Today's climate and energy headlines:
- 'Staggering moron': Trump slammed for climate change tweet
- German coal exit will have limited price impact – traders and analysts
- Arctic summers at hottest temperatures for 115,000 years, study reveals
- Americans are worried about climate change — but don’t want to pay much to fix it
- Angela Merkel’s tarnished legacy on the environment
- Carbon capture and conversion must not rely on rare metals
- Disproportionately strong climate forcing from extratropical explosive volcanic eruptions
- Food production shocks across land and sea
There is widespread coverage of Donald Trump’s latest tweet seeking to mock global warming. HuffPost’s round-up of reaction includes one calling him a “staggering moron”. Trump tweeted: “…People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming [sic]? Please come back fast, we need you!” The New York Times has a piece about how the “polar vortex” gripping the US Midwest is promising “life-threatening” low temperatures that could “shatter records and plunge much of the region into its deepest freeze in decades.”. The dangerously cold weather is expected over several days, with wind chills that could fall as low as -60F, adds the New York Times, while Tony Evers, governor of Wisconsin, has declared an emergency and told the National Guard to be ready to help. A second New York Times article seeks to explain why Trump is mistaken, saying the answer lies in “the difference between local weather and climate,” noting that weather describes what’s happening on a much shorter time scale than climate. It adds: “To use an analogy Mr Trump might appreciate, weather is how much money you have in your pocket today, whereas climate is your net worth.” Fox News and the Hillalso cover Trump’s comments. MailOnline runs an Associated Press article explaining the science behind the vortex and why it is expected to become more common. Separately, MailOnline has story on a NASA study on 15 years of data which has found a link between higher tropical sea surface temperatures and severe storms.
The price effect of Germany’s roadmap for an exit from coal by 2038 is likely to be limited, say traders and analysts, reports Reuters. This is because the extent of coal plant closures was largely expected, it adds. An increased expansion of renewables, such as solar and wind power, where production costs are falling, will offset the price effects from the proposal to more than halve coal-burning capacity by 2030, says the German arm of UK researcher Aurora. Germany’s economy minister, Peter Altmaier, says that he does not want Germany to compensate for the coal phase-out by importing nuclear power from neighbouring countries, according to another Reuters article. Meanwhile, David Sheppard argues in the Financial Times that “those who want to accelerate the phase-out might now find they have some unlikely allies”, pointing to a “growing number of hedge funds” that are betting that the price of European emission allowances will almost double in the next few years. S&P Global notes that EU CO2 allowance prices fell sharply yesterday, attributing it to the coal commission’s final position on coal plant closures meaning an additional 7 gigawatts (GW) of capacity will be closed in the period 2019-2022. One analyst has said that the drop in prices “doesn’t really make sense” since the coal commission report says that closures will be carbon neutral, adds S&P Global. EurActiv has a summary of what is in the coal commissions report, while Axios notes that “the findings must still be translated into law”. Meanwhile, another Reuters story reports on a new poll showing a majority of Germans favour setting maximum speed limits for Germany’s “Autobahn” motorways to help battle climate change. Another Reuters article reports that the French energy ministry has said decision on implementing EDF’s “Ecocombust” biomass process at two coal power plants could be taken in the autumn.
Arctic summers may be hotter now than they have been for 115,000 years, reports the Independent, citing new research published in Nature Communications. The research samples plants from ice caps and rock samples from the Baffin Island in Canada to confirm the age and history of ice coverage across the landscape, says the Independent. The researchers suggest the island is likely to be ice-free within the next few centuries, adds the Independent.
Several recent polls show that people in the US are increasingly alarmed about climate change, writes Umair Irfan in Vox. “My read of it is that, basically, people are more convinced that it’s happening and more convinced that it’s human-caused,” says Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, co-author of one study showing 69% of Americans are “somewhat worried” and 29% “very worried” about climate change. “But how much of this anxiety has been matched with a willingness to act on climate change?,” asks Irfan. A second poll from AP/University of Chicago shows that “a minority of the population is willing to pay the majority of the cost for fighting greenhouse gas emissions and coping with rising temperatures,” he says. Meanwhile, InsideClimate News has a piece on what the US government’s new long-term energy outlook misses. The report is often used as a prediction of what will happen, which affects debates over climate policy. “It leads to an aura of inevitability to the continuation of a fossil-fuel-oriented future,” says Daniel Cohan, a Rice University environmental engineer, who adds that the report’s main scenario appears disconnected from markets, state actions and other dynamics that will shape the future. Amy Harder has written an Axios column on “how to make climate and energy policy that sticks”, and the Hill sets out “a solution to climate change that Democrats (and Republicans) can rally behind”.
Germany has “long thought of itself as a green pioneer, setting the pace on issues such nuclear power, climate change and renewables”, says Buck in a “big read” for the Financial Times. But its economy “also remains heavily dependent on the car industry, and fuel sources such as lignite”, he adds, arguing the challenge has become a “defining issue” for chancellor Angela Merkel as she enters her final phase in office.
To make a dent in climate change, the amount of metal required for carbon capture and storage (CCC) would be huge, writes Katie Lamb, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of York. “If large amounts of a metal are ever used to significantly decrease carbon emissions, it must have a sustainable supply so that reserves are not depleted,” she argues. Meanwhile, an Axios article looks at the challenge of ethically sourcing cobalt, used in batteries for electric vehicles and other uses, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Eruptions from volcanoes outside the tropics since 750AD may have had a larger cooling impact on land surface temperatures than those within the tropics, a new study suggests. Using reconstructions of volcanic eruptions from ice cores and northern hemisphere summer temperatures from tree rings, the researchers show that “extratropical explosive eruptions since 750AD have produced stronger hemispheric cooling than tropical eruptions”. Their simulations suggest an eruption the size of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 occurring outside the tropics, for example, could have as much as 80% more impact on radiative forcing than an equivalent within the tropics.
Geopolitical and extreme weather events are driving an increase in food production “shocks” on land and sea at a global scale, a new study says. The researchers conducted an integrated assessment of global production data from crop, livestock, aquaculture and fisheries sectors over 53 years to understand how sudden losses in one food sector can create challenges among others. The findings show that some regions are “shock hotspots”, the researchers say, which are exposed frequently to shocks across multiple sectors.
Expert analysis directly to your inbox.