Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Scientists urge deep rapid change to limit warming
- Energy sector's carbon emissions to grow for second year running
- ‘Desperate’ court challenge to stop fracking in Lancashire
- We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero or face more floods
- The Observer view on fracking fissures obscuring the need to embrace green technologies
- Drivers, timing and some impacts of global aridity change
- Warm Arctic, increased winter sea‐ice growth?
There is extensive global media coverage of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report on 1.5C, which was published today following a week-long meeting in South Korea of climate scientists and government representatives. BBC news says: “It’s the final call, say scientists, the most extensive warning yet on the risks of rising global temperatures. Their dramatic report on keeping that rise under 1.5C states that the world is now completely off track, heading instead towards 3C. Staying below 1.5C will require ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’. It will be hugely expensive, the report says, but the window of opportunity is not yet closed.” The Guardian – which is only one of two national UK newspapers to feature the story on its frontpage – says the IPCC report warns “there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people”. In its extensive coverage, the Guardian also includes a timeline showing how the IPCC “got to 1.5C threshold”, a live blog and a round-up of reaction. The Financial Times says the “world is on track to overshoot the targets of the Paris climate agreement and warm by 3C by the end of the century, a level that would disrupt life around the planet”. The other UK publications to cover the report include the Times, Sky News, i, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Climate Home News. Beyond the UK, Reuters says the report concludes that “massive societal changes needed to meet lower global warming target world needs”. The New York Times says the “landmark report…paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has ‘no documented historic precedent’.” The Washington Post says “the world has barely 10 years to get climate change under control”, which echoes CNN‘s focus. An AFP story published before the report was published says that Saudi Arabia had threatened to block key findings within the report. It is believed that the Saudis failed in their attempts, though.
Almost at the same time as the IPCC publishes its special report on 1.5C, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has published its latest annual report on the growth of renewable energy. However, the Guardian focuses on the IEA’s preliminary data for 2018 showing that “carbon emissions from the energy sector are on track to grow for the second year running, in a major blow to hopes the world might have turned the corner on tackling climate change”. It adds: “Preliminary analysis by the world’s energy watchdog shows the industry’s emissions have continued to rise in 2018, suggesting that an increase last year was not a one-off…Dr Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), told the Guardian: ‘When I look at the first nine months of data, I expect in 2018 carbon emissions will increase once again. This is definitely worrying news for our climate goals. We need to see a steep decline in emissions. We are not seeing even flat emissions.'” Reuters draws out the main conclusions from the IEA’s renewables report: “Bioenergy from liquid biofuels and biogas will lead growth in renewable energy consumption to 2023, due to its rising use in the heating and transport sectors, according to the IEA.” Carbon Brief has also covered the IEA report in detail.
A number of publications have reported over the weekend that fracking will likely resume in the UK this week. The Times says this will be “seven years after the process was temporarily banned for causing minor earthquakes”. Last Friday, a High Court judge made an interim order that fracking should not take place at Cuadrilla’s site on Preston New Road near Blackpool before a full injunction application is heard this Wednesday. Reuters says: “The industry’s future in Europe may hinge on the outcome. Although fracking has grown rapidly in the United States, it has not been proved viable in Europe despite several attempts, including projects that failed in Poland five years ago. Fracking has been banned in France, Germany and several other European countries. Cuadrilla’s well will be the first fracked horizontal well in Britain and the results will be watched by shale explorers such as IGas, Egdon and Third Energy, as well as majors like Exxon which was unsuccessful in Poland.” The Daily Telegraphalso covers the story. Carbon Brief has previously published a detailed Q&A: “The return of UK fracking and what it could mean for the climate.”
With the IPCC’s 1.5C report now out, many publications carry reaction and analysis. Writing in the Guardian, Lord Stern, who authored a major report on the economics of climate change a decade ago, says: “The IPCC report is clear that we may not be able to limit warming to 1.5C without the need later in the century to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Although we can do this by expanding forests and other vegetation, we must also explore other options, including the development of carbon capture and storage.” The Guardian also has an op-ed by Ottmar Edenhofer and Johan Rockström who say the world must “charge €30 a tonne for CO2 to avoid catastrophic 4C warming”. Also in the Guardian, Graham Readfearn says “ignoring” climate feedback effects could see “Earth’s climate monsters” unleashed. Labour’s Barry Gardiner writes in the Independent that “Britain has the skills and resources to lead the world in reducing emissions – but the government is standing in the way”. In the New York Times, Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich explain “why half a degree of global warming is a big deal”. The Daily Mail carries a feature in which Peter Oborne travels to Bangladesh to “see the effects of changing temperatures”. An editorial in the Irish edition of the Times argues that “keeping carbon emissions down and climate change under control is achievable”, adding: “It is true that a revolution will be necessary, but it should be bloodless and it will be good for us. So bring it on.” On the RealClimate blog, Nasa climate scientist Dr Gavin Schmidt writes: “I get that there is reluctance to say this publicly – it sounds as if one is complicit in the impacts that will occur above 1.5C, but it seems to me that tractable challenges are more motivating than impossible (or extremely unfeasible) ones – I would be happy to be proven wrong on this though.”
An editorial in the Observer ponders on the imminent restarting of fracking in the UK: “Why bring these fossil fuels to the surface now? Why not invest more in green technologies, such as tide and wave power?…Fracking may find it very difficult to gain acceptance in England, no matter how useful it might be to the economy in the short term. In any case, its problems are no excuse for our continuing failure to invest in green technologies that in the end must replace plants that burn natural gas, no matter where it comes from. That is the real fight.” Adam Vaughan, the Guardian‘s energy correspondent, asks “will there ever be a British shale gas boom?” He says the “key question” is whether the economics work: “The truth is that because no exploratory fracking has taken place for seven years, no one really knows if it can compete. Countries including the US and Qatar are ramping up their LNG exports, which are transported via huge tankers, and could theoretically make up the shortfall in North Sea production. Despite David Cameron’s claim that fracking would bring down gas prices, few expect the industry to grow to a scale where it has any significant impact on pricing.”
Increasing aridity with climate change could see as many as 700 million more people living in arid conditions by the end of the century, a new study says. Researchers use climate model simulations, global population statistics and a high emissions scenario to show that, by 2100, half of humankind could be living in regions experiencing drying of at least 5% and 3 billion experiencing 25% drying. The largest populations to experience extreme drying are in Africa and Asia, the study notes.
In the near-term, Arctic sea ice that has thinned through the summer could see more growth during winter, a new study suggests. The researchers use model simulations to show that sea ice that is thin at the end of the summer will likely gain more thickness during winter than thicker, more insulated ice. In the longer-term, however, a rapidly warming Arctic will “overwhelm” this negative feedback, the researchers say, causing declines in winter sea ice growth.
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