Today's climate and energy headlines:
- A shadow delegation stalks the official US team at climate talks
- Big Insurers Brace for Perilous Future as Climate Risks Escalate
- Medibank drops fossil-fuel investments worth tens of millions of dollars
- Rio Tinto: World's second-largest mining company is about to go coal-free
- German coal mining could end by 2030s, says Merkel's coalition negotiator
- Congo basin’s peaty swamps are new front in climate change battle
- GE and Siemens: power pioneers flying too far from the sun
- The role of humidity in determining scenarios of perceived temperature extremes in Europe
As the UN climate talks move into their second week in Bonn, the prime focus over the weekend was the official launch of the “We’re still in” campaign, led by a diverse range of Americans keen to show the world that they are opposed to the anti-climate policies of their president Donald Trump. “The alternate American pavilion, with its free espresso truck, tins of themed M&M’s and wireless internet that tells new users ‘the U.S. has not gone dark on climate action’, has rapidly become a hub of activity at the United Nations global warming negotiations,” explains the New York Times. There was widespread coverage of the launch event on Saturday led by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and California governor Jerry Brown. The Hill describes them as a “coalition of US cities, states and companies”. Climate Home News says the Bloomberg demanded a seat at the UN talks for cities and states. Politico describes the move as “top Democrats stage anti-Trump revolt”. Associated Press and the Guardianare among the others carrying the story. Al Gore has also been in Bonn. The Guardian reports him saying that “I tried my best” but Trump can’t be educated on climate change. Reuters reports the views of Arnold Schwarzenegger, former California governor and Hollywood actor, who says that governments should start labelling fossil fuels with a public health warning. The Guardian interviews Paul Bodnar, Obama’s former climate negotiator, who says market forces mean that Trump cannot halt US climate progress. Meanwhile, the only event being promoted by the White House takes place tonight, which is previewed by both Climate Home News and the Guardian. African diplomats have told Climate Home News that talks on fossil-fuel technology trades were “very possible” on the fringes of the pro-fossil fuel US event. Protestors marched through Bonn on Saturday to vent their anger at Trump, reports the MailOnline. The Independentnotes that Pope Francis has used the occasion of the UN talks to blames “short-sighted” humans for global warming. At the talks themselves, a dispute over the lack of so-called “pre-2020 action” still hangs over negotiations, reports Climate Home News. Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia – always closely watched at the talks – has stressed it remains committed to the Paris Agreement. Politico, Bloomberg and the New York Times all carry wider view news features highlighting things to watch at the talks. For example, the NYT asks, as the US sheds its role as a climate change leader, “who will fill the void?” It lists China first, followed by Canada, New York and California, Europe and, finally, the UN itself.
After one of the worst Atlantic hurricane seasons in history, the world’s biggest insurers say the industry needs to get its act together if it wants to survive climate change, reports Bloomberg. “Sometime in the future there will be the situation where people cannot afford any longer to buy catastrophe insurance – this is what we want to avoid,” says Ernst Rauch, the head of the Corporate Climate Centre at Munich Re. The world’s largest reinsurer suffered a $1.63bn loss after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria sent claims soaring. Insurers haven’t kept up with the shifting tides because they still assess future risk based on what’s happened in the past, according to Tom Herbstein, who runs an industry backed insurance project called ClimateWise at the University of Cambridge.
Australia’s largest private health insurer, Medibank, will shed tens of millions of dollars in fossil-fuel investments because of the effects of climate change on human health. In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange before its annual general meeting in Melbourne, its chair, Elizabeth Alexander, said the company would move to low-carbon investments “in line with our commitment to the health and wellbeing of our customers”. She added: “Medibank acknowledges the science of climate change and the impacts on human health.” The company says it will move to low carbon investments in its international investment portfolio “within the next 12 months”.
Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest miner, has said it is now looking for buyers for its remaining coal mines in Australia. “The sale of those will mark a complete exit from the fossil fuel,” says the Independent. But the publication adds that some of its rivals are still persuaded by coal: “Rio’s potential coal-free future is in stark contrast with many of its rivals. Glencore, the world’s top coal shipper, this year increased its exposure by agreeing to pay $1.1bn plus royalties for a large stake in Australian assets sold by Rio. The fuel, which generates about 40% of the world’s electricity, is one of BHP Billiton’s main strategies, while Anglo American has pulled back on plans to sell out of the commodity.”
German coal use could end by the 2030s, the politician charged with brokering a coalition government deal on energy has told Climate Home News. The comments came amid a critical political discussion over a coal phase-out in Germany, a UN climate conference in Bonn and news that German carbon emissions are likely to rise again in 2017. Armin Laschet, the minister-president of North Rhine-Westphalia and a member of chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU), has been locked in negotiations with Greens and Free Democrats over the future of coal in Germany. The Greens have called for an end to the burning of coal in Germany by 2030. Meanwhile, Reutersreports that German chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Germany should lead the fight against climate change and cut emissions without destroying jobs. Merkel is “treading a fine line as she tries to clinch a coalition deal with environmentalist and pro-business parties”.
In a feature for the Observer, the Guardian’s former environment editor focuses on the peatlands under the Congo basin. They store huge amounts of carbon are under threat from logging, says Vidal: “There is growing understanding that the fate of carbon sinks like the Congo basin peatlands will determine future climate change. If left alone, they are vital collectors of CO2; but if the forests above them are felled and the land is converted to farming, as has been widely practised for the past 30 years in south-east Asia, then the dried-out peat emits vast quantities of CO2 and intensifies climate change.” Vidal speakers to two researchers are the forefront of monitoring these peatlands: “Leeds University forest ecologists Simon Lewis and Greta Dargie cheer. The peat bed below the tangle of trees and water in the geographical heart of Africa is much deeper than they expected…Since 2012, the two researchers have spent months at a time wading through bogs and sleeping on makeshift platforms built above the crocodile-infested swamp forests in the Cuvette central region of the neighbouring Republic of the Congo.” Lewis is one of Carbon Brief’s contributing editors. Earlier this year he wrote a guest post about Congo’s “vast carbon store”.
The FT’s ‘Big Read” focuses on “two industrial titans” which are “struggling to cope with the disruption to their business models from wind and solar”. The authors write: “As the costs of solar and wind power have plunged, making them cheaper than fossil fuel generation in many parts of the world, the traditional model of the industry has changed. Capital spending on the new technologies has soared. Battery storage is also starting to be a cost-effective solution for supporting the grid, challenging the market for ‘peaker’ gas turbines that are used when demand is at its highest. Yet both groups have taken positions in renewable energy but have stumbled along the way.”
Climate change could leave millions more Europeans vulnerable to extreme temperatures, a new study finds. The research investigates both future rises in temperature and humidity. “Changes in relative humidity may either amplify or offset the health effects of temperature,” the researchers say. They find that those living in northern Europe may be most vulnerable to future climate extremes, which could be driven by warming and changes to local humidity levels.
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