Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Rising temperatures linked to increased suicide rates
- UK confirms plans for doubling offshore wind capacity in next decade
- Republican lawmaker pitches carbon tax in defiance of party stance
- 'Time bomb': Tropics expansion nudges cyclone formation into new areas
- Electric car owners face extra charges for 'peak time' charging
- Fish losing sense of smell in acidic ocean
- Heavy industry turns to renewables in drive to go green
- Climate change is finally getting political cred with Republicans
- Is climate change causing the heat wave? To all intents and purposes, yes
Global warming is linked to rising rates of suicide, according to a new paper in the journal Nature Climate Change. The researchers analysed suicide and temperature data across the US and Mexico over the past few decades, observing that suicides rose by 2.1% in Mexico and by 0.7% in the US when the average monthly temperature increased by 1C (1.8F). The study took into account seasonal variation, levels of poverty and the news of celebrity suicides that can lead to more deaths, the Guardian reports. They also examined over half a billion Twitter posts and found that the frequency of depressive words – like “lonely” or “bleak” – increased as temperatures rose. Marshall Burke, the study’s lead author said in a statement: “Hotter temperatures are clearly not the only, nor the most important, risk factor for suicide…But our findings suggest that warming can have a surprisingly large impact on suicide risk, and this matters for both our understanding of mental health as well as for what we should expect as temperatures continue to warm.” Professor Solomon Hsiang, a co-author of the study, told the Independent: “We’ve been studying the effects of warming on conflict and violence for years, finding that people fight more when it’s hot…Now we see that in addition to hurting others, some individuals hurt themselves. It appears that heat profoundly affects the human mind and how we decide to inflict harm.” The paper was also covered by CNN, Scientific American, the Atlantic and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The UK government has confirmed plans to auction more that half a billion pounds worth of financial support for offshore windfarms over the next decade. The biennial auctions, announced by the energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry on Monday, will for part of a push to double capacity in the sector. The plans “could mean that almost a third of Britain’s power is generated by offshore wind turbines by 2030”, says the Daily Telegraph, who first reported the story. At the auctions, energy companies bid for contracts that guarantee a minimum price for the power they will sell, BBC News explains, a process that “has forced firms to be transparent about the amount of support they actually need”, thereby driving down the cost of the subsidies. The Financial Times adds that the sector has seen “dramatic drops of as much as 50%” for the cost of developing the turbines, and that these are likely to “raise questions over the UK government’s policy of supporting nuclear development”. The Times and Energy Live News also carry the story.
Carlos Curbelo, a “moderate” Republican member of Congress, has proposed that the US introduce a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, in a departure from the political party’s long-held aversion to addressing climate change. Curbelo represents a district in the south of Florida, that includes areas “extremely vulnerable” to sea level rise, the Guardian reports. The Floridan said that a carbon tax would avoid “saddling young Americans with a crushing environmental debt”. However, the bill “has virtually no chance of becoming law”, the Guardian explains. Last week the House of Representatives – which is led by the Republicans – passed a resolution denouncing the idea of a carbon tax as “detrimental to the United States economy”. Conservative groups have already come out in “fierce opposition against the bill, the Hill reports. Reuters also has the story.
Tropical cyclones are forming further from the equator as earth warms, thereby expanding the zone of intense storms, including parts of eastern Australia, finds new research in Nature Climate Change. Scientists at Melbourne University analysed data for 1980-2014, stripping out climate variability, such as the El Niño, to identify the poleward shift in cyclones. “In most of the ocean basins, there appears to be a decrease in tropical cyclone formation closer to the equator, accompanied by an increase in formation further away from the equator”, professor Kevin Walsh told the Sydney Morning Herald. “”It’s quite alarming – policymakers need to be made aware [of the risks]”, commented Professor Stephen Turton, a cyclone researcher at Central Queensland University.
Drivers of electric cars will have to pay more if they charge their vehicles at peak times, the UK’s energy watchdog Ofgem has announced. On Monday they laid out a new proposal to introduce “flexible” car chargers, which encourage drivers to charge their cars at night when energy is cheaper due to reduced demand. By 2022-23 households who need to charge their vehicles during busy times will be charged extra. The UK government wants to encourage the switch to electric vehicles, the Times writes, however “Ofgem is concerned that if too many drivers charge their electric vehicles at the same time, it will significantly increase electricity demand, resulting in the need for more power plants and costly upgrades to cabling infrastructure”. The Financial Times also carries the story, while the Belfast Telegraph leads with: “Electric car-charging could be made cheaper under new plans”.
Increasing concentrations of CO2 in the ocean is compromising the sense of smell of fish, suggests a new study in Nature Climate Change. Researchers compared how young sea bass behaved in tanks with present day levels of CO2, and the increased levels expected by the end of the century, which makes the waters more acidic. Those in the more acidic environment swam less and were less likely to respond when they encountered the scent of a predator. Ocean acidity has risen by 43% since the industrial revolution, and is set to rise to 2.5 times the current level by 2100, the Mail Online writes. It adds: “Although only sea bass were used in the study, the processes involved in the sense of smell are common to many aquatic species and therefore the latest findings should apply very broadly.”
A feature in the Financial Times examines why a recent clutch of deals from aluminium smelters and cement plants signals that “a new market is developing for renewable energy”, as these carbon-intensive industries attempt to go green. “Corporate buyers of renewable power have been on the rise and emerged as one of the main drivers for new renewables projects”, Hook and Pooler explain. Tech companies were among the first to create these deals, to deal with the power demands of their data centres, but the idea has now “spread across sectors”, even to heavy industry, “which has been one of the slowest sectors to decarbonise”, they write. However, “one challenge is that many industrial processes do not directly use electricity”. For example, most of the energy needed for a cement plant is in the form of heat – “usually from burning coal or gas”.
“Climate change is starting to become a political worry for some Republicans” in a “subtle but significant shift”, writes Amy Harder in her column for Axios. Some politicians are finding it in their interest “to at least acknowledge climate change and oppose efforts to weaken existing policies”, she says. However, she cautions that it’s one thing to recognise it’s existence, “but it’s another, big step to put forward policies”.
“Climate attribution is complicated, but an abundance of caution that is not applied to any other field is serving to underplay the huge risks presented by climate change”, argues James Murray, the editor-in-chief of BusinessGreen. “I appreciate the critical of importance of scientists using precise language and not overstating their levels of certainty”, Murray writes, “but I also know how that cautious refusal to use a shorthand answer…plays in a media environment ever more compromised by both the desire to present binary certainties and the spin of bad faith, shadily funded actors”. He believes that it’s possible to report the link between climate change and extreme heat “in real time”, without “overplaying the inevitable uncertainty” and “underplaying” the climate risks. He suggest that: “All you need to do is provide some context and apply the same level of detail and caveats you would apply to other stories involving complex cause and effect”. Meanwhile, CNN has a feature headlined: “Summer of extreme temperatures continues, to the beat of climate change.”
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