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Daily Briefing

20.06.2018
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Rising sea levels will hit power stations in next 30 years
Rising sea levels will hit power stations in next 30 years

News.

Rising sea levels will hit power stations in next 30 years

More than 800 million people in urban areas are forecast to be vulnerable to sea level rises and coastal flooding in just 30 years, including 30 million in European cities, the Irish edition of the Times reports. A further 470 million will see their power supplies threatened. The report by C40 cities and environmental lobby groups used data from NASA to assess which areas could be vulnerable to rising sea levels and flooding by 2050. Mark Watts, the executive director of C40 Cities, commented: “Now we have the clearest possible evidence of just what these impacts [of climate change] will mean for the citizens of the world’s cities. This is the future that nobody wants. Our research should serve as a wake-up call on just how urgently we need to be delivering bold climate action.” Kevin Austin, deputy executive director of C40 Cities, is quoted in Reuters: “This is a wake-up call…The magnitude of people affected by heat will be (much) greater than today if we continue to increase greenhouse gases at this rate.” The Metro and the Mirror also covered the report, while the Evening Standard leads with: “Londoners ‘face floods, droughts and blackouts by 2050 caused by effects of climate change'”. Elsewhere, ABC News leads with the headline: “Almost $118 billion worth of US homes threatened by rising sea levels”.

The Times Read Article
Tony Abbott tells party he was misled by advisers over Paris climate deal

Tony Abbott, the former prime minister of Australia, has “claimed he was misled by bureaucrats before he signed Australia up to the Paris international climate agreement in 2015”, the Guardian reports. During an attack by government conservatives on the national energy guarantee Abbott told colleagues he’d been misled by bureaucrats during the Paris commitment process about the impact of the commitment, while the Tasmanian Liberal Eric Abetz tried to argue that Abbott hadn’t made a firm commitment when he signed the agreement. But at the time Abbott’s rhetoric was firm. When announcing Australia’s emissions reduction target, Abbott said: “There’s a definite commitment to [reducing emissions by 26% by 2030 on 2005 levels] but we believe under the policies that we’ve got, with the circumstances that we think will apply, that we can go up to 28%.”

The Guardian Read Article
Labour abandons support for new Heathrow runway

The UK’s Labour party is set to drop its support for a £14 billion new runway at Heathrow airport, “in a significant U-turn that leaves the plan on a knife edge”, the Times writes. Labour said that the preliminary legislation that will pave the way for the runway failed to meet the conditions it established as necessary for its support, namely: CO2 emissions, noise, benefits to all regions and “ultimate deliverability”. MPs are due to vote on the legislation in parliament next Monday.

The Times Read Article
New Group, With Conservative Credentials, Plans Push for a Carbon Tax

A new campaign called Americans for Carbon Dividends is to lobby for a plan to fight climate change by taxing greenhouse gas emissions and giving the revenue to American taxpayers. The proposal, which is opposed by Donald Trump, would set an initial tax of $40 per ton of carbon dioxide produced and would increase the price over time. The political campaign will be run by two former senators, Democrat John Breaux and Republican Trent Lott, and will run advertisements as early as this autumn. The initiative has already won support from major companies in renewable and nuclear energy, as well as fossil fuel giants including Shell, Exxon Mobil and BP, and the the environmental group Nature Conservancy. Bloomberg also covers the story.

New York Times Read Article
Batteries boom enables world to get half of electricity from wind and solar by 2050

New analysis of the future of the global electricity system by Bloomberg NEF suggests that coal will shrink to “just 11% of global electricity generation by mid-century, from 38% now, as comparative costs shift heavily in favour of wind, solar and batteries”. Wind and solar are set to surge to 50% of world generation by 2050, the report finds. Seb Henbest, the lead author of the outlook, said: “The arrival of cheap battery storage will mean that it becomes increasingly possible to finesse the delivery of electricity from wind and solar, so that these technologies can help meet demand even when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. The result will be renewables eating up more and more of the existing market for coal, gas and nuclear.”

