Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Rising seas could menace millions beyond shorelines, study finds
- Climate change 'driving UK's extreme weather'
- Huge fires ravage the Amazon again as rainforest burns on terrifying scale
- The four types of climate denier, and why you should ignore them all
- A quarter of Bangladesh Is flooded. Millions have lost everything.
- Airlines have a chance to emerge from the crisis leaner and greener
- Future greening of the Earth may not be as large as previously predicted
There is widespread coverage of a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports showing that, reports the New York Times, “as oceans rise, powerful coastal storms, crashing waves and extreme high tides will be able to reach farther inland, putting tens of millions more people and trillions of dollars in assets worldwide at risk of periodic flooding”. The newspaper adds: “If the world’s nations keep emitting greenhouse gases, and sea levels rise just 1 to 2 more feet, the amount of coastal land at risk of flooding would increase by roughly one-third, the research said. In 2050, up to 204 million people currently living along the coasts would face flooding risks. By 2100, that rises to as many as 253 million people under a moderate emissions scenario known as RCP4.5.” The Financial Times notes that the study shows that coastal flooding “could threaten assets worth 20% of global GDP”. It quotes Prof Ian Young, infrastructure engineer at the University of Melbourne and co-author of the report: “The sea-level rise is now already baked in, the glaciers are melting and they aren’t going to stop melting for hundreds of years. Even if we reduce our greenhouses gases today we’ll still have significant flooding by 2100.” The Guardian says: “According to the study, about 148 million people globally are exposed to flooding events today. If greenhouse gas emissions rise moderately – the equivalent of 1.8C of global warming by the end of the century – a further 54 million people will be exposed. But if emissions are allowed to spiral in a worst-case scenario, then this number rises to 77 million.” CNBC, the i newspaper and MailOnline are among the other outlets covering the study, while the Daily Telegraph zooms in on the study’s implications for “Boston, Grimsby and Hull” in England.
Several UK outlets cover the Met Office’s latest annual “State of the UK Climate” report. BBC News reports: “Climate change driven by industrial society is having an increasing impact on the UK’s weather, the Met Office says. Its annual UK report confirms that 2019 was the 12th warmest year in a series from 1884. Although it does not make the top 10, the report says 2019 was remarkable for high temperature records in the UK.” BBC News also quotes Mike Kendon, the lead author of the report: “Our report shows climate change is exerting an increasing impact on the UK. This year was warmer than any other year in the UK between 1884 and 1990, and to find a year in the coldest 10 we have to go back to 1963.” The Financial Times notes that the Met Office report “comes a month after advisers warned the government it had not done enough to reduce carbon emissions and limit global warming”. The newspaper quotes Ilan Kelman, professor of disasters and health at University College London: “These UK high temperature records show that if we do nothing about stopping climate change, then we are unfortunately on track for summer heat (and humidity) which would be highly dangerous for us to be outdoors – and to be indoors without continual cooling.” The Guardian carries the reaction of Prof Dave Reay at the University of Edinburgh: “Seeing these temperature records go down like sweaty skittles is a stark reminder that climate change is still tightening its grip on all our futures. No corner of the UK is immune to the impacts of climate change.“ The Daily Telegraph also covers the report.
In January, Carbon Brief published a Met Office review of the UK’s weather in 2019 by Dr Mark McCarthy. And, yesterday, Carbon Brief published its latest quarterly ”state of the climate“ report looking at the latest key global climate metrics and data.
The Daily Mirror carries an “exclusive” about how “while the world is distracted by the coronavirus pandemic, 1,900 square miles of rainforest – the equivalent of more than half a million football pitches – have already turned to ash this year” in the Amazon. The newspaper adds: “Most fires are set by farmers and cattle ranchers to clear land for pasture, or by illegal loggers and miners to drive indigenous people from protected territories. They are bolstered by Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who has long pledged to open up the Amazon, including its indigenous reserves, to mining, agriculture and oil and gas exploration. Deforestation increased by 25% in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year, figures show. But the number of firefighters has been drastically cut.”
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports from Argentina on how a “raging fire described as ‘completely out of control’ is threatening one of South America’s major wetland ecosystems”. It adds: “The fire has been burning for months now, and is visible from the balconies of luxury apartments along the shoreline of the Paraná River in Argentina’s central city of Rosario. Locals have been sharing photos and videos of the fires on social media.” It quotes Leonel Mingo, a spokesperson for Greenpeace Argentina: “Everything is burning, it’s completely out of control,” he told the Guardian. “Once a fire reaches that scale, it becomes virtually impossible to stop.”
Separately, the Washington Post carries an opinion piece by Australian journalist Richard Glover about how “seven months after the bush fires, Australia is still devastated”. He says: “Australia remains on a trajectory that will see the country falling short of its Paris emission-reduction commitments. This is despite the devastation of wildlife; despite the continuing human impact of the fires; and despite the firming conviction that Australia is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change.”
Finally, the Times has an article about how temperatures in the Middle East have “topped 50C every day for a week”. It says: “Cities across the Middle East are enduring their highest temperatures on record as a heatwave strikes the region, raising concerns that global warming will threaten the sustainability of already troubled countries. The worst affected is Iraq, already suffering from insurgency, sectarian divisions and economic decline brought about by widespread corruption. Baghdad recorded its highest and second highest temperatures this week. Towns across the south of the country have topped 50C (122F) – something that used to be a rarity – every day.”
