Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Scorching summers will be the norm, says Met Office
- Africa poised to lead way in global green revolution, says report
- Half of Antarctica's emperor penguins could be wiped out due to melting ice
- Nine EU countries call for European aviation tax to curb emissions
- Trump nominates former Ford executive to be new US energy secretary
- Extinction Rebellion plans 12 days of election protests
- Trump is abandoning America’s future by quitting the Paris climate accord
- 'We are a role model': how James Shaw pushed New Zealand towards a zero-carbon future
- Central bankers are not climatologists
- The Paris Agreement objectives will likely halt future declines of emperor penguins
- Drivers of the UK summer heatwave of 2018
A Met Office study finds that the record-breaking heatwave of summer 2018 will be the norm for the UK by 2050, reports the Times. Such heatwaves are now 30 times more likely to happen than would without climate change, the authors say. The findings, published in the journal Weather, confirm preliminary analysis published in December 2018 and covered by Carbon Brief. The Times adds: “The authors of the research said that while natural variability would always play a part in determining temperatures, the effects of global warming meant that we should expect one summer in ten to be as hot or hotter than 2018 rather than one every other century.” The Daily Telegraph quotes lead author Dr Mark McCarthy, who says “the UK has always endured weather extremes, including heatwaves, and there is no doubt that summer 2018 would always have been a notable period. However, our study found that climate change also added to the intensity, making it an even more dramatic year.” MailOnline adds: “The two warmest summers on record were 2006 and 2018, but the Met Office says those records will be consistently broken over the next 30 years.”
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that the managing director of Scotland’s railway has warned that the UK’s railways “can no longer cope because of climate change”. Speaking at an industry conference in London, Alex Hynes said that much more investment would be needed to future-proof the railway against rising temperatures. He suggested the rail industry should build tracks resilient at 40C in the rest of the UK and 35C in Scotland.
Reporting on a new study by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Guardian says that “Africa is poised to lead the world’s cleanest economic revolution by using renewable energy sources to power a massive spread of urbanisation”. The report forecasts that Africa’s appetite for energy will grow at double the rate of the global average in the coming decades as the continent overtakes China and India as the most populated region in the world, says the Guardian. It adds: “IEA is predicting a solar boom in countries across the continent, which could give hundreds of millions of homes electricity for the first time.” However, Reuters notes that “African countries will need to quadruple their rate of investment in their power sectors for the next two decades to bring reliable electricity to all Africans”. It continues: “If African countries continue on their policy trajectories, 530 million Africans will still lack electricity in 2030, the IEA report says. It said bringing reliable electricity to all Africans would require annual investment of around $120bn.”
New research suggests that more than half of Antarctica’s emperor penguins could be wiped out over the next 80 years due to melting ice, reports Sky News. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey warn that rising temperatures and changing wind patterns from global warming will negatively affect Antarctic sea ice on which emperor penguins breed, the article adds. MailOnline explains further: “Ice must be locked in to the shoreline of the Antarctic continent, while close enough to open seawater for the birds to access food for themselves and their young. As the climate warms, this sea ice will gradually disappear – robbing the birds of their habitat, food sources and ability to hatch chicks.” Lead author Dr Stephanie Jenouvrier from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution tells the Daily Mirror that “if global climate keeps warming at the current rate, we expect emperor in Antarctica to experience an 86% decline by the year 2100”, adding: “At that point, it is very unlikely for them to bounce back.” In the Conversation, Jenouvrier writes that while emperor penguins “could virtually disappear by the year 2100 due to loss of Antarctic sea ice…a more aggressive global climate policy can halt the penguins’ march to extinction.”
Nine European Union states have called on the bloc’s incoming executive Commission to introduce an EU-wide tax on aviation, reports Reuters. It continues: “In a letter to the EU’s executive in charge of climate, Frans Timmermans, the finance ministers of Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and five other EU states appealed for ‘some form of aviation tax’ without giving specifics.” An aviation tax where “the polluter pays a fairer price for the use of aviation transport” is necessary to combat climate change, the letter says. Reuters notes that “transportation is the only European sector currently increasing its emissions”. The letter says that “aviation is not sufficiently priced” compared to other transport modes, reports EurActiv, and that “we are convinced that EU coordination on this matter is the most effective for all member states”.
US President Donald Trump had formally nominated deputy energy secretary Dan Brouillette, a former vice president of Ford Motor Company and Louisiana state energy regulator, to head the Department of Energy, reports Reuters. If confirmed by the Senate, Brouillette will replace Rick Perry, who is stepping down at the end of the year. “If confirmed, I will further Secretary Perry’s legacy of promoting energy independence, innovation, and security for the American people,” Brouillette said in a statement. The Hill says: “Brouillette served in the department during the George W Bush administration. He was nominated by Trump to the No 2 role and easily confirmed by the Senate in a 79-17 vote in August 2017.” The website adds that Brouillette “is not expected to be a particularly controversial nominee given the ease of his first confirmation”.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists are planning “12 days of Christmas” protests in the run-up to the UK general election, the Times reports. XR organisers say that they will undertake national and local action every day in the lead up to polling on 12 December to make this the first “climate change election”. Rupert Read, a spokesman for the group, told the Times that the protests would be aimed at politicians and not the public. “We want to be pressuring politicians and candidates all around the country to do the right thing and prioritise climate action,” he said. XR member Marijn van der Geer added that there were no plans to disrupt the election process itself. “We will be encouraging rebels in their own constituencies to attend hustings and keep asking candidates over and over about their plans for the climate and ecological emergency,” she told the Times. In the Red Box section of the Times, Prof Tim Bale – professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London – writes that there is a “big gap between [public] support for XR’s aims and its means”. His recent research, with polling company YouGov, shows that “just over half (53%) of all Londoners sympathise with the XR’s message that the nation, and the world, is facing a climate emergency…But only a fifth (21%) say they support the way they went about getting that message across”.
