Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Top business leaders call on Boris Johnson to set out green recovery plan
- Mass extinctions are accelerating, scientists report
- May was sunniest calendar month on record in UK
- Plan for new UK nuclear plant under intense scrutiny
- Football pitch-sized area of tropical rainforest lost every six seconds
- Covid-19 has given us the chance to build a low-carbon future
- The energy market is vital to the world’s green economic recovery
- Human influence has intensified extreme precipitation in North America
- Ongoing AMOC and related sea-level and temperature changes after achieving the Paris targets
- Climate change mitigation potential in sanitation via off-site composting of human waste
There is continued coverage of the news that many of the UK’s top business leaders have called on the government to set out economic recovery plans that align with the country’s climate goals. The Guardian reports almost 200 chief executives – from companies including BP, HSBC, National Grid and Heathrow airport – signed a letter to the prime minister calling on the government to “deliver a clean, just recovery”. “The letter emerged days after MPs called on the government to deliver £30bn in green aid to help to accelerate “faster, further, fairer” action to help tackle the climate crisis and the economic consequences of the coronavirus lockdown,” the Guardian adds. The Daily Telegraph reports that the letter calls for “businesses to be told they must sign up to environmental measures if they want taxpayer support, and for carbon taxes to help drive green innovation”. The Independent and BusinessGreen also cover the letter.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports China’s environment ministry has pledged to fully implement its commitment to tackle climate change under the Paris Agreement “despite the coronavirus outbreak”. China had pledged to cut “carbon intensity” – the amount of CO2 emissions per unit of GDP – by 40-45% from 2005 to 2020 as part of the Paris pact it signed in 2015, Reuters says. “It said last year it would set a more ambitious target, without giving figures,” it adds. “China’s carbon emission reduction will not change with the occurrence of the epidemic,” Liu Youbin, spokesman for the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said at a monthly press conference in Beijing, according to Reuters. Youbin aded that China would “100%” fulfil its current commitment to tackle climate change, Reuters adds. Elsewhere, Climate Home News reports that Japan is to host a “high-level political event” online to encourage countries to adopt a green recovery to coronavirus. Environment minister Shinjirō Koizumi announced the plans on Monday, in a series of online discussions hosted by the UNFCCC, CHN says. “Koizumi said Japan would host a virtual ministerial meeting, open to the public, in early September for governments to exchange views on how to use carbon-cutting measures to reboot their economies,” CHN says.
Many publications report on a new study finding that the mass extinction of species as a result of human activities is accelerating. The New York Times reports that, according to the study, the extinction rate among terrestrial vertebrate species is significantly higher than prior estimates and “the critical window for preventing mass losses will close much sooner than formerly assumed – in 10 to 15 years”. “We’re eroding the capabilities of the planet to maintain human life and life in general,” Gerardo Ceballos, an ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and lead author of the new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, tells the New York Times. The Guardian reports that more than 500 species of land animals were found to be on the brink of extinction and likely to be lost within 20 years. “In comparison, the same number were lost over the whole of the last century,” it says. “The land vertebrates on the verge of extinction, with fewer than 1,000 individuals left, include the Sumatran rhino, the Clarión wren, the Española giant tortoise and the harlequin frog,” the Guardian adds. CNN reports that extinctions are increasing due to “wildlife trade, pollution, habitat loss and the use of toxic substances”. “Climate change is likely making the issue worse,” it adds. More than 400 species went extinct in the past 100 years, reports the Times. MailOnline, the Daily Telegraph, BBC News and the i newspaper also cover the study.
BBC News reports that May was the sunniest calendar month on record, and spring was the sunniest spring, according to the Met Office. The UK had 266 hours of sunshine in May, surpassing the previous record of 265 hours in June 1957, BBC News says. “And it is even more extraordinary following a drenching winter, with record rain in February,” BBC News says. “Meteorologists say they are amazed at the sudden switch from extreme wet to extreme dry – it is not ‘British’ weather.” Prof Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, tells BBC News: “It’s unprecedented to see such a swing from one extreme to the other in such a short space of time. That’s what concerns me. We don’t see these things normally happening with our seasons. It’s part of a pattern where we’re experiencing increasingly extreme weather as the climate changes.” Bloomberg also covers the story. Elsewhere, the i newspaper reports that water companies are urging households to stop using sprinklers and hosepipes and use a watering can instead as water usage has surged in the recent sunshine. “Some areas are using up to 40% more water than is normal for this time of the year, as people stay at home under lockdown in the driest May – and sunniest spring – on record,” the i newspaper says. A second i newspaper story reports that UK emergency services could face a “twin threat” from extreme weather and Covid-19 this summer.