Damian Carrington, the Guardian’s environment editor, argues that “however infuriating [climate sceptics] are, arguing with them or debunking their theories is likely only to generate publicity or money for them”. He continues: “But the deniers are not all the same. They tend to fit into one of four different categories: the shill, the grifter, the egomaniac and the ideological fool.” He then describes them all in turn before concluding: “Why do I say ignore them all? The climate crisis is urgent, and we need debate to drive action. However, vigorous debates over action are already taking place in good faith all over the world, from the tops of governments to the smallest local action groups…The world of finance and business is catching up fast with the science, and almost all the technology needed already exists. In short, no sane or serious actor can countenance denial of climate danger. Bad-faith arguments motivated by greed, egomania or ideology have nothing to add.” Meanwhile, in the Times, columnist Iain Martin dismisses the concerns of climate campaigners such as Greta Thunberg arguing that the “hysteria of the XR crew, amplified by the media, is counterproductive because it frightens people and could lead to panicked policy-making”. Instead, he chooses to promote the latest book by climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg and concludes: “Once again, on climate, the less intoxicating and more cheeringly mundane reality is that human beings are ingeniously adaptive. We’ll find a way through if we all keep our heads.”
The New York Times has a feature about how “torrential rains have submerged at least a quarter of Bangladesh, washing away the few things that count as assets for some of the world’s poorest people – their goats and chickens, houses of mud and tin, sacks of rice stored for the lean season”. It continues: “It is the latest calamity to strike the delta nation of 165 million people. Only two months ago, a cyclone pummelled the country’s southwest. Along the coast, a rising sea has swallowed entire villages. And while it’s too soon to ascertain what role climate change has played in these latest floods, Bangladesh is already witnessing a pattern of more severe and more frequent river flooding than in the past along the mighty Brahmaputra River, scientists say, and that is projected to worsen in the years ahead as climate change intensifies the rains.”
Meanwhile, the Guardian carries a feature by Fiona Harvey on “how Trump is emboldening other countries’ ‘bad behaviour’ on the climate crisis”. But Harvey also looks ahead to the US election: “In some ways, the plan for a Trump victory is simpler. The world has already had years to prepare, and long experience of moving on without the US. China and the EU have a summit planned, originally for this year and now delayed, at which they are expected to forge a common approach to COP26 and fulfilling the Paris Agreement…Biden has promised the opposite of Trump: a return to the Paris Agreement, a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis, emphasising renewable energy, low-carbon technology, and a switch from jobs in fossil fuels to green jobs with long-term prospects. That would give fresh impetus to the COP26 talks, and hearten activists. But no one should think it would be straightforward.”
An editorial in the Economist says that “when [the aviation sector] does rebound [from Covid-19], the twin priorities should be to put the industry on a sounder financial footing, and to make flying less polluting.” It continues: “For both objectives the way forward is the same: to loosen incumbents’ grip on the skies. Start with carbon emissions. The dramatic declines this year are a distraction because as people resume flying, emissions will start to rise again. Neither should the industry’s sorry financial state today relieve it of recent pressure to decarbonise in the future. For many years aviation mostly had a free pass when it came to regulations of the type that forced carmakers to clean themselves up…The question is how an industry whose finances are in tatters can make the vast investments and the huge technological leap required for net-zero-emissions flying.”
Writing for Vox, David Roberts looks at “Microsoft’s astonishing climate change goals”, saying: “It is a big deal. The company is setting new standards, especially in the rigour and transparency it is applying to the effort, and it is deliberately attempting to bring other companies, both suppliers and competitors, along with it into a world of shared metrics and data. There is more it could do, but it is earning its good climate reputation.”
In the Independent, Donnachadh McCarthy asks: “If Ireland can take the climate crisis seriously, why can’t Boris Johnson?” He adds: “In June, during the height of the Covid-19 crisis, Ireland
Finally, the Financial Times has published two energy-related features. The first is a photo essay about “Britain’s vanishing cooling towers”. It says the coal plant’s cooling towers now being demolished “once dominated parts of the landscape but these much-maligned structures could be lost within a generation”. The second article looks at how the UK’s nuclear industry “dogged by doubts about China and rise of renewables” is “calling for clarity” from the government about whether “it wants nuclear or not”.
Changes in global vegetation growth and its drivers during recent decades have been well studied with satellite data, ecosystem models and field experiments. However, a systematic understanding of how global vegetation will respond to projected changes in climate and atmospheric composition is still lacking. This new study analyses changes in projected global leaf area index (LAI) from 16 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) and 17 CMIP6 Earth system models (ESMs) during the 21st century under different future scenarios. They use employed a reliability ensemble averaging (REA) strategy to give a higher weight to models that are more effective at simulating present-day LAI changes. The results suggest that global LAI will increase under all seven future scenarios. The magnitude of LAI growth is expected to increase with the forcing levels of the scenarios. The ESMs integrated with the REA predicted significantly smaller magnitudes and lower uncertainties in global LAI growth by the end of the 21st century.
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