Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Trump is pulling U.S. out of Paris climate deal
- Paris climate deal: EU and China rebuff Trump
- Exxon investors defy board on climate reporting
- A huge crack across one of Antarctic’s largest ice shelves is nearing its breaking point
- Nine tenths of England's floodplains not fit for purpose, study finds
- World's first commercial plant sucking CO2 from air launches in Switzerland
- The world doesn't need the US to lead climate change action – China will do it instead
- Donald Trump's Plan to Quit Paris Agreement Will Push China and Europe Together
- Leaving the Paris Agreement Would Be Indefensible
- Don’t compare Trump’s Paris decision to Nicaragua’s - they’ve embraced renewable energy
- How much runoff originates as snow in the western United States, and how will that change in the future?
- Forest disturbances under climate change
- Historical greenhouse gas concentrations for climate modelling (CMIP6)
After much speculation and reports of friction among White House staffers, Axios was the first to report yesterday that Donald Trump had made the decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement, citing two sources “with direct knowledge of the decision.” Details on exactly how this would be done were, at the time of reporting, still being “worked out by a small team including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt”. Despite the lack of official confirmation, many news outlets reported the news of Trump’s imminent decision. The Telegraph and The Independent were the first out the blocks, with the latter saying a US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement would be a “major blow” to the landmark deal. The Huffington Post led with the fact that the only other two countries withholding their support of the Paris Agreement are Nicaragua and Syria, a point echoed by Politico”, The Hill and BBC News. If Trump does decide to withdraw, the key question is how he will do it, says the BBC’s environment correspondent, Matt McGrath. With the president tweeting that he would announce his decision “over the next few days”, he must now decide whether to begin the three-year withdrawal process stipulated by the Paris Agreement or to take the “more extreme” but possibly faster route of ditching the underlying United Nations treaty, says McGrath. But with Trump due to meet Secretary of State Rex Tillerson yesterday afternoon, who could still lobby the president to change his mind, things may remain in flux until the last minute, says the New York Times. The piece quotes Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton, who says that a US departure would make it “far more likely that we will breach the danger limit” of 2C warming above preindustrial levels. The Financial Times and BBC News are reporting this morning that Trump has scheduled his announcement on whether the US will withdraw from the Paris climate accord for Thursday afternoon at 8pm BST. A separate FT piece carries the warnings of US manufacturing and energy companies that Trump’s withdrawal could hit jobs and investment. The Washington Post looks at what US states and cities are doing about climate change, and their potential to fill in if the Trump administration drops out. Finally this morning, Reuters is reporting British foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s comments to Sky News that the UK will “continue to lobby the U.S. at all levels to continue to take climate change extremely seriously.” Johnson would not be drawn on what his response would be if President Donald Trump pulls out of the Paris accord, however.
As Trump prepares to announce the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement, China and the EU are to agree a joint statement stressing their commitment to the deal. A draft statement, due for release on Friday and seen by the BBC, says the imperative is “more important than ever”. Elsewhere, in a piece that focuses on the diplomatic and economic fallout of a US withdrawal, The Guardian says “exasperated” world leaders are preparing to move on without the US. China and the EU are forging a “green alliance” to counteract any retreat from international action by the US and to accelerate the “irreversible” shift away from fossil fuels, report The Financial Times and Reuters. Speaking at an event in Berlin, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker warned that pulling out of the agreement would not be as easy to leave the treaty as Trump might think, reports Politico. While some supporters of the Paris deal are concerned that a US exit could create a ripple effect among emerging nations that may have reluctantly joined the agreement, others argue that a foot-dragging US could do more damage inside the agreement than outside it, reports The Washington Post.
Shareholders in Exxon Mobil have backed a motion requiring the company to publish an annual assessment of the impact of climate policies on its business. Coming despite strong opposition from the board, the motion is a sign of large investors’ growing focus on the issue, says the FT. The plan, proposed by the New York State pension fund and the Church of England, was supported investors controlling 62% of shares at the company’s annual meeting in Dallas on Wednesday. As the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, Exxon was one of the last hold-outs on the issue of climate change, notes BBC News. Other major producers including BP and ConocoPhillips already publish reports on how rising temperatures would impact their businesses. The historic vote shows how Wall Street is diverging from Trump on climate change, says Reuters. The Telegraph, Bloomberg, Ars Technica, ClimateHome and Inside Climate News also have the story.