The Financial Times reports that “on England’s east coast, a 32 hectare piece of land surrounded by marshes and woods has become the latest focus for the fierce debate about the future of nuclear power in the UK”. The FT reports that France’s EDF and China’s CGN last week submitted a planning application to a government agency for a 3.2 gigawatt atomic power plant on a site called Sizewell in Suffolk, which could produce about 7% of the Britain’s electricity. The location is already home to another plant operated by EDF. The FT says: “The planning application by EDF and CGN for the Sizewell C plant has unleashed fresh questions over whether Britain needs more large nuclear plants, and stirred controversy about China’s role in critical UK infrastructure as diplomatic relations between the two countries cool, notably over Hong Kong. It also comes at a time when the government is focused on pumping money into infrastructure, including energy, potentially as part of an economic stimulus package that chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to unveil in July in response to the coronavirus crisis.”
An area of intact forest the size of a football pitch was lost every six seconds globally last year, according to new satellite data, the Guardian reports. “Nearly 12m hectares of tree cover was lost across the tropics, including nearly 4m hectares of dense, old rainforest that held significant stores of carbon and had been home to a vast array of wildlife,” the Guardian says. The biggest surge in forest loss was in Bolivia, where fires led to an 80% greater reduction in tree cover than in any previous year on record, the Guardian says. The New York Times reports that Brazil was responsible for more than a third of the loss of tropical forest. The data was released by the Global Forest Watch, a programme of the World Resources Institute, the New York Times adds. BBC News also covers the story, noting Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo both “managed to reduce tree loss” last year.
Christiana Figueres, former head of the UNFCCC, writes for the Guardian arguing that “lockdown won’t save the world from warming, but the pandemic is an opportunity to pursue a green economic recovery”. She says: “The reduction in greenhouse gases [as a result of lockdown] is not the result of decarbonising the economy, but the unintended consequence of economic paralysis that has come with painful human consequences and huge costs to lives and livelihoods. This is not what addressing the climate crisis looks like. The thoughtful reduction of greenhouse gases has to be intentional not circumstantial, sustained not temporary. Above all, it must lead to improved human wellbeing, not to human or economic suffering.” Meanwhile, for Axios, reporter Amy Harder explores “society’s diverging response” to Covid-19 and climate change. For BusinessGreen, Gilles Moëc, chief economist at AXA Investment Managers, argues “we must not sacrifice the environmental crisis just to resolve an economic one”.
For the Independent, Dr Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), and Kwasi Kwarteng, the UK minister of state for business, energy and clean growth, argue that “now is the time to use the energy sector to help drive a global green economic recovery”. They say: “Capital spending in the power sector internationally this year is on course to drop by a record 10%, according to new IEA analysis. There is a risk that investment will fall far short of what is needed for the future…That is why the IEA and the UK government brought together government ministers and electricity industry CEOs from around the world on Friday to discuss how to chart a secure and sustainable path forwards.”
Human-caused climate change “has contributed to the increase in frequency and intensity of regional precipitation extremes in North America”, a new study finds. Using simulations from a fully coupled Earth system model and a regional climate model, as well as two different attribution methods, the researchers investigated “whether observed changes in annual maximum 1- and 5-day precipitation can be attributed to human influence on the climate”. The findings show that “the anthropogenic influence on North American regional precipitation will lead to more frequent and intense precipitation extremes in the future”.
A new study investigates how the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) could respond to “stabilisation of global warming of 1.5 or 2C, the Paris Agreement temperature targets, or 3.0C, the expected warming by 2100 under current emission reduction policies”. Using two Earth System Models, the researchers find that “after temperature stabilisation, the AMOC declines for 5-10 years followed by a 150-year recovery to a level that is approximately independent of the considered stabilisation scenario”. The AMOC recovery would have “important implications for North Atlantic steric sea level rise”, the study says, “which by 2600 is simulated to be 25-31% less than the global mean, and for North Atlantic surface temperatures, which continue to increase despite global mean surface temperature stabilisation”.
New research looks into how providing access to safely managed sanitation in informal settlements (slums) could lead to reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from pit latrines – and thus address two Sustainable Development Goals at once. Accounting for GHG emissions throughout the sanitation cycle – including transport, urine and compost end-use – the researchers find that the “climate change mitigation potential is 126 kg of CO2-equivalent per capita per year for slum inhabitants”. The study adds “If scaled to global slum populations, composting could mitigate 3.97 Tg [of methane] yr-1, representing 13-44% of sanitation sector [methane] emissions.”