Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Small steps forward as UN climate talks end in Bonn
- German coalition talks collapse after deadlock on migration and energy
- Minister lobbied Brazilian government on behalf of BP and Shell
- Britain threatens to scupper EU climate law over 'Brexit no deal' clause
- Nasa map of Earth over 20 years highlights astonishing impact of climate change
- "Climate change is much greater threat to Britain than Brexit and it'll dominate politics for decades to come"
- At Bonn Climate Talks, Stakes Get Higher in Gamble on Planet’s Future
- China’s promised energy revolution
- The U.S. has more climate skeptics than anywhere else on earth. Blame the GOP.
- New science of climate change impacts on agriculture implies higher social cost of carbon
- Antarctic climate variability on regional and continental scales over the last 2000 years
The latest round of UN climate talks in Bonn have produced “progress on technical issues”, but “bigger questions about cutting carbon unresolved”, the BBC reports. Delegates say that the rulebook for the Paris agreement is coming together, with the development of a process that would help countries to review and ratchet up their commitments to cut emissions. The “Talanoa dialogue” – proposed by Fiji, the hosts of this year’s conference – will be a one-off moment in 2018 to “take stock” of how climate action is progressing, as a precursor to a longer-term “ratchet mechanism” to increase ambition, Carbon Brief writes. But everyone conceded that nations are still way off course on the goal of limiting global temperature rise to “well below” 2C, with current pledges for cutting emissions putting the world on pace for 3C of warming or more, the New York Times reports. These technical discussions took places against the backdrop of a larger battle about fossil fuels. Trump’s rhetoric on climate may have galvanised the world into action, according to the Telegraph, but coal “emerged as the surprise winner”, Bloomberg says, as Germany and Poland defended their use of the fuel. This has produced concerns that next year’s climate conference, in Katowice, Poland will be a “major showdown on the future of fossil fuels”. However, a growing group of countries are promising to end coal use altogether, as the UK and Canada launched a “Powering Past Coal Alliance” with the aim of phasing out coal. The alliance has been joined by more than 20 countries and other sub-national actors, although it does not commit signatories to any particular coal phase-out date. The leaders of small island states were left disappointed that “wealthy nations had opposed sweeping steps to compensate countries already threatened by climate change”, the New York Times writes. The Guardian and the Financial Times also have the story.
Talks aiming to form Germany’s next coalition government have collapsed after the parties struggled to find a common ground on climate change, among other topics. The Greens called for a reduction in coal-generated power of 8-10 gigawatts while its potential coalition partners have expressed concerns about job losses in the energy and manufacturing sectors. Merkel could now seek to form a minority government, either with the FDP or the Greens.
Last March, the UK Department for International Trade (DIT) lobbied the Brazilian government to smooth the path for BP and Shell to secure oil blocks in the country’s controversial pre-salt region, Unearthed reports. A diplomatic cable that officials accidentally failed to redact reveals that minister Greg Hands relayed Shell, BP and Premier Oil’s concerns “around taxation and environmental licensing” to Brazil’s deputy minister for mines and energy, Paulo Pedrosa at a “private breakfast”. Brazil’s government went on to make a proposal for up to $300bn in tax relief to companies that develop offshore oil and gas in the country, Unearthed says. A BP spokesperson said: “It is normal for us to have discussions with the UK government, many at the government’s request, regarding our businesses around the world, but we do not comment on the details of private meetings. Questions about the detail of Brazil’s bidding rounds should of course be addressed to the Brazilian government and authorities.” The Guardian wrote up Unearthed’s findings.
The UK is “threatening the future of EU climate change legislation” after a ‘Brexit no deal’ clause was added to a bill that will be voted on this week, the Telegraph reports. The clause would ban British industry from selling its carbon emission allowances on the market post-Brexit, if a Brexit deal isn’t reached. If the bill fails to pass, it would be the first time the UK has used its voting powers in the EU to vent frustrations with the Brexit negotiations, the Telegraph says. Carbon Pulse also has the story.
A new animation produced by NASA shows the “unprecedented” impact of climate change on our planet over the last 20 years. Two decades of data are condensed into a few minutes, and as time passes the Arctic can be seen getting greener, the Independent reports. Jeremy Werdell, a NASA oceanographer who worked on the project, says that the visualisation shows spring coming earlier and autumn lasting longer in the Northern Hemisphere. The project marks 20 years since Nasa began a continuous, global view of life on both land and in the oceans using multiple satellites.
Sunday Mirror columnist, and former deputy prime minister of the UK, John Prescott says that climate change is a “much greater threat” that will “make Brexit look like a tea party”, and will “come to dominate politics for decades to come”. “Research shows that climate change could cost our country as much as £75billion a year by 2050”, he writes. Prescott concludes that: “Labour’s idea to put the effects of climate change at the heart of its economic plans is spot on…Climate change is a massive threat. But it’s also a great opportunity to grow our economy responsibly.”
The Paris agreement process is “in effect, a giant bet on the power of peer pressure — with the future of the planet at stake. And no one yet knows how that bet will pan out”, writes Brad Plumer in the New York Times, in a piece of analysis reviewing the progress made by diplomats at the climate talks in Bonn. “Longstanding divisions among nations reasserted themselves”, he says, such as China’s argument that developed nations should be held to higher standards that those that are still developing. “These disagreements may only be partly resolved at future climate talks”, Plumer says. In the Financial Times, Ed Crooks says that the news that emissions are expected to reach a record high this year cast a shadow over the conference. Elsewhere, the Irish Times and the Guardian have published editorials on the talks, with the Guardian focusing on how Brexit could affect the UK’s international obligations on climate.
Can China move its energy economy away from hydrocarbons? “The rhetoric is great”, says Nick Butler, but he questions whether the promises of a Chinese energy revolution are deliverable. “History suggests it is unwise to underestimate China’s ability to deliver on its plans but in this case there are good reasons for doubt”, Butler writes. “The absence of infrastructure and a supportive regulatory regime already limit the potential of natural gas. The same problems could constrain wind and solar”. Additionally, “electric vehicle numbers are growing but the odds are still that the bulk of the electricity they use will be produced from coal for a long time to come”.
“In most of the world, climate change is settled science”, says staff writer Amanda Erickson in the Washington Post. But the US “is home to more climate-change skeptics than most other countries”. This discrepancy is down to politics, she says: “Americans are unusually divided on climate change among major democracies”, as “climate-change denial is a core tenet of one of our two major political parties”. Most other places also “don’t have big lobby groups or think tanks with links to fossil fuel companies pushing out their message into the public sphere and media”, she notes.
The risks of crop yield shocks as a result of climate change mean the social cost of carbon (SCC) should be twice as high as current estimates, a new study suggests. Using the latest scientific literature, the researchers present new “damage functions” and introduce them into an integrated assessment model (IAM) in order to estimate a new SCC. The results reveal “far more adverse agricultural impacts than currently represented in IAMs,” the researchers say, with impacts on farming increasing from net benefits of $2.7 per tonne of CO2 to net costs of $8.5 – “leading the total SCC to more than double”.
A new study develops a database of 112 water isotope records over the past 2,000 years from ice cores taken in Antarctica. The new data suggests that the continent was predominantly cooling between 0 and 1900 AD. Since 1900, the study identifies significant warming trends for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the Dronning Maud Land coast and the Antarctic Peninsula regions – though only the last of these is outside the range of natural variability. “Projected warming of the Antarctic continent during the 21st century may soon see significant and unusual warming develop across other parts of the Antarctic continent,” the authors note.
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