Bloomberg New Energy Finance Read Article
UK solar power growth halves for second year running

The number of new solar power installations in the UK halved in 2017 for the second year in a row, “as the fallout of government subsidy cuts continued to shake the sector”, the Guardian reports. New solar capacity was just 0.95GW in 2017, down from 1.97GW in 2016 and 4.1GW in 2015. The UK’s solar installations were so low that they caused EU solar growth to flatline, while record amounts of new solar were added worldwide. Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, said: “Tory policies on solar including dramatic cuts to feed-in tariff subsidies, business and VAT rate hikes, and obstruction to clean power auctions have held back one of the cleanest, cheapest forms of energy.”

The Guardian Read Article
China to end small-scale coal burning in 2 northern provinces by 2020

China will end small-scale coal burning in the provinces of Shanxi and Shaanxi by 2020, in the next stage of its anti-smog efforts, a senior environmental official said at a briefing on Wednesday. Around 90% of the provinces’ energy needs are met by coal. After forcing industrial coal users to curb their emissions, China has been shifting its focus on to what it describes as “scattered” pollution sources, including backstreet workshops and rural heating facilities, Reuters reports.

Reuters Read Article

Comment.

From Africa’s Baobabs To America’s Pines: Our Ancient Trees Are Dying.

The world’s most ancient and monumental trees are dying out fast as “climate change attracts new pests and diseases to forests, and settlements and new roads fragment ecosystems”, explains a feature in the Huffington Post. New research in Nature Plants finds that nine of the 13 oldest baobabs trees have partially or completely died in the past 12 years, and speculates that droughts linked to climate change may be responsible. Bill Laurance, an Australian ecologist, tells the Huffington Post that these trees are the most vulnerable to climate change: “One would imagine such behemoths had survived many climatic vicissitudes over their vast lifetimes. But in a climatically changing world, their great stature is a curse. They struggle to get water up to their foliage without suffering dangerous embolisms in their vascular systems. Droughts can be fatal.” Duncan Macqueen, principal researcher for natural resources with the International Institute for Environment and Development, commented: “Less predictable rainfall, as well as more droughts and inundations, are putting trees under greater pressure and are changing the populations of pests and pollinators. The climate is now effectively throwing chaos into what are finely tuned ecological systems”.

John Vidal, Huffington Post Read Article
This could be the first emissions-reductions project (inadvertently) supported by Trump

“Donald Trump is not interested in cutting carbon emissions”, writes Akshat Rathi of Quartz. “And, yet, thanks to the federal budget Trump was forced to sign in February, he’s ended up inadvertently supporting at least one piece of emissions-reduction legislation: extending tax credits for the use of carbon-capture technology” (CCS). These “45Q” credits encourage big emitters such as power plants to trap and store their CO2 emissions. Now the biofuel producer Occidental Petroleum has announced plans to evaluate building two CCS plants, which could make it “the first such new plant to take advantage of the new 45Q tax credits”.

Akshat Rathi, Quartz Read Article
How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country

The New York Times investigates how “the Koch brothers are fuelling a fight against public transit”, in cities and counties across the US. The oil billionaires are financing “a network of activists who use a sophisticated data service built by the Kochs, called i360, that helps them identify and rally voters who are inclined to their worldview”. According to a review by the New York Times, the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity has organised door-to-door anti-transit canvassing campaigns for “at least seven local or state-level ballots”. And “in the majority, the Kochs were on the winning side”. However, “supporters of transit investments point to research that shows that they reduce traffic, spur economic development and fight global warming by reducing emissions”.

Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times Read Article

Science.

Carbon costs and benefits of Indonesian rainforest conversion to plantations

A new study estimates the carbon costs of clearing southeast Asian rainforests for rubber and oil palm plantations. Drawing on more than two years’ worth of data collected in central Sumatra, Indonesia, the researchers find that converting forests to jungle rubber, rubber, and oil palm monocultures releases 116, 159 and 174 tonnes of carbon per hectare, respectively. The estimate of carbon losses from oil palm farming is higher than Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) figure, the researchers say, as well as the figure used by sustainable palm oil certification bodies.

Nature Communications Read Article
Carbon footprints of 13,000 cities

A new paper presents the “Gridded Global Model of City Footprints (GGMCF)” dataset, which downscales national data to create carbon footprints for 13,000 cities across the world. The highest emitting 100 urban areas account for 18% of the global carbon footprint, the data show. And while many of the cities with the highest footprints are in countries with high carbon footprints, nearly one quarter of the top cities are in countries with relatively low emissions.

Environmental Research Letters Read Article

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