or Vladimir Putin, who are consumed with self-interest, decide the future of your planet? Or would you join calls for a climate- change revolution to ensure you have somewhere left to live on? Me too.” In the Daily Mail, columnist John Humphrys writes: “Those priceless benefits – clean air and the fall in carbon emissions – have come at a terrible cost. The collapse of the economy. If we want to keep those benefits we have to rebuild the new economy with a different set of values. Because ultimately there is one threat that is even greater than a pandemic. That is the failure to protect our planet from climate change.” In the Times, James Kirkup – director of the Social Market Foundation – says: “ In Whitehall there’s talk about a ‘green recovery’…That green recovery is possible, and with it an economic rebalancing that starts to deliver on the almost-forgotten promise to ‘level up’ the country’s less-favoured places. There is, eventually, a bright new British economy to be built on the ashes of this crisis. It’s not quite as simple as retraining unemployed baristas to build wind farms, but it will mean that jobs, money and people all have to find new places to go. The job of government will be to help them to get there.” In the Week, national correspondent Ryan Cooper argues: “The coronavirus lockdowns, rather than demonstrating the need to blow up the economy to fight climate change, are better seen as proof that humanity can act quickly on a global scale to defeat a common enemy. In the socialist tradition, the way to deal with the injustice and devastating side effects of capitalism is not to abandon advanced production and wealth, but harness it on behalf of all – on a zero-carbon, renewable basis. All that is needed is the political will to enforce a drastic acceleration of what is already happening.”
Meanwhile, the Guardian, Ed Miliband, Labour’s newly appointed business, energy and climate minister, says: “We know that the climate emergency is a challenge we can simply no longer afford to ignore. Let’s create an army of zero carbon workers, retraining and redeploying those who can’t work into different industries, from home insulation to wind turbine manufacture to tree planting.” The Financial Times has a “big read” by energy editor David Sheppard looking at how the “pandemic crisis offers glimpse into oil industry’s future”. He concludes by quoting former BP boss Lord Browne: “The Covid-19 threat feels all-pervading. It’s vivid. Climate change remains a little bit distant from the human individual. But I don’t think it will remain that way if we don’t do something about it.” In the New Yorker, science-fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson says: “In many ways, we’ve been overdue for such a shift. In our feelings, we’ve been lagging behind the times in which we live. The Anthropocene, the Great Acceleration, the age of climate change—whatever you want to call it, we’ve been out of synch with the biosphere, wasting our children’s hopes for a normal life, burning our ecological capital as if it were disposable income, wrecking our one and only home in ways that soon will be beyond our descendants’ ability to repair. And yet we’ve been acting as though it were 2000, or 1990—as though the neoliberal arrangements built back then still made sense. We’ve been paralysed, living in the world without feeling it.” Mashable science writer Mark Kaufman argues that “if society waits longer to cut emissions in a meaningful, sustainable way, curbing future warming will require even more drastic measures. It’s similar, then, to waiting to seriously respond to a growing pandemic, which has mired the US in economic despair, agony, historic shutdowns, and continued death.” In the Guardian, Australian editor Leonore Taylor says that “economic reconstruction is a chance to speed up decarbonisation, and the pandemic has shown a different kind of politics is possible”. Finally, in the Sunday Telegraph, climate sceptic Ross Clarke uses the Covid-19 crisis to attack climate modelling: “We don’t really know how the climate will respond to higher levels of carbon dioxide, any more than we know how many people will contract Covid-19 next week.”
There continues to be a steady stream of rebuttals, responses and reviews reacting to Michael Moore’s new film called “Planet of the Humans”, which seeks to attack renewable energy. Writing for Yale Climate Connections, Dana Nuccitelli says the film “offers outdated and wildly misleading information on renewable energy, sacrificing progress in pursuit of unachievable perfection”. He concludes: “Like Fox News and other propaganda vehicles, the film presents one biased perspective via carefully chosen voices, virtually all of whom are comfortable white men. It applies an environmental purity test that can seem convincing for viewers lacking expertise in the topic. Any imperfect technology – which is every technology – is deemed bad. It’s a clear example of the perfect being the enemy of the good. In reality, this movie is the enemy of humanity’s last best chance to save itself and countless other species from unchecked climate change through a transition to cleaner technologies.” In Rolling Stone, one of the film’s targets, the veteran environmentalist Bill McKibben, provides a lengthy response and then concludes: “Much has been made over the years about the way that progressives eat their own, about circular firing squads and the like. I think there’s truth to it: there’s a collection of showmen like Moore who enjoy attracting attention to themselves by endlessly picking fights. They’re generally not people who actually try to organise, to build power, to bring people together. That’s the real, and difficult, work – not purity tests or calling people out, but calling them in. At least, that’s how it seems to me: The battle to slow down global warming in the short time that physics allots us requires ever bigger movements.” In the Guardian, environmental reporter Graham Readfearn lists some of the key reasons why so many people have been angered by the film’s mistakes, omissions and mischaracterisations: “Planet of the Humans is a film that is almost entirely devoid of solutions to the existential crisis that its producers say they are deeply concerned about. It rightly raises questions about rampant consumption and the planet’s dwindling ecosystems. As some of the examples also show, the film is long out-of-date and there’s no evidence that attempts were made to revise its content or its premise as new information became available and, presumably, the film sat idle in multiple parts for many years.” DeSmog UK shows how “climate science deniers and long-time opponents of renewable energy, many with ties to oil and gas companies, have seized on Michael Moore’s latest documentary to argue the case for continued fossil fuel dependence”. Meanwhile, a review in the Daily Mail says that film “raises a host of troubling questions about the eco bandwagon”.
Limiting global warming to 1.5C rather than 2C could stem surface water run-off declines and increases in many world regions, which could in turn lower the risk of floods and drought, a new study says. Under 2C of global warming, run-off could decrease significantly across Mexico, the western US, Western Europe, southeastern China and the West Siberian Plain – increasing the risk of flooding, according to the research. At the same time, run-off could decrease in Alaska, northern Canada, and large parts of Asia – raising the risk of drought.
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