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Daily Briefing

14.11.2017
Today's climate and energy headlines
Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

14.11.2017 | 9:53am
DAILY BRIEFING ‘Tobacco at a cancer summit’: Trump coal push savaged at climate conference
‘Tobacco at a cancer summit’: Trump coal push savaged at climate conference

News.

'Tobacco at a cancer summit': Trump coal push savaged at climate conference

The US’ attempt to promote fossil fuels as vital to reducing poverty and saving American jobs has been ridiculed at the UN climate negotiations in Bonn, as the Trump team were heckled and interrupted by protestor singing. During the US government’s only event during a two-week summit, Trump’s special advisor on energy and environment, David Banks commented that: “the president has a responsibility to protect jobs and industry across the country”, and that “energy security, economic prosperity are higher priorities” than cutting emissions. “Without a question, fossil fuels will continue to be used and we would argue that it is in the global interest that when it is used it is is clean and efficient as possible”, Banks continued. When asked later by Climate Home News if the administration intended to avoid the 2C target, Banks said: “I actually don’t know what that means, the 2C target”. Other delegates condemned the remarks during the event, with Michael Bloomberg, a UN special envoy for cities and climate change, saying that: “Promoting coal at a climate summit is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit”. Benson Kibiti, from the Kenya Climate Working Group said: “More coal is not going to end the problem of people living without electricity. The vast majority – 84% – of electricity-poor households globally are in rural areas, so off-grid solutions powered by renewables like solar, wind and small hydro are going to be the cheapest and quickest.” Meanwhile the CEO of the World Resources Institute, Andrew Steer, said that the event would not affect the decline of coal: “It is a total distraction. It will not change the overwhelming momentum away from coal. The closing of coal plants in the US has accelerated since Trump was elected. It’s King Canute trying to hold back the tide.” The New York TimesBloomberg and the BBC also have the story.

The Guardian Read Article
First CO2 rise in four years puts pressure on Paris targets

Global CO2 emissions are projected to rise for the first time in four years, crushing hopes that emissions might have peaked, according to early estimates from the Global Carbon Project. The main cause of this rise has been greater use of coal in China, according to research by the University of East Anglia, the Times reports. China’s emissions are forecast to rise by 3.5% this year because of stronger growth in industrial production and lower hydro-power generation after less rainfall. Scientists say that global CO2 emissions need to peak before 2020 to limit dangerous climate change this century. “With global CO2 emissions from human activities estimated at 41 billion tonnes for 2017, time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2C let alone 1.5C”, said Corinne Le Quéré, the lead author and director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA. Carbon BriefFinancial TimesScientific American, the Mail Online and Time also carry the story.

BBC News Read Article
Labour vows to factor climate change risk into economic forecasts

If Labour were elected into power, the risks posed by climate change would be factored into projections from the UK government’s independent economic forecaster, according to an announcement to be made today by the shadow chancellor. The landmark change would, for the first time, put climate change on an equal footing with other complex challenges affecting the public finances, the Guardian writes. John McDonnell will highlight the human and economic costs of manmade climate change, calling it the “greatest single public challenge”.

The Guardian Read Article
Antarctica's warm underbelly revealed

Scientists have produced the best map yet produced of the warmth coming up from the rocks underneath the Antarctic ice sheet. They inferred the likely warmth of rocks from their magnetism, which they found by flying instruments across the surface of the ice sheet. This information is crucial to understanding how the continent is going to react to climate change, since if the rockbed’s temperature is raised, it will be easier for the ice above to change. “If this heat flux is elevated, the ice base can melt and produce water that acts as a sliding film”, explained Yasmina Martos, who is currently affiliated to the US space agency. “Even a little melting at the base helps the ice sheet to slide faster. We also identified areas of low heat flux, which will help stabilising the ice sheet”. The map is said to represent a 30-50% improvement on previous efforts.

BBC News Read Article
15,000 scientists give catastrophic warning about the fate of the world in new ‘letter to humanity’

15,000 scientists have written a “warning to humanity” about the dangers we face, updating an original warning sent from the Union of Concerned Scientists 25 years ago. But, the experts say, almost all of the problems identified then have simply been exacerbated, from consumption of limited resources, to biodiversity loss and deforestation, to catastrophic climate change. Only the hole in the ozone layer has seen any improvement, which the writers use as an example of what can happen when humanity acts decisively. “Humanity is now being given a second notice … We are jeopardising our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats”, they write, in the online international journal BioScience.

Independent Read Article

Comment.

Rise in CO2 may just be a blip in downwards trajectory

Ben Webster, the Times’ environment editor, is optimistic that the projected rise in carbon emissions this year will not continue. “The results are not as bad as some of the doom-laden, knee-jerk reactions might suggest”, he says. “This year may be a blip in what becomes a downwards trajectory as there are some exceptional reasons for the projected 2% increase”, such as the low rainfall which has temporarily increased China’s dependency on coal. He highlights the “promising news” that “22 countries have managed to expand their economies while reducing emissions”. Elsewhere, Pilita Clark has written about how the new figures “cast a shadow” over the Paris Agreement, in the Financial Times.

Ben Webster, The Times Read Article
Can Carbon-Dioxide Removal Save the World?

A feature in the New Yorker looks at the potential of carbon dioxide removal to be a “trillion-dollar enterprise”. Elizabeth Kolbert visits the site of Carbon Engineering, in Canada, where the company has devised a process to suck CO2 out of the air and convert it to calcium carbonate, among a number of other enterprises. “Even if every country fulfills the pledges made in the Paris climate accord—and the United States has said that it doesn’t intend to—carbon dioxide could soon reach levels that, it’s widely agreed, will lead to catastrophe, assuming it hasn’t already done so”, Kolbert writes. “Depending on how you look at things, [carbon removal] technology represents either the ultimate insurance policy or the ultimate moral hazard.” She notes that, “a compelling reason for putting carbon removal on ‘the agenda’ is that we are already counting on it. Negative emissions are built into the IPCC scenarios and the climate agreements that rest on them”, continuing: “But everyone I spoke with, including the most fervent advocates for carbon removal, stressed the huge challenges of the work, some of them technological, others political and economic.”

Elizaebeth Kolbert, New Yorker Read Article

Science.

Phenological shifts conserve thermal niches in North American birds and reshape expectations for climate-driven range shifts

The breeding times of hundreds of Californian bird species have advanced by between five and 12 days over the last century, a new study suggests. Using bird survey data from 1911-1940 and 2003-2010 at the same sites, the researchers analysed breeding dates for 150 bird species in California’s Coast Range and 160 species in the Sierra Nevada. The shift to earlier breeding meant the birds were nesting at cooler times of the year, the researchers say, reducing average nesting temperature by around 1C – similar to the warming that the region has seen because of human-caused climate change.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Read Article
Assessing the present and future probability of Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall

The likelihood of extreme rainfall in Texas on the scale of that brought by Hurricane Harvey earlier this year could rise from 1% to 18% this century, new research suggests. A rainfall event that brings more than 500mm to Texas would be expected around once every 100 years in the climate of 1981-2000, the modelling study says. But this probability would increase “to a once in 5.5-y occurrence by the end of this century,” if global greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed, the paper concludes.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Read Article
The defining characteristics of ENSO extremes and the strong 2015/16 El Niño

A new paper evaluates how the recent major El Niño of 2015-16 fits into current understanding of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) extremes. The study compares the 2015-16 event with the other two major El Niños in the modern observational record – 1982/83 and 1997/98. The extreme nature of the 2015-16 event “could be attributed to the warm condition in 2014 and the background long-term warming,” the researchers say.

Reviews of Geophysics Read Article

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