A crack in the Larsen C ice shelf, one of Antarctica’s largest floating platforms of ice, appears to be nearing its endgame, says The Washington Post. BBC News quotes Swansea University’s Prof Adrian Luckman, who says the fissure has undergone a dramatic change in direction, “The rift has propagated a further 16km, with a significant apparent right turn towards the end, moving the tip 13km from the ice edge.” This latest movement means the calving of what could be the biggest iceberg ever seen could now be very close, say the scientists. Taking out such a large chunk of ice would mean the Larsen C shelf would lose more than 10% of its area, making it much less stable.
Only a tenth of England’s extensive floodplains are fit for purpose, reports the Guardian, with the shortfall putting an increasing number of homes and businesses at risk of flooding. A new report published by Co-Op Insurance on Thursday, the first to paint a comprehensive view of England’s floodplains and their capabilities, warns that unless action is taken to halt the damage to floodplains and restore some of their functions, floods will claim higher economic costs. Building on floodplains was found to contribute only about a tenth of the damage, with intensive farming creating a far bigger problem through artificially “smooth” and uniform landscapes.
A Swiss company is set to become the world’s first to commercially remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere, with the opening of a new plant in Zurich. Powered by waste heat, the plant is capable of capturing 900 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year to be used by a nearby greenhouse run by German salad growers. Its creators, ClimeWorks, say the official opening of the plant is a “historic moment” for negative emissions technology, which will be essential for delivering net zero emissions by the end of the century, as set out in the Paris Agreement. Climate Central also has the story.
Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement is undoubtedly bad news in terms of domestic climate action and the retreat from being a responsible international actor but American leadership, while helpful, is not the only the factor driving global efforts to curb climate change, says a comment piece by Sam Hall in the Telegraph. He says, “Trump is swimming against the tide. There is little chance of a reprieve for old king coal in the US, which is being outcompeted by renewables and shale gas…Far from costing jobs, as Trump claims, clean energy is increasingly good business.” In scaling back climate action, Trump the populist is picking an unpopular policy, he concludes.
A Newsweek comment piece looks ahead to a China-EU summit taking place on Thursday and Friday, where it says climate change could be the source of the most fruitful dialogue: Andrew Hammond, an associate at the London School of Economics, says: “With the Paris agreement back in the headlines, it is clear that both the EU and China have much to gain from a deeper partnership on climate change, but the window of opportunity to collaborate may not remain open indefinitely. Now is thus the time to intensify cooperation to bolster growth, and redefine the landscape of the 21st century clean energy economy.”
Writing in The Atlantic, former United States Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern says that with the president evidently intending to follow his own misguided calculus, it’s important for the US to consider what to do next: “I believe countries will stay in the Paris climate agreement and work to build it into a regime that will enable us to meet the climate challenge…And, with others, I will encourage them to do this in a manner that will pave the way for re-entry by an enlightened American administration in the years ahead.”
The news that President Trump is nearing a decision about whether to pull the US from the Paris climate agreement unleashed a backlash on Twitter, with some politicians and pundits highlighting the two other countries whose leadership refused to sign the accord: Syria and Nicaragua. The problem with that comparison, and the implicit developed world condescension it contains, is the glaring absence of context, says Holley. Syria didn’t sign the agreement because the country remains locked in a protracted civil war while Nicaraguan leaders declined to enter the agreement because it didn’t require enough sacrifice from wealthier countries with larger economies. The Central American nation of 6 million is en route to becoming a “green energy powerhouse, with renewables now generating about half of Nicaragua’s electricity and set to reach 90% by 2020. In a similar vein, Sarah Begley at TIME says Nicaragua didn’t sign the Paris Agreement because it didn’t go far enough.
A decline in snowmelt under future climate change will likely result in substantial impacts on water supply in the western US, a new study says. 53% of the total runoff in the region originates as snowmelt, the researchers say, rising to 70% in mountainous areas. Snowmelt also currently makes up two-thirds of the inflow to the region’s major reservoirs. Under a high emissions scenario, the contribution of snowmelt to runoff will decrease by one-third by 2100, the study warns.
We should be prepared for future of increasingly “disturbed” forests, a new paper concludes. The researchers reviewed the latest science on how climate change affects the factors that cause forest disturbance, such as fire, drought, wind, snow and ice, insects, and pathogens. Warmer and drier conditions particularly facilitate fire, drought and insect disturbances, the researchers say, while warmer and wetter conditions increase disturbances from wind and pathogens. Future changes in disturbance are likely to be most pronounced in coniferous forests and boreal regions, they add.
A team of researchers have produced new datasets of historical atmospheric concentrations of 43 greenhouse gases, to be used in the Climate Model Intercomparison Project – Phase 6 (CMIP6) experiments. The new datasets are based data collected from global networks of observation stations, ice core data, archived air data, and a large set of published studies. The researchers focus on the period 1850–2014 for historical CMIP6 runs, but data are also provided for the last 2000 years.
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