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Daily Briefing

08.01.2019
Today's climate and energy headlines
DAILY BRIEFING Supreme Court rejects Exxon Mobil appeal in climate case
Supreme Court rejects Exxon Mobil appeal in climate case

News.

Supreme Court rejects Exxon Mobil appeal in climate case

The US Supreme Court has rejected oil giant Exxon Mobil’s attempt to stop the attorney general of Massachusetts obtaining documents from it for a climate change investigation, the Hill reports. The company “now must likely comply with the civil investigative demand” that was issued by attorney general Maura Healey in 2016. Healey is attempting “to probe whether the oil company for decades concealed its knowledge of the role fossil fuels play in climate change”, Reuters explains. New York’s attorney general is also undertaking a “similar” investigation. Vox describes how despite evidence that “Exxon Mobil’s in-house scientists warned top executives that fossil fuels were leading to more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that were warming the planet”, the company “publicly sowed doubt about whether humans could warm the planet through advertising campaigns, as well as funding think tanks and institutions that outright denied climate change was occurring”, although it has “has since changed its tune”. Chloe Gotsis, Ms Healey’s spokesperson, said in a statement published by the Independent: “The law is clear. The Attorney General’s Office has the authority to investigate Exxon’s conduct towards consumers and investors, and we are proceeding. The public deserves answers from this company about what it knew about the impacts of burning fossil fuels, and when.“ The news is also covered by AxiosInsideClimate News and DeSmogBlog.

The Hill Read Article
Last year was fourth warmest, greenhouse gases up – EU's Copernicus

2018 was the fourth warmest year on record, “extending a scorching streak driven by a build-up of man-made greenhouse gases”, Reuters reports. The EU-funded Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) concluded yesterday that average global surface air temperatures were 14.7C (58.5F) in 2018, making it 0.2C behind 2016, the warmest year on record in its dataset, but also 0.4C above the 1981-2010 average. The C3S assessment is “the first to provide a global perspective on 2018’s temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions”, Axios notes. Scientists at C3S also found that CO2 concentrations are at a record high, and increased by about 2.5 parts per million in 2018. C3S uses a mathematical model to combine millions of land, ocean, airborne and satellite observations, Axios explains.

Reuters Read Article
Varadkar delays carbon tax after learning lesson of water charges

Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar has said that his government did not introduce carbon taxes in the most recent budget because it would have placed a heavy burden on citizens when coupled with the recent VAT increases, writes the Irish edition of the Times. Ireland needs to develop a “package of measures” to meet its climate change targets without bringing protesters out on the streets, the taoiseach said, explaining that he had learnt from the water-charge protests in Dublin and recent demonstrations in France that measures must be implemented with public support. Varadkar commented: “I do actually believe in carbon tax as one of the means in meeting our commitment on climate change…It will take a package of measures including investment in renewable energy and infrastructure, insulating houses, changes in agriculture, and also carbon tax.” The French president Emmanuel Macron was recently forced to suspend increases in diesel fuel and electricity prices following a public backlash. However, RTÉ reports that Varadkar has been “strongly criticised” by voters in his own constituency over the decision not to raise carbon taxes in the budget.

Elsewhere, an opinion piece in CapX suggests that the French president “needs to learn from the Irish on carbon taxes”. “Unlike Macron’s bungling of his carbon tax rollout, Varadkar is wisely seeking to return the raised revenue back to the people, to cushion the increased costs”, says Joe Ware, who is communications manager at Christian Aid. The piece concludes: “Putting a price on emissions is the sensible approach, one that leaders like Varadkar are right to follow. They just need to avoid [Macron’s] political mistakes”.

The Times Read Article
World Bank's Kim abruptly resigns to join infrastructure firm

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim has unexpectedly resigned, citing differences with the Trump administration over climate change and the need for more development resources, Reuters reports. Kim announced his departure from the world’s largest lender and donor to poor and middle-income countries yesterday, more than three years before his term ends in 2022. In an email to World Bank employees, Kim said: “The opportunity to join the private sector was unexpected, but I’ve concluded that this is the path through which I will be able to make the largest impact on major global issues like climate change and the infrastructure deficit in emerging markets”. Reuters writes that Kim: “pushed financing for green energy projects and largely dropped support for coal power investments”, but “avoided public clashes with the Trump administration, which has made reviving the US coal sector a priority”.

Reuters Read Article
Hydrogen fuel cell trains to run on British railways from 2022

Hydrogen-powered trains could run on UK railways as early as 2022, the Daily Telegraph says, “as plans to introduce fuel cell technology to the network gather pace”. Alstom and UK rolling stock operating company Eversholt Rail Group unveiled the design for a new hydrogen fuel cell train for the UK market yesterday. The paper says that the fuel cell trains will bring zero-emission technology to parts of the UK that still run on diesel. The UK government is aiming to eliminate diesel rolling stock by 2040.

The Daily Telegraph Read Article

Comment.

World leaders face test of climate commitment in 2019

Climate Home News’s Nathalie Sauer takes stock of the progress countries have made on ramping up the ambition of the pledges they made to cut emissions, as part of the Paris Agreement. Last month’s UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland was “technically successful”, Sauer writes, but “showed little sign of renewed ambition”. She adds: “Only the tiny Marshall Islands has so far submitted an updated climate pledge…The coming months will see pressure on big emitters to follow.” The piece concludes: “Securing strengthened climate commitments in 2019 will, in large part, depend on persuading authoritarian leaders it is in their national interest.”

Natalie Sauer, Climate Home News Read Article
When the ice melts: the catastrophe of vanishing glaciers

The Guardian has published an in-depth look into the threat of “shrivelling” glaciers and thawing permafrost, covering three pages of today’s print edition. Freelance reporter Dahr Jamail travelled to the Chugach Range in Alaska over seven years, providing him with a “front-row seat” of the “dramatic impact of human-caused climate disruption”. He writes: “Each year, we found that the toe of the glacier had shrivelled further. Each year…we found ourselves hiking further up the crusty frozen mud left behind by its rapidly retreating terminus. Each year, the parking lot was moved closer to the glacier, only to be left farther away as the ice withdrew.”

Dahr Jamail, The Guardian Read Article
Lesson From 2018: Republicans Must Deal With Climate Change

“If Republicans don’t adapt by offering meaningful solutions [to climate change], the midterm losses could be only the beginning”, writes Ryan Costello – who spent four years representing the Republican Party in Congress – in the Wall Street Journal. “While climate change may not be a top-tier issue for many older Americans, it certainly is for millennials, who will soon be the nation’s largest voting bloc”, he argues. Costello suggests that “it is high time for the GOP to renew its proud legacy of environmental conservation by proposing market-based climate solutions”. The former GOP representative is joining a political advocacy campaign pushing a carbon tax in Washington where the money goes back to US citizens, Axios and the Hill report.

Ryan Costello, The Wall Street Journal Read Article

Science.

Taking climate model evaluation to the next level

In a perspectives article, a group of scientists “discuss newly developed tools that facilitate a more rapid and comprehensive evaluation of model simulations with observations, process-based emergent constraints that are a promising way to focus evaluation on the observations most relevant to climate projections, and advanced methods for model weighting”. “These approaches are needed to distil the most credible information on regional climate changes, impacts, and risks for stakeholders and policy-makers,” the authors say.

Nature Climate Change Read Article

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