“Try as we might, we cannot see how America’s interests are served” by President Trump withdrawing the US from the Paris Agreement, write Ban Ki-moon and Patrick Verkooijen – former secretary general of the UN and chief executive of the Global Center on Adaptation, respectively – in the New York Times. “Our climate emergency does not respect borders,” they say. “California’s forest fires will not burn less fiercely, and rising sea levels will not spare Miami or Mar-a-Lago, just because Mr. Trump has chosen to opt out.” The Paris Agreement is not a trade agreement, the authors note, rather it “is more like a collective insurance policy, into which we all invest to protect our futures. And like most insurance policies, it makes sound business sense”. The Paris Agreement “will undoubtedly be the poorer without [the US’s] participation”, they warn. “But, equally, the country had much to gain by joining in this collective endeavour. Why miss out on the greatest technological and economic transformation of our era?”
In a feature for the Guardian, freelance journalist Charlotte Graham-McLay reports from Wellington on New Zealand’s new Zero Carbon Bill. Graham-McLay interviews James Shaw – co-leader of the Green party and climate change minister in the coalition government – who was “the centre of a landmark piece of legislation” that passed with bipartisan support in parliament yesterday. Shaw is “an unknown on the world stage”, she says, “but he is he is the architect behind some of the most ambitious climate policies that anyone in the world is trying to enact”. “I think sometimes a domestic audience undervalues or underestimates the impact on global action of action by other countries,” Shaw says tells Graham-McLay, adding: “Part of what we’re doing is we’re role modelling for other countries. And actually, countries do look at each other and go, where are we relative to the pack?” On whether global heating can be curbed, he says: “I think the chances are slim.” But there’s no reason for not trying, he adds. “In fact, that’s all the more reason to try.” (James Shaw spoke on New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Bill at the recent net-zero conference hosted by the University of Oxford. Carbon Brief has a summary of the conference.)
Meanwhile, in the letter to the Times, a group of leading UK-based climate scientists call for the next UK prime minister to “focus relentlessly through the year on brokering a summit agreement [at COP26 in Glasgow] that finally turns the tide against rising global emissions. This includes putting the UK demonstrably on track to its net-zero target well before the summit opens, providing a material example of climate leadership in a world that badly needs it”. And in a letter to the Financial Times, Richard Black – director of thinktank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit – pushes back on a recent opinion piece by FT columnist Simon Kuper. Black writes: “There is undeniably some evidence to support Simon Kuper’s view that rapid decarbonisation is unlikely to happen quickly enough to hit the Paris Agreement targets in a world where economic growth continues. However, there is much other evidence to suggest he is wrong.”
“Challenges to a green energy transition do not principally come from shortcomings in central bank policy,” argues Financial Times columnist John Dizard, responding to recent debate “over the role of central banks and regulators”, which is “heating up as fast as a California forest”. He continues: “There is indeed a huge gap between required carbon emissions reductions and the industrial and infrastructure base to make that happen. But that is created by political, engineering and supply chain issues, not a lack of box-ticking by financial consultancies.” Central banks “do their work best as institutions with a high level of independence to perform a limited range of tasks”, says Dizard. “There are invariably political risks and choices in monetary policy and financial regulation. But those risks are manageable if the central bankers do not attempt to be climatologists, electrical engineers or auto designers.”
This study examines the dynamics of emperor penguin colonies under new climate change scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement objectives. Their model includes dispersal behaviors so that penguins can modulate climate effects through movement and habitat selection. Under business‐as‐usual greenhouse gas emissions, they show that 80% of the colonies are projected to be extinct by 2100, and the total abundance of emperor penguins is projected to decline by at least 81%. In contrast, if the Paris Agreement objectives are met, viable emperor penguin refuges will exist in Antarctica, and only 19% and 31% colonies are projected to be extinct by 2100 under the Paris 1.5 and 2 climate scenarios respectively. Global climate policy has a larger capacity to safeguard the future of emperor penguins than their intrinsic dispersal abilities.
The summer of 2018 in the United Kingdom was the joint hottest on record for mean temperature and regularly experienced spells of daily maximum temperatures in the low to mid‐30s Celsius. Most of the high temperatures in the summer 2018 can be explained by circulation and elevated sea surface temperatures in the coastal waters of the United Kingdom, as well as extremely low soil moisture following an extended dry spell through June and July. However, these factors alone are insufficient to fully explain the observed temperature anomaly, which also has an important contribution from the underlying warming trend in the UK climate. A range of climate models and observations are in broad agreement that the present‐day likelihood of summers warmer than 2018 is approximately 11–12%. Climate change has significantly increased the risk of a 2018 summer temperature anomaly, and formal attribution experiments estimate this to be a factor of 30 higher than for a world without human greenhouse gas emissions. The latest set of UK climate projections estimate that a 2018‐like summer could be more common than not by the mid‐twenty‐first century